By Audrey Spencer
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS - In a shady corner of Campbell Park, chuck wagons straight from the 1800s readied camp Friday to serve authentic cattle trail grub at high noon today.
"They surprise us with the food," said Jim Clark with the Mesquite Flatts wagon. "You have to try to plan for each one. Most competitions are pretty generalized."
Teams will draw to see whether they have to prepare pork, goat or a cut of beef, and supplement the meal with beans, biscuits and cobbler dishes prepared as if they were on a cattle drive - over an open flame or hot coals.
Though the cooks are talented and competition is friendly, how a team does depends on the judges, said Dale Grubelnik, who is competing at the Lampasas event for the first time.
"It's the luck of the draw and who's judging," he said. "If you know who's judging, you can cook accordingly."
Grubelnik's wagon is a replica of a military escort wagon with steel-lined wheels.
Authenticity is important to the chuck wagon teams, because half of their score in the overall competition is judged on the historical accuracy of their wagons.
All wagons include necessities from the trail, such as water barrels and basic food supplies, including flour and coffee.
Many wagons set up at Campbell Park also include tools used on the trails - such as whiskey used to treat snake bites, hygiene items and 1800s straight razors.
"People have their tools, authentic forks and tin plates, and a lot of them have more authentic things you had to have on the trail, like bedrolls and harnesses for your team," said Regina Verde, with the Hawk's Nest Cattle Company wagon.
The event is ideal for families and anyone interested in old western cowboy culture.
"How often do you get to see a chuck wagon?" asked Sandra Julian, event coordinator.
Live music from Doug Moreland and the Flying Armadillos, cowboy poetry and a performance by a blue heeler mix named Mojo - billed as "the world's smallest barrel racer"- also are scheduled to bring some entertainment to the event, said Julian.
"It's an absolute step back in time. The people are more than welcome to accommodate you on any question, and they welcome you to come to the camp."
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.