Parkesburg, St Rt, Penna.
The Cook car or chuck wagon as others knew it was very familiar sight among threshermen on the plains of the North West when Wheat was kind, shocks of it as far as one could see in every direction, trees did not grow of them selves, what few there there had been planted as a wind break by some pioneer, building also were few and far in between, sod houses were a common sight, as well as a small shack which was the home of the farmer in the country, there always was the stable where the horses were kept as all plowing or most of it after the ground or pararia had been broken up so the man that owned a thrashing rig also had to have a place for the help which he furnished to operate the outfit to Eat the number of men was determined by the size of the rig or outfit the larger ones employed 30 and some times more counting the bundle wagons extra pitchers the rig operate smaller rigs of course had less around 20, but regardless of the size of the out fit and number of men it took to operate it smoothly they needed a place to eat for this was the most important place in the whole affair, an get it quick without going very far to get it as the long days from sun up to sun down, men stored away a lot of eats, so every where the rig went or moved from one position the chuck wagon went along either hitched on back of the rig or hitched back of a bundle wagon, and some time one seen the dairy cow tied to the car and went right along to furnish fresh milk, there were mostly two cooks, ladies who knew what it took to serve the appetite of the working man, some time it was the rig owners wife and an extra maid, then of of course the grub had to be brought there daily as there were no refrigerators some of the rig owners owned cattle and slaughtered on or more as it was consumed each week the one man I worked for did this, then of course it took bread which had to be baked as there was no bake to come around and dish out a dozen or two loaves of bread and cookies, on one of the rigs on which I was engineer would go to the rail road and get his help they mostly were floated Hoboes as some were known not to dependable worked till the had some money and then were gone, then he had to go and get others, this type of men were mostly grimblers nothing was right to suit them especially the food as prepared by the able cooks, I my self have only the highest praise for the cooks in the three different chuck Wagons it was mine to eat the did there job well with a plenty, if it was not there it was not there fault nothing would suit me better than to go right back there to the old forgotten cook car for dinner, today?, they put in long hours as breakfast was at day break, supper till after dark in the evening then till they had every thing cleared away for the night it was plenty, late, the sleeping quarters were mostly in the loft of the shed or barn floor where the horses were kept, or as it was with me where I settled for the night in a near by straw stack, to have the roving coyotes lull you to sleep or keep one awake with there never tiring howling.
The following I have copied from a letter that I received just lately it is good enough to print with a lot of interest to me as I personally knew these people.
Mr. Mast, Parkesburg Penna dear friend Your letter arrived Feb. 20th 1962 About the cook car work I am always interested I worked on a cook car for eight years, one fall for the Yoder Company, three years for my Bro Samuel and four years for John Landes at Portal, N. Dakota, (I did not work with Sallie on Rennos cook car That was Emma. Sallie is ten years older then me so I was not old enough to work on a car at that time, I am not sure what you want to know about cook car work but I will tell you a little.
We used to get up at 3.30 in the morning to have breakfast ready ready at five o'clock each morning for twenty five or thirty cold hungry thirsty men, Some times when we worked for Sam, we had as many as forty men that was when we fed the grain haulers too, it was always ten thirty at night when we finished the days work? Sam had such a large thrashing outfit and it took a lot of men to keep things in action, When we worked for Landis we had only half as many men to do for, even when we fed the grain haulers on Sams outfit the men were in the field at day break and worked as long as thy could see at night which made a long day.
I don't remember what year you were out there in N. Dakota, or if you ever had your meals in a cook car. We gave the men good meals, Cereal, Eggs and Fried potatoes, other vegetables, Home made bread, and pie, for dinner, the same for supper except it was cake and sauce instead of pie, I am sending to you a picture of the cook car, (this is Sams) I think it was taken about 1910, (I know I have more thrashing pictures but I cant find them now, this picture will give an Idea of the cook car and crew Barbara, my sister and I are the cooks, I think the pictures I cant find are in the Attic and it too cold to look for them new, we are having a very cold winter so much Zero weather The coldest winter since we are in Eikart which is twelve years.
I am sorry I can't help you more Elizabeth (Yoder) Woodiwiss.
This concludes the letter from one I knew while in N. Dakota, in 1904 and 1905, it is true to the letter as I knew the cook car while these girls had not been on any of the outfits I worked with these as well as others filled a very needy and important place on the Cook car on the great wheat belt of the North West in that day they were a hardy group worthy of our esteem and best wishes.
I am sure you will be able to find material for the Album which will be read with great interest to the remaining few who were the men of that day.