Spokane, WA Weather

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Camping The Cowboy Way

Contrary to the popular images presented in western movies, cowboys and other travelers did not just ride around the country with nothing more than a sweaty, dirty, undersized saddle blanket for bedding. Sometime in the evolution of outdoor gear the bedroll was developed. Never hear of or seen one? Then take a look here.

My father was a real bonafide cowboy. He was born and raised in North Dakota back in the early 1900s on the family homestead and ended up working for an uncle that had a ranch in the Badlands and worked on ranches most of his life with stints at a few other occupations along the way and I grew up in this way of life too. Back in the early '50s we were on a ranch in northern California and Dad decided it was time for a change so while my Mom and my younger brother held down the house, I went with Dad on this trip and was introduced to the bedroll. After a day of calling at ranches looking for work we would stop for the night, roll out the bedroll complete with bedding in the back of the Chevy truck and sleep under the stars. One of the tricks he taught me was to put one's boots and clothing in the bedroll to keep unwanted pests from getting in them and to keep them from getting cold. Ever try to pull on a pair of sub-freezing boots? It ain't easy. That old bedroll tarp did double duty as it was used to cover our belongings whenever we moved.

My next use of that bedroll came in the early '60s when I went with Sonny Root and Les Burk into the mountains of Fresno County to put up fences around the meadows as Sonny had a Forest Service permit for cattle grazing and the cattle had to be confined to the meadows so as not to wander into areas they were restricted from. We made camp at an old cabin but didn't sleep in the cabin...it was out under the stars...in bedrolls. It would get below freezing at night and there were areas where there was still snow on the ground but we were as "snug as a bug in a rug" in those bedrolls. I fell heir to that old bedroll tarp when he passed in 1968.

In later years I used that bedroll for sleeping outdoors and even slept outside in our back yard in that bedroll. And I used it for covering our belongings when we moved too...until it wore out and was no longer serviceable. With the advent of the modern sleeping bag, bedrolls have almost become a thing of the past but are making a resurgence amongst those who prefer the nostalgic lure of things long past and there are a number of outfitters that make bedrolls today.  Rather than making a bed one can easily use their contemporary sleeping bag in the tarp which will provide one with the experience of cowboy camping and keep their sleeping bag clean at the same time whether outdoors or in a tent or in the back of a truck or wherever...the Cowboy way.

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