Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 26)

Don Collop keeps the Western spirit alive with his portrayal of ‘Cookie’ L by Kyle Spradley kspradley@ruralmissouri.coop and buffalo chips for fire starters. Don’s chuck wagon is a Peter-Schuttler farm wagon that was built in Chicago in 1910. He has had it for nearly 40 years, but it wasn’t until more than a decade after he bought it that he installed a chuck box and began cooking cowboy style. Now that he is retired, Don and his wife, Evelyn, travel to many cities across the Midwest for cookouts and to make meals for groups of all sizes, including a few that have numbered more than 200. “We’ve done everything from weddings to cattle auctions, family Dressed in authentic Western attire, Don Collop often portrays the character of “Cookreunions, school talks ie,” the chuck wagon cook for the cattlemen on the trail. “He was not only the cook, and even business funcbut the doctor, nurse, barber and the one to settle all the bets,” says Don. tions,” says Evelyn. “It’s great to see this history adds Don. “We instead cook with what was available preserved, and I just love to help him cook.” on the trail with the cowboys: beef. Not to say they The Collop’s menu will include almost anything didn’t eat beans, but I guess somehow Hollywood one would like but sticks to meals similar to what needed music.” the cattlemen would’ve eaten on the trail. Stews, In addition to private events, the Collops take barbecue, biscuits and all the fixings with mouthwatheir chuck wagon to many festivals, gatherings and tering cobblers for dessert all are cooked in one of school functions. the couple’s many Dutch oven pots. Every year, Don visits the third-grade students at “Movies always portray cowboys eating beans,” Ray Miller Elementary School in Kirksville with his cowboy tales and chuck wagon for the school’s Western Days, which includes other re-enactors. “The kids get so excited to see him and look forward to it each year,” says Principal Marianne Farr. “He not only provides them with a great history lesson, but he’s a great storyteller and portrays the look of the classic cowboy so well. They learn so much from him.” Don admits that enlightening somebody about the life of the cowboy is what makes it all worthwhile. “I love doing this for the kids and to keep the history of the cowboy alive,” says Don, smiling. “Everything about the cowboy was just so great. He’d tell you the way it was. You could depend on him and he’d be there, riding for the brand. I think I was just born 100 years too late.” iving out on the trail during the 19th century was tough for cattlemen. These cowboys found themselves battling Mother Nature and the harsh landscape of the American West. Days were spent in the saddle from first light to dusk as these drovers pushed their cattle from the grazing lands to the cattle yards. Folklore often exaggerates their Colony • tales of run-ins with Indians and barroom shootouts. Most of these cowboys were merely teenagers enticed by the romanticism of the open range and the chance to run away from home. These young men had to be taken care of, and that job fell to “Cookie,” the chuck wagon cook. “He was not only the cook, but the doctor, nurse, barber and the one to settle all the bets,” says Don Collop of Colony. For nearly two decades, Don has been portraying the character of Cookie and still believes in the cowboy way. Dressed in attire akin to the time, he shares stories about what life was like on the cattle drives and recites poems to school groups and at festivals as well as being a true chuck wagon cook. Although Don admits to “cowboying” his whole life, the Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative member first got serious with his re-enacting when he lived in Mexico, Mo. During his three-decade tenure as a lineman for Ameren Missouri, he discovered the writings of famed cowboy poet Baxter Black. Dressed in Western garb, he began performing poems from other writers in front of small groups. Then in 1996, he and three others formed the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association (MCPA) to promote and preserve the cowboy lifestyle. Over the years, the group has expanded to include poets, singers, chuck wagon cooks, writers and others interested in the cowboy way. Members are made available to anyone looking for a presentation by an authentic cowboy performers. In 2001, the group published an anthology of members’ work and delivered 177 copies on the back of Don’s wagon to the Missouri State Library in Jefferson City for each county library. “Then I discovered some guys who were doing chuck wagon work,” says Don. “Now, my true love is the chuck wagon. We bring it and set up right in your yard and cook right there with our pots. Everything is from scratch.” The beginning of chuck wagons can be traced to Texas rancher Charlie Goodnight, who in 1866 fabricated the first chuck wagon from surplus Studebaker wagons he purchased from the U.S. Army. He rebuilt the wagon to include a chuck box that housed utenphoto courtesy of Don Collop sils, tools, a fold-out counter used for Don Collop poses in front of his Peter-Schuttler farm wagon at the Old Threshers food preparation and several drawers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. He converted it to a chuck wagon similar to what was and shelves. The wagon had a canvas used on cattle drives during the 19th century. Don and his wife, Evelyn, offer chuck top and a “possum belly,” a rawhide wagon services to festivals, schools and gatherings throughout the Midwest. pouch on the bottom to hold wood 26 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP To contact Don about the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association, chuck wagon services or to speak at an event, call 660-434-6519 or e-mail flyingte@marktwain.net. http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013

Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Whittling wildlife
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - February 2013

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