Sunday, May 19, 2024


The day Dad was born, Grandpa signed on a ranch near Big Trails WY, south of Ten Sleep. Along with the place came an old horse drawn bobsled. With the use of teams being pretty well gone by then, Grandpa welded on a tongue, put a hay rack on it, and drug it around with a tractor. Eventually it just became impractical to use, so it got parked on the fence line for the next 40 years. With no one living at the ranch, Dad didn't want to see it disappear. So he and Luke brought the running gear home to the farm in the mid 90's. After I got to playing with horses at my first assignment at St. Stephens, on the Wind River Indian Reservation from 2016-2019, Grandpa asked if we'd get it fixed up. So we did. 

Finished product, December 2017. 

I was looking for a project that winter, so Dad piled together the old running gear and hauled it up to me. 

Once we got it strung out, it didn't look quite as bad. Amazingly all the parts were there. The biggest problem was that the skis were rotted out. 

So we pressure washed it and drug it in my little shop to come up with a game plan. 

The old skis were one-piece and steam bent. With that not going to happen, we devised a plan to laminate them. We ripped a bunch of old rough-cut 2" wide fir into 3/16" strips. Then built a jig that followed the inside contour of the old skis. One by on we laid a strip down on a bed of glue and tack nailed it the the bottom board. Once it was at the desired height, we clamped it down and let it dry. After a day of drying we cut it off and repeated the same steps for all four skis. 

Then sanded them down and cut them to length.

With the skis in tact, it gave us encouragement to the take on the rest of the gear. Piecing it together and understanding all the components was a fun puzzle. The most challenging part was firming up the tongue that attached the two riggings. The old wood was real loose and a bit rotten. So we took some strap iron and bolted the top and bottom together, and the length of the tongue as well. 

There was no original deck that we knew of, so we set out to make it a buckboard style. Simple 2x4" frame work with some rough cut flooring. 

Used the same material for the sides and ends. Wagon boxes like this just set on the running gear. Not having any suspension to speak of, they need to be able to move up and down as the running gear flexes over the terrain. 

Coming up with the right seat was a challenge. But like always, the Lord provided. Sr. Teresa and I used to go visit a neat gal named June out in Fort Washakie. One day while leaving her house I spotted this old seat sitting in the tall grass. Inquiring about it, she gladly donated it to our cause. God rest your soul, June. 

It cleaned up well and fit perfect. Dad made a simple cushion for it. 

Then we drug it out and oiled it up. Looked tough and ready for work again.

To celebrate, we borrowed a team of Belgian horses and hauled kids around for our annual St. Stephens sleigh day on December 26th. Fun ride. 

With a change of assignment in 2019, we brought the bobsled home and parked it on the hill. It weathered fine, but sure did grey up. 

I was pleased to see that the skis were holding together. 

So we brought it in to freshen it up. With a little help, the grey came right off. 

Still stands strong. 

Of course we had to rebrand it.

Then put a fresh coat of linseed oil on it. I find this trick to work super well. Get as siphon nozzle attachment for your air compressor, and dunk the hose into a can of oil. Makes for an easy and effective mode of application. 


So we pulled it out. 

And parked it back on the hill.

Great heirloom. Carries with it good memories, both past and present. It'd be fun to pull it again someday, but teams are getting hard to come by. I enjoyed driving it, but probably enjoyed the challenge of fixing it up more. I'm thankful for Dad bringing it home and Grandpa wanting to get it going again. Treasures like this need to be displayed, if not used. Not sure if bobsleds represent a simpler time, but definitely a tougher time. No heated steering wheel here. If you needed to go to town in the winter back then, you and your horses better be ready. You can get there, but you better have a buffalo rug and some hot rocks at your feet. Good stuff. 

1 comment:

  1. That is so cool, Fr! We like projects at our place too. My dad used draft horses when I was really young!!


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