Updated: Sep 14
An old wagon like this one brings back memories for author Rogene McPherson. (Jon Tyson/Unsplash)
Country Notebook by Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson
Guests to my farm may see the yard art as junk. I prefer to think that most of the antiques and visuals spread throughout the gardens are interesting artifacts.
Okay, I’ll be honest. There is some junk spread here and there, but most items have significance. I’ll start with a very old wagon frame used by my Grandfather Charles. When my brother brought the wagon from our Nebraska farm to my Kansas farm, he likely loaded it in the back of a truck or trailer, using a different type of horsepower than my grandfather’s draft horses. When it arrived and for a number of years later, the wood frame was in relatively good condition as it sat on top of the iron frame and iron wheels.
Eventually, though, nature took its toll and pieces of wood began falling off. I eventually removed all of the wooden frame and have gradually added a few 2 x 6s to rest on the metal. Not being much of a carpenter, I borrowed wood leftover from another project, not even nailing it into place. A stair step has become the so-called buckboard seat. The wagon thankfully is at the back of the garden with the flaws less visible. The wagon now lacks side boards, but I’ve placed washtubs and flower pots to distract from my inability to rebuild it like it was originally.
My grandfather relinquished his outdated method of farming in the early 1950s, finally giving into my dad’s insistence to buy an International Harvester tractor, probably the “H” model. My young ears heard more than one argument involving two stubborn generations – both believing their opinion was the right one. With the horses sold, the wagon was moved to a permanent position near the windbreak (trees), and my brother and I were given permission to play like we were living in a wagon as we travelled across the country, often making mud pies and pulling weeds as though we were using the roots as vegetables.
Those of us who watched the weekly television show Wagon Trail in the 1950s and ’60s remember the wagon master shouting out, “Wagon, Ho.” The emphasis was on the “O,” dragging it out as long as possible so that the wagons going west knew the Wagon Master, Major Seth Adams, was serious about leaving on time. The series continued for years, long enough for my brother and me to simulate what we viewed in the shows using resources from the farm and our imagination to make this wagon a special part of our childhood. We probably even shouted out, “Wagon Ho!” even though the wagon wasn’t going anywhere that day or any day.
The original series is now on a free, over-the-air channel showing the classics like Wagon Train and Gunsmoke, but I rarely watch them. It was more fun pretending to travel to a new land and developing friendships with adventurous people willing to overcome danger, like rattlesnakes. Who knows, maybe watching Wagon Trail is responsible for my creative imagination and my ability to kill rattlesnakes. Any day I expect Randy Rattler to be sunning himself on my newly re-built buckboard. Gosh, I might be tougher than I think. Maybe I’ll try out for a spot on the 2023 Tough-As-Nails TV show. Having courage is nothing new!
Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson, from the Centerville area, is a regular contributor to the Linn County Journal. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies are on the shelves at all Linn County libraries.