Men Building Old-Time Transportation For Oklahoma's Centennial

Saturday, February 24th 2007, 5:06 pm
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) During the early days of Oklahoma statehood, covered wagons were a major means of transportation, providing shelter as well as travel and even as a place to prepare food. As the old gave way to the new, the covered wagon became a thing of the past, more likely to be seen in a museum than along the hillsides.

But as Oklahoma celebrates its 100th anniversary of statehood this year, covered wagons are making a comeback, and a number of Enid area residents have decided to make their own.

Brad Gungoll plans to drive a chuck wagon in the Cherokee Strip Days celebration in September, and he decided to get his wagon the same way old-timers did. He is making it.

Gungoll has a woodshop at his home and enjoys working in it. He got the idea for making a chuck wagon from Dr. John Charles Ogle, who is rounding up wagons from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and other states for a covered wagon gathering during the Cherokee Strip celebration Sept. 10-15.

Gungoll is a beginner in a number of areas, including working with the teams that will pull his wagon. He found a team of mules in Paoli, Kan., but discovered they were not the right team for an amateur, so he sold them and got another team.

"If you have a team, you need a wagon. I have built a play wagon, but Charlie Ogle is talking about a Centennial cattle drive," Gungoll said.

He purchased an original undercarriage for a covered wagon, made by the Mitchell Co. between 1890 and 1910. But, when a friend from Oklahoma City became interested in making his own wagon Gungoll gave him his and bought a larger one by John Deere for his own.

Gungoll's wagon will have the original undercarriage and a new
box on top of it.

"This is training on the job," he said.

Gungoll wants to build an authentic covered wagon but is encountering a number of things he has never done before.

He found a book on building a traditional covered wagon and has followed it, but he said his job will take longer than the 1,200 hours predicted in the book. Gungoll put the floor of the wagon together using tongue and groove, which he never has done. He drove rivets into the boards to secure them, also something he never had done.

"It's fun to try to do it right. I enjoy that. I come out and work an hour or so when I have time," he said.

Gungoll often comes out early in the morning and works a while, then goes to his office. He goes to the workshop in the evenings and when he has nothing else to do.

He plans to drive the wagon in the Cherokee Strip parade and maybe take part in the covered wagon encampment Ogle is planning at Garfield County Fairgrounds.

He also may accompany a cattle drive as it passes through the state.

He has the floor, sides and end gate built, but he still has a long way to go. He also will build a chuck box to turn his covered wagon into a chuck wagon.

"I'm not in a hurry. I like doing it right and taking my time," he said.

The floor is made of eucalyptus and oak wood. He gets his wood from Athey Lumber, which has made a number of special orders for him. Gungoll has been woodworking only a short time and converted an old pig barn into a woodworking shop on his farm. He acknowledges some of the work is nerve-racking. When the wagon is complete, he will have canvas made to fit over it. He already has purchased the frames over which the canvas will fit from a group of Amish, who still make covered wagons.

Still to be made is a toolbox, which fits under the footboard. He also needs a water barrel. While on a recent trip to St. Louis, he found a barrel manufacturer in Missouri and will contact the company to obtain a 15-gallon water barrel. He has built the stand for the barrel.

One experienced wagon-maker warned him to have the tires on his wheels tightened. The tire is a metal piece that goes around the outside of the wagon wheel. Gungoll struck the tire with a hammer and found red dust coming out. The tires were old and had come loose. He took them to a wheelwright who tightened them. He plans to attend a wheelwright class in the spring.

"I'm sure I made some mistakes. I know when I put it together I will have to do something over. I'm trying to learn fast," he said.

Gungoll could have purchased many of the materials, or had the wagon worked on by a professional, but that isn't what he wanted to do. He wants to build it himself, as close to the way the pioneers did as he could.

"Lot's of places sell these things, but the fun is in building it," he said.

Buck Martin, of Enid, also has been persuaded by Ogle to build his own chuck wagon. The retired truck business owner is building his wagon in his old repair shop. He purchased the running gear and will put a box and the rest of the equipment necessary on himself.

Unlike Gungoll's work, Martin is using screws and does not plan to have an authentic chuck wagon. However, he has a chuck wagon build by Amish in Missouri he uses as a pattern for his wagon.

Martin uses wood he obtains from the Amish. He has cut the lumber and planed it down.

"I thought I would have plenty of time, but I got busy driving trucks, and I haven't been home much," he said.

Martin thinks he can complete the wagon in a month, once he gets started on it.

"I gotta get started because I've got to get it done," he said.