Talkin’ Chuckwagons

Jessica Casteel lives on a ranch in South Dakota

Jessica Casteel’s love of restored, functional chuckwagons began at an early age and continues today.

From an early age, Jessica Casteel’s parents, Tina and Daryl Waite, introduced her to not only the ranching lifestyle, but also cooking from a chuckwagon on ranches in Kansas and Colorado. She continues the tradition today with her two children, Haddie and Tapadero, on their family ranch, the TC Outfit, in Vale, South Dakota.

For Casteel, cooking with a wagon is a labor of love. The 30-year-old mother, ranch wife, leather crafter and owner of the small business Tapadero Annie’s relishes living the Western lifestyle. Her husband, Travis, is the fifth generation on his family’s ranch. She cooks for the family and neighbors, and also assists with other events that have chuckwagon cooks preparing food. While in some places chuckwagon cooking is a novelty, for Casteel it’s often been a necessity when cooking for a crew working in remote locations on the ranch.

Her appreciation for restored wagons started with her parents’ wagon.

“When I was in middle school my folks bought a chuckwagon off of Ebay and restored it, and I helped my mom cook for the branding crew,” she recalls. “That’s still one of my favorite things to do now.”

The family put much sweat equity in restoring their wagon, and their love for the tradition transferred to their daughter. When she and her husband, Travis, started dating, she was thrilled to discover that his family also cooked from a chuckwagon during brandings. The couple purchased an old triple-box farm wagon and had it restored into a chuckwagon a few years ago.

Read more about Casteel in the March 2021 issue of Western Horseman.

Jessica Casteel cooks from a chuckwagon.
Jessica Casteel cooks from a restored farm wagon on her family’s ranch in South Dakota.
Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

Leave a Comment