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“KEEP ‘EM FULL” Story behind the Photos

“A man who has had a hand in the work and eaten chuck wagon food, while sitting on a pail, is not quite the same person again. He has been his own man and lived free.”

N. M. Clark, Trail Driver

Due to the pandemic, KEEP ‘EM FULL publication has been pushed back to Spring 2021.

My book about the history of chuck wagons and cattle drives also includes authentic recipes from the trail. (from TwoDot Books with Erin Turner, Editor). In case you missed the cover reveal blog post last month, here it is again. Isn’t it absolutely stunning?

The historical photograph used on the book cover are of cowboys and chuck wagon on the JA Ranch. Founded in 1876 by Charles Goodnight and John Adair, the JA Ranch in Armstrong County is the oldest cattle ranching operation in the Texas Panhandle. Goodnight is credited with inventing the chuck wagon. I spent many hours looking at historical photos and have included a selection of those in this book. Moving several thousand Longhorns from Texas to rail-heads in Kansas is a fascinating legacy and I think you’ll be a little amazed at the skill involved. All total from 1866 to 1890, ten million Texas Longhorns were driven ‘up the trail’ to markets across the United States.

The historical photos included in my book came from the Cattle Raisers Museum in Fort Worth and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas

Working ranch photography is a fun hobby for me, and with this project I got to experiment with food photography as well. I took the photo of the vegetables on the grill on the last day of spring branding at our ranch. The cooks end the week with a huge fajita feast. You’ll find a few of their recipes in the book.

The bean pot, middle top of the book cover, is from the cow camp of Sam Howell II, Cocklebur Camp Cooking Team from Odessa, Texas. Sam serves as the president of the American Chuck Wagon Association and I had the privilege of watching him and his team at a cook-off in Abilene. You’ll find a few more recipes from Sam inside the book. You can also order a more complete collection of Sam’s recipes from the Cocklebur Camp website here.

An old, old recipe for brown sugar cake is lower left. The cake was baked and the photograph was taken by a hometown friend, Tami Griffitt. She found the metal cake stand at a local antique store. The pan of biscuits is from Cocklebur Camp (bottom center), and the hand in the next photo stirring the gravy is that of Shirley Creacy from the Wild Cow Ranch Chuck Wagon, Fritch, Texas. She says it’s perfect because she usually has a hand in everything that’s going on around her. That’s also Shirley’s pinto beans at the top right. You’ll find more of Wild Cow Ranch’s recipes that Shirley adopted for the chuck wagon as well as cowboy approved dishes for today’s families from the ranch cookhouse of Tavia Vinson. This book really does have something for everyone, whether you’re a history lover or looking for a heart dishy for your family. It’s in here.

Sam Howell II dishes up a serving of cobbler at his chuck wagon.

From authentic cow camp basics to modern recipes, dig out your best cast iron and serve a little bit of the old West to your family. You don’t need a campfire, although these recipes will work for that too.

With archival photographs of cowboy work and chuck wagons, as well as my own photographs of a modern Texas cattle ranch, the book is an eclectic mix of both worlds. I hope you will enjoy this unique mix of Texas history, cattle ranching, and the food we eat. Keep ’em rollin’ and happy eating!

Spring roundup on the Sanford Ranch, Texas Panhandle.

Much thanks to my editor, Erin Turner, and the team at TwoDot for allowing me the opportunity to research and write about chuck wagons. The book is available for pre-order now at your favorite online book store. Keep following my blog, Prairie Purview, for more information about book events and programs coming soon beginning in September.

The 2020 pandemic has impacted book publishers in a big way as they struggle to keep their employees safe and adjust production schedules. The release date of KEEP ‘EM FULL has been pushed to spring 2021. If you have already pre-ordered my book, thank you for your support and understanding. If your public library or local museum needs a program about chuck wagons for summer 2021, please let me know. Hopefully, I’ll be traveling and speaking during that time, and I look forward to meeting you!

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