Lloyd Marsden took to his basement to wait out the rain before he could put the finishing touches on his replica of a farm family staple from his childhood and even earlier.
Marsden’s great-grandfather homesteaded a ranch west of Wall, South Dakota, and his father continued maintaining the land until the late ‘70s.
While watching his mother’s 8-millimeter movie clips, Marsden discovered a familiar wagon in the background of one of the clips. He then set out to retrieve whatever was left of the wagon he remembered playing in and around as a child.
“By the time I got to the wagon, this is what was left,” Marsden said, showing the photo of a dilapidated piece of wood.
Twenty years ago, he rebuilt one of two recognized wagons from the family farm. Minimal pieces from the hay rack wagon that also resided on the farm caught Marsden’s eye as his next rebuilding project. The tongue, wheel and axle were the only parts left of the hay rack and stood as less than ideal representations of the vehicle in its original form from which to work.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve got those pieces, I should do something with them,’” Marsden said. “I tripped over them in my shop for a long time before I got started a couple years ago gathering materials, and then last summer really started seriously building it.”
Marsden started the rebuilding journey with a trip to Minnesota to acquire oak beams for the axles. He had a cousin in Ham Lake, Minnesota, with trees available to do the job. The main beams for the wagon came from Buckingham Lumber in Buffalo from the Bighorn Mountains.
“Last summer while the weather was nice, I built the main frame,” Marsden said. “When the weather started getting bad, that’s when I moved on to inside stuff and the running gear.”
Marsden compiled the pieces to ensure a perfect fit before disassembling it to paint. The bold red and yellow colors of the wagon are representative of the wagon colors of that time.
For the wheels, Marsden was confident he could construct all four himself, but time and honed-in expertise were not in his favor. So he outsourced the wheel-making to a fellow from Shipshewana, Indiana, and picked them up in February.
Finding the rare people still constructing and focusing on building parts for historical wagons took endless Google searches and plenty of reading about wagons in thick, large books. A man from Oregon still hays 600-700 acres with a horse-drawn hay wagon and wrote a book from which Marsden gleaned information. A location north of Mitchell, South Dakota, and Canadian authors wrote books on wagons and wheels, too, that helped him recreate the wagon.
This particular hay wagon, while significant, will not mark Marsden’s first trip through the Sheridan WYO Rodeo atop a wagon. He has showcased a grain wagon with the help of horse teams from Renny Barbula. When rebuilding the grain wagon, Marsden’s father told him not to worry about duplicating the wagon exactly how it was when Marsden remembered when he played on it as a child. By that time, the wagon was run down and the paint nearly nonexistent from years of weathering and heavy use in farm operations. The base layers of the vehicle, too, were likely not original pieces.
“‘Your grandfather wrecked that wagon so many times and just rebuilt it,’” Marsden recalled his father saying to him once. “So I’m sure there were parts here that were repairs from when they had wrecks, so it’s hard to tell which was really original, but I tried to use as much of the original iron as I could.”
The newest hay wagon running through the parade this year, though, will feature a new and pieced-together horse team from Barbula and Spencer Morris. Barbula found a team of Friesian horses to pull Marsden’s International Harvester Bettendorf grain wagon, and Barbula and Morris each have one horse from broken teams — Marsden thought black Belgians — to pull the new hay wagon.
“Our plan is to get those two odd horses married together to make a team,” Marsden said. “We gotta get started now, but the weather’s been so crappy it’s hard to get anything done.”
The poor weather continued into late May, causing Barbula and her teams to wait several weeks to come together.
Barbula had been a senior flag runner for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo for years. After losing her horse a few years ago, Barbula has not had as active of a role in the rodeo. Marsden knew she had pulling teams, and they connected to pull both wagons.
Barbula purchased her first cart in the mid-1990s from a sale of Bradford Brinton’s carts and teams in Big Horn, acquiring her “cart before the horse” at the auction.
“After I restored the cart, I had to train my horse to pull the cart, so that started the driving for me,” Barbula said. “Horses are happier driving in pairs or teams.”
She followed by purchasing a horse pair, and she has another horse to pair up with Morris. Pairs of horses are two to a pulling set, and teams include four in a pulling set.
“Because of that is how I got into pairs driving,” Barbula said. “And I’m happy that way too because you can watch both horses working together.”
Marsden has used the grain wagon in several parades and family reunions, and coincidentally in theme with this year’s “Saddle Up for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo,” he anticipates positive response to the hay wagon to preserve his family’s history.
“We’re haulin’ hay to the horses, so you can saddle up,” Marsden laughed.
Editor’s note: This story was published in 2019 Destination Sheridan, Sheridan WYO Rodeo. Read more online, pick up a complimentary copy of the magazine at The Sheridan Press or find it in businesses and racks across Sheridan County.