Audio Recordings Leaving Farming Behind

Format Audio Recordings
Contributors Marshall, Howard W.
Wheelock, Chuck
Dates 1980
Language English
Subjects Activities
Reed (Read) Ranch
Leaving Farming Behind
Contributor Names
Wheelock, Chuck (Narrator)
Marshall, Howard W. (Interviewer)
Created / Published
April 27, 1980
Subject Headings
-  Farming
-  Activities
-  Reed (Read) Ranch
-  Buckarooing
-  Ethnography
-  Interviews
-  Chuck Wheelock, born on a farm in Kansas, talks about moving west and choosing to become a buckaroo.
-  Chuck Wheelock was born in eastern Kansas in 1933 and joined the Navy shortly after World War II while still in his teens. In this selection he explains that Kansas farming did not agree with him. After his discharge from the Navy, he stayed in California. He was taken by the romance of the cowboy and eventually drifted across the Sierra Nevadas and started working on ranches. One of his tutors was Frank Loveland, a foreman on the McCleary ranches for many years. In time, Wheelock became a buckaroo and has worked on Nevada and Oregon ranches for over twenty years. He is married. His wife Lola's voice may be heard in the background of this selection, commenting that Chuck hates machine grease even more than farm dirt.
-  The folklife project team first got acquainted with Wheelock in the summer of 1978 when he was working on the Ninety-Six Ranch. He was a picturesque figure with a moustache, tall western boots, and a long pheasant feather decorating his hat. Several of the taped interviews include unexplained references to the meaning of a feather in a hat; the connotations appear to involve sexual prowess or activity.
-  Fieldworker Dick Ahlborn struck up a friendship with Wheelock and wrote the following passage in his fieldnotes after a long conversation on July 26: Perhaps the finest compliment I received in the 3 weeks [of my visit] was when Chuck showed me his new hat, and told me he only wore it for very special occasions. Then he put it on for the rest of the interview, and was wearing it when I left.
-  When Ahlborn prepared the Smithsonian exhibition Buckaroos in Paradise, he was able to repay the compliment. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a simulated line camp cabin or bunkhouse, inhabited by a mannequin resembling Wheelock and wearing his old outfit, including turquoise-colored boots and the hat with the pheasant feather.
-  We observed considerable variation in cowboy costume in the valley, and noticed that some men dressed differently at different times. Jack Young, a seed salesman who lives in the valley, told me that he had noted a fashion for "old-timey" garb among some of the buckaroos on the larger ranches, including ones outside the valley. He was inclined to read aspects of the costume as emblematic, noting that no one really needed large "jinglebob" spurs. Although I never made a serious survey, I formed the impression that many who grew up in Nevada, including Les, wore less display-oriented outfits. I wondered if men like Wheelock, who had adopted the life and were often hired hands, might not be more likely to dress the part. Kim Shelten's film The Highly Exalted portrays the mustachioed, footloose, self-consciously "professional" cowboys who circulate among the West's large ranches; it was filmed on the IL Ranch near Elko, Nevada, in 1982. (The fifty-two-minute film was released in 1984 and is available from the filmmaker: Kim Shelten, 450 29th Street, San Francisco, California 94131.)
Call Number
AFC 1991/021: NV80-HM-R16
Source Collection
Paradise Valley Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1991/021)
American Folklife Center
Digital Id

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Credit line

Paradise Valley Folklife Project collection, 1978-1982 (AFC 1991/021), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

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