Yee haw! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis. We’re glad you could come on over to sit a spell. It’s just about time for lunch, so grab a plate and we’ll head on over to the ol’ chuckwagon.

That’s right. We said chuckwagon. Here at Wonderopolis, we believe in doing things the old-fashioned way. That means every meal is served from a traditional chuckwagon.

The chuckwagon — sometimes spelled chuck wagon — was a special type of wagon used to carry food and cooking equipment as part of a wagon train. Wagon trains were common methods of transportation for early settlers of the United States and Canada making their way across the prairies to new lands.

Chuckwagons were also commonly used to feed traveling workers, such as cowboys and loggers. If you were a cowboy in the old days, there was nothing quite like the ring of the chuckwagon dinner bell at the end of a long day of hard work.

Texas rancher Charles Goodnight is given credit for the invention of the chuckwagon in 1866. He converted an old army-surplus Studebaker wagon into a mobile kitchen to feed cowboys driving cattle from Texas to New Mexico.

The name chuckwagon comes from the word “chuck,” which was a slang term for food. Goodnight’s chuckwagon had a “chuck box” added to the back of the wagon to store cooking supplies. The “chuck box” also had a hinged, flat lid to provide a flat cooking surface.

Chuckwagon food usually consisted of foods that were easy to fix and preserve. These included beans, salted meats, coffee and sourdough biscuits. The chuckwagon cook — usually called “Cookie” — was often second in command of the wagon train after the trail boss. In addition to cooking meals, he was also often the barber, doctor, banker and judge while out on the trail.

The chuckwagon was more than just a cafeteria to cowboys, though. It was the social hub of the wagon train. It’s where everyone would gather to relax and exchange tall tales. It was like a home on the range!

Today, chuckwagons are mainly just a symbol of a simpler past. However, there are modern versions of chuckwagons in the form of mobile food suppliers that serve meals in areas where large numbers of workers gather, such as at a factory.

You might also see chuckwagons taking part in special horse races called chuckwagon races. Some western tourist attractions and dude ranches feature chuckwagon meals that let you get a taste — literally! — of what life was like in the old west.

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    • We really LOVED the video, too, Betsy! We know the video director and chuckwagon clay artist…she’s a WONDERful Wonder Friend of ours! ;-)

      Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! We hope you had as much fun learning about chuckwagons as we did! :-)

  1. I am wondering how they made the model. Was it made out of cookie dough or play-do or clay. The tires looked tricky to make. I liked the video.

    • We really like your comment, Helena! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and for WONDERing about the cool video! We think the artist in the video used modeling clay to make her outstanding chuckwagon! We know she worked really hard to make everything look awesome, and we know she will be glad to hear that you liked the video! :-)

  2. People that lived along time ago used them to travel. Because they did not have cars. Thanks for another great wonder!

    • Hello, Noah and Reese! We’re so glad you stopped by today’s Wonder of the Day® and left us a cool comment! Thanks for sharing what you know about chuckwagons! :-)

  3. The things that are the same to the old west is that we “hunt” to fish, we “camp” in our backyard, and “explore” in a Spanish place called “Colombia”, now you know that we act like the old west. :-)

    • Your comments always ROCK, Carlos! Thank you for being such a SUPER Wonder Friend and letting us know what you think about each Wonder you explore! Have an AWESOME day! :-)

  4. Good sunday WONDEROPOLIS ready to eat some of my learning on the chuck wagon?

    What I learned on the chuck ……
    - you eat on the chuck wagon morning / afternoon / night
    - you just grab a plate and head on over to the chuck wagon
    - they used to use chuck wagons on the prairie land
    - chuck wagon can be spelled two different ways chuck wagon or chuck wagon

    What I thought about Besty’s video …….

    That was great !!!!!!!!! Making a chuck wagon out of clay, as you know my teacher’s daughter made that. Betsy does all sort of videos. And she shows them to us .

    Are you full? Do you sill want desert ? I hope not you ate a lot !
    So are you full ? You still want desert ?

    • What a SUPER WONDERful comment, Allison! We enjoyed gobbling up all the fun facts you learned about chuckwagons! Way to go for sharing them all with us in such a clever way! We agree that Betsy’s videos are GREAT! She is super creative and a really good video producer!

      Thank you for being an AMAZING Wonder Friend! Your comment ROCKS! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a chuckwagon?
  • What types of foods were served by chuckwagons?
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