A slice of life in Wheatland

Note:  This post has an update at the end.

Friday evening, June 22

Our neighbor is an older gentleman.   He has two tractors and a pickup sitting next to his trailer.  Our paths cross in front of our campers.  I’m curious.  I tell him my name’s Sue, and he says his is Murdick, adding, “I’m an old Scot.”  Later I look up the name on the internet.  Murdick means “belonging to the sea; a mariner.”

Murdick’s sea was cattle.   A while back he sold his ranch along the Little Laramie River over by Centennial.  “All I have left of that are these two tractors,” he says, looking at them with a smile.

He guesses I’m wondering why he brings two tractors camping.

“There’s gonna’ be a tractor-pull here tomorrow,” he explains.  “Over there in that dirt strip. . . around noon.”

I ask him what kind of cattle he raised.  “Angus?”

“No, no, Charolais.  They’re tougher (meaning for the climate, not tougher meat) than Angus.”  He pauses.  “Real fence sliders.  They can get through hog fence.  And once they calve, they get mean.”

Saturday morning, June 23

The air conditioning is divine.  Other than walking the crew, I mostly stay inside.  The dishes have piled up so that’s one job to do.  I make some sun tea, setting the bottles in a sunny spot out by the crew’s pen.

The tractor-pull area is coming alive. 

Racing flags are being strung and tractors are pulling in off the road from both directions. Most come on flatbeds.  I see Murdick standing with some other men in western-style hats and plaid shirts, pointing at their tractors and talking.

Later I’m over at the drinking water pump, filling jugs. 

Murdick walks by.  He’s on his way back to his trailer.

“Are they about ready to start?” I ask.  Several tractors are lined up, side by side.

“In about a half-hour.  More’ll be comin’.”

“Do you know those guys over there?”

“Sure.  I know them all.  I belong to four clubs.”

“For tractor-pulling?  Gee, it must be really popular around here.”

“Oh yeah, it’s better than rodeo.” 

Murdick starts to count on his fingers.  “One, you don’t have to feed them all winter.  Two, they don’t sh#* in the barn.  Three, there’s no vet bills.  And four, no broken bones.”   We laugh.

A train roars by on the other side of the road.

It’s pulled by three engines with BNSF on the side.  I look down the track.  The train is so long the end disappears from sight.  Murdick heads for his trailer.

“Well, good luck!” I call after him.   I don’t think he hears me through the whistle of the train.

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UPDATE:  Results of the Tractor-Pull!

Around 6 o’clock I walk the crew past Murdick’s travel trailer.  He’s sitting outside with his Boston Bulldog named Spike and his “dingo” named Pecos.

“Well, how’d you do at the tractor-pull?”

“I did pretty good. Got two ribbons.”  Murdick points at his two tractors positioned proudly at the hitch end of his trailer.  “That one got first, and that one got second.”

“What?  That’s great!  Congratulations!”

Murdick elaborates on his wins.  “I really shouldn’t have won.  I was out of my league.”

“What do you mean?  The other tractors were better than yours?’

“Yeah,” he replies.

I’m a little confused.

“You mean they were better than you and you beat them anyway.”

“That’s right.  That one there . . . (He points to the one that won first place.). . . was up against a modified tractor.  It shouldn’t have won.”

I understand his point and smile.  “But it did, didn’t it.”

I ask Murdick if the town of Centennial has grown much over the past ten to twenty years.

“It’s shrunk.  It’s a bunch of hippies over there.”

I laugh out loud.  “A bunch of hippies?”

“Yeah, old, burnt-out hippies.  If you don’t smoke pot, you don’t know anyone in Centennial.”

Murdick’s flat delivery makes me laugh again.

Pecos, Murdick’s Spike, and my Spike are going nuts, whining and tugging at their tethers.  Bridget sits and stares.

“Well, I’ll go so these guys will settle down.   Congratulations on your wins!”



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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58 Responses to A slice of life in Wheatland

  1. earthdancerimages says:

    Wow, baseball game Friday night and Tractor Pull on Saturday! You found not only a beautiful spot to camp, but a lively one too! All this free entertainment!!! I would love it!!!

  2. Emily says:

    Ahhh, good old fashioned tractor pulls. I use to love going to those. Sue, you are going to be so educated on ways of the West. And, you have such interesting teachers. And the Crew is getting their socializing in too. How did they take to the noise of the tractors? Or were they far enough away?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The noise of trains and tractors doesn’t seem to bother Bridget and Spike. Spike loves any kind of commotion. Bridget is bothered by inside noises, like the fire alarm beep or me clapping my hands at mosquitoes.

      I went to a mule-pull back in Georgia.

  3. cathieok says:

    Wondering how your neighbor got his camper and two tractors there? Glad you got a spot to camp before all the tractor people came in. Small town life is fun.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Murdick brought his tractors on a flatbed trailer that’s parked over in the tractor-pull area.

      The people around here seem to have a good life . . . at least in the summer!

  4. d. says:

    Thoroughly enjoying your blog….I’m about five years out from long term travel, but just bought a Taylor Coach Bobbie, and doing short camping trips, learning how to tow, back up, deal with tanks, propane, etc….so when it’s my turn, I’ll have a flatter learning curve….your blog is most helpful.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m glad my blog is a help. I’ve never heard of a Taylor Coach Bobbie. I’ll look that up. You’re smart, practicing now. I got into fulltimiing by “jumping in the deep end.” I never even camped before, except for tenting with my parents as a child.

      ADDED LATER: I looked up your travel trailer . . . ultra-light, 12-feet. Cute!

      • d. says:

        I’m very interested in solar, although here in northern New England, it isn’t cost effective (too treed)….I do want it installed when I go long term westerly however….how did you learn about solar, and, are you also using a generator?

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I’m not sure how I learned about solar, not that I know very much even now. I asked a lot of questions. It helped immensely that I have two engineer friends who were willing to help and answer my questions, over and over again!

          I saw a set-up similar to mine (panel on top of the tow vehicle) on the internet, so I studied that. I read a lot about solar.

          No, I don’t own a generator. So far I haven’t needed one. When it’s hot outside, I go up on a mountain where it’s cooler, or I go to a campground for electric for the a/c. I use solar power for lights, computer, television, and charging my camera, phone, etc. That’s all.

  5. Sherry says:

    Can’t wait to have your description of the pull. I’ve lived in rural america for over 30 years and have never been to one, or a stock car race. But did go to county fairs and relief sales and auctions.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The pull is going on as I type this. I had to come in out of the sun and heat.

      It’s funny how the tractor is pulling fine, then the dirt starts to fly, and all of a sudden the tractor stops and the guy is bounced up off his seat. That’s where they measure the distance.

  6. hobopals says:

    Dang, I lost my comment. I swear they fiddle around with the internet on the weekends. Centennial is the town that I remember first feeling the vastness of the west. Would you do me a favor and ask Murdick, if you see him again, whether the town has grown a lot in the past 10-15 years? I remember SPACE. There was a tiny little library across from a little cafe of sorts where a very nice man made us sandwiches. I have always wanted to return just to see it.

  7. Rick says:

    I guess you could write a very interesting book on all the people and places you encounter on your travels. It seems all very invigorating and exciting. Each day is a new chapter.

  8. Jim Sathe says:

    We are a little north of you at Keyhole State Park near Moorcroft, WY. Headed from here to Custer State Park south of Rapid City. Understand you are headed for Rapid City to get a SD driver’s license, etc. If we end up being nearby to wherever you are, Rosie and I would love to meet you. I am the guy that referred you to Willard Springs.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Jim!

      I remember now! Willard Springs was a great tip. We may end up at Custer State Park at some point. I haven’t figured out where we will stay or when. Keep in touch.
      Our paths may very well cross!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    WELL! Now you are really living!! HA! Actually, we never saw a tractor pull until we moved back here to NC where such things are easy to find…still lots of little country towns around.

    My dad had a few cattle that were mixed with Charolais but no full bloods of that…he tried to keep his herd more meek in personality. Most were polled herefords who were not a threat to people (might not have always been real nice to dogs that came in the field, but you want the bulls to protect the calves from being chased into the stream…some were lost to drowning that way).

    I am so impressed at that nice spot you are camping and for THAT price!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Yeah, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tractor-pull!

      From what Murdick said, the Charolais do a pretty good job protecting their calves.

      This is a nice place for a campground . . . Saturday at the town’s park. Family reunions and barbeques, baseball games, kids swimming at the pool, people walking their dogs, men on tractors . . .

  10. gingerda says:

    I would love to be there right now…shoot I would love to be anywhere but Las Vegas right now, lol. I get a kick out of the tractors, it reminds me of my grandpa when he had his farm and I used to visit. Glad to hear the train didn’t bother you.

  11. Lacy says:

    Here comes my ignorance: what do tractors PULL at a tractor pull????? When yall stop laughing, you could give me a little lesson?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Not a silly question at all. One of the photos shows this red contraption. It has big blocks on it. I don’t know what they’re made of but apparently they are very heavy. Also in the photo you’ll see a tractor with an umbrella on it. That tractor drags the contraption back to the starting line for the next contestant. How does that tractor pull it? I think the difficulty of the pull is controlled by the position of the big blocks. They slide the blocks somehow to lessen the weight, before the tractor pulls the contraption back to the starting line.

      See? A great question. I don’t know if I answered it correctly, but I think I came close!

      • Chuck says:

        WOW Sue, you got that answered really well!!!! How do you keep falling into all these great places??? Tractor pulls have evolved into big, monster looking contraptions just like rodeo has evolved into BIGG events. The smaller events are soo much better both tractor pulls and rodeo! Murdicks comments were absolutely, 100% CORRECT on tractor pulls vs rodeos! That’s a gentleman I’d love to meet!

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Do you know what BNSF stands for? (No fair googling)

          • Chinle says:

            I know, but I won’t spoil it for Chuck… 🙂

          • Margie says:

            Burlington Northern Santa Fe, if memory serves. I live near Wadena, MN and we get to see them every 10-15 minutes. : ) Sometimes one gets finished going eastward, and as it ends, you get the see the one going towards the west, and then you get to wait some more LOL . They are conglomerates. The Northern used to be the Northern Pacific…. You really found a wonderful little place to experience, Sue. I sometimes think those of us who grew up in little towns like Wheatland don’t always realize the bliss we had, until we are missing it…

            • rvsueandcrew says:

              You’re right, Margie. But you knew that already! Trains are fascinating. I grew up in a house next to train tracks. Maybe that’s part of the reason I enjoy watching them go by, like when I was a kid.

              I also grew up in a little town. Not only the place, but the time was, like you wrote, “bliss.” At least it was for children.

              • Margie says:

                Chinle and I must have been typing at the same time – didn’t see her post until just now: sorry! Sue, do you remember the aroma of the old steam locomotives? Always thought that was wonderful! The transition to diesels was one of the low points of my young life : )

                My brother Paul was the train fella in our family;while in school in Kansas, he took pictures of the cutest little train, the Katie Line, which is bright yellow, to send to our youngest sister, Kay. He also took his fiance to the hill overlooking the train yards in Kansas City to watch the trains. The rest of us chuckled when we heard about it, and decided it really must be love…

              • rvsueandcrew says:

                Cute story about your brother in love …

      • Lacy says:

        Thank you Sue! I’ve heard of Tractor Pulls but never have had the ‘pleasure’.

  12. cinandjules says:

    I’m a city girl trying to be a country bumpkin…………so I too don’t know what a tractor pulls!

    Again…the manner in which you write your posts….your description of the event…………….makes me laugh. A good laugh.

    Murdick starts to count on his fingers………..one!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ha! Look at my answer to Lacy (above). You can see what it pulls in the photo… that red contraption thingy with the big heavy Legos on top! You know how boys love to play with blocks!

      Your comment has ME laughing . . .

  13. Chinle says:

    Ahhh…trains and tractors. Doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks for the great photos.

  14. klbexplores says:

    I agree Sue, one of the best parts of traveling is experincing the local culture…. and hense the need to slow down. So often we arrive just after the wonderful event….. then it goes on the ‘to see one day list’. One of the nearby towns have a combine demolition derby. Quite the variation on regular demolition derbies. There is so much to experience in our wonderful world, whether near or far.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Slowing down is the key. I know that’s hard for people who are still working and have limited time for vacation. That’s why retirement is so wonderful. You’ve got time.

    • Chuck says:

      Where would the combine demo derby be???? Wanna’ put it on my bucket list!!!!

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Chuck…. I’m wondering if anyone has read the update giving the results of the tractor pull. Did you see it?

        • earthdancerimages says:

          We read it last night and a big HOORAY for Murdock!!!
          As usual, a fun blog, fun comments and great photos! Oh…mmmmm… I wonder how wordpress is gonna sign me in today ???

        • cathieok says:

          Sue, I did not know about the update til you mentioned it. Did not get an email like I do when you have a new post to your blog. Just FYI.

          • rvsueandcrew says:

            I appreciate you telling me this. I’ve wanted to know if “edits” to the blog send out an email. I’ll mention the update in my next post. Thanks, Cathie.

  15. Karen Osmon says:

    The very first pull I went to was this type and I fell in love with it! Now they have morphed into something else with trucks and huge things that don’t even look like tractors. Much prefer the older style like you have experienced!

  16. DesertHawk says:

    I read a comment about Chugwater, yesterdays post, I’d figured it was a place one could chug a drink of water as well, but I found this: Some historians hold that the name “Chugwater” is derived from a Mandan account of a bison hunt. According to this narrative, a chief was disabled during the hunt and his son took charge of the hunt or “buffalo jump”. Under his direction, hunters drove the bison over nearby cliffs; when the animals reached the ground below, a sound of “chugging” was heard by the hunters. The story concludes with an etymology: since a stream was near the base of the cliffs, the site of the stampede has been called “the place” or “water at the place where the buffalo chug.”

    You missed the Chugwater Chili CookOff: http://www.chugwaterchilicookoff.com/

    About where Murdick’s RV is parked, a local had an RV there the last time (2009) we stopped in Wheatland…it was so the girls playing in the softball games could rest before & after the games. At least I remember it was girls, but could have been boys playing baseball. Always enjoyed out stays there (only overnights).

    In 2009, we’d been to Yellowstone & exited by the East Entrance to Cody, then did an overnight near Thermopolis to have a soak. Then hit I-25 at Casper & did the overnight at Wheatland. It was our second visit to Thermopolis & the Bath House. We’ve always used Boysen State Park which is very near Hot Springs State Park in the town of Thermopolis. There is no fee for using the State Bath House. Very neat. We over nighted in the Wind River Canyon in Aug ’09 & at one of the campgrounds by the lake some years ago. http://thermopolis.com/todo/hot-springs-state-park/

    If wanting to get up to I-90 (Devil’s Tower), WY-59 S from Douglas to Gillette is a very good highway. See a lot of Coal mines off it & some long, long coal trains, sometime 4 to 6 tracts of them. Should see Bison roaming out there as well. Especially on the East side of the Hwy. Should be shorter to get over to US 85 & Lusk then up & over to South Dakota & the Black Hills.
    Coal Train: http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll120/DesertHawk46/2009%20Travels/DSC00525.jpg
    Bison: http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll120/DesertHawk46/2009%20Travels/DSC00532.jpg
    WY 59: http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll120/DesertHawk46/2009%20Travels/DSC00529.jpg
    South of Wheatland I-25, Reminded me of Monument Valley (except to green): http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll120/DesertHawk46/2009%20Travels/DSC00515.jpg

    Happy you are now finding WY more Tolerable.

  17. DesertHawk says:

    BNSF Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It is one of seven North American Class I railroads and the second-largest freight railroad network in North America, second only to the Union Pacific Railroad.

    BNSF started with the formation of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation on 22 September 1995. This new holding company then purchased the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (often called the “Santa Fe”) and Burlington Northern Railroad, and formally merged the railways into the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway on 31 December 1996. On 24 January 2005, the railroad’s name was officially changed to “BNSF Railway,” using the initials of its original name.

    However, today’s BNSF Railway is the product of nearly 400 different railroad lines that merged or were acquired over the course of 160 years.

    BNSF Railway directly owns and operates track in 27 U.S. states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The railway also operates a small amount of track in Canada.

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