SHERIDAN — When Debbie Pence first saw her 1965 Shasta Compact camper with a hole for a roof and dirty white and orange paint, she hated it. But her sister assured her it could be cute once they restored it.
“It took me about a year to get it ready,” she said. “Now I just love it.”
Today it’s pink and white with Victorian features like an old white bird cage hung outside the door, an original gas lamp and rose-patterned wallpaper, unique for a camper. On the front hang two old paint can lids with pink floral paintings she had enlarged from a postcard that matched her color scheme. Along the hitch are two sections of white picket fence.
Pence and the other glampers, who call themselves the Jacknife Jypsies, have been meeting at the Sheridan Kampgrounds of America on the weekend of Born in a Barn to camp and load up on new decorations for four years.
Pence is a Sheridan local whose annual gathering peaked at 21 women last year. This year there are eight women with five campers.
“When all of us girls get together it’s just a hoot,” Pence said. “Everyone’s on the same page, we all like little campers. I mean yeah, we could have big ones but we like these little ones.”
Pence’s sister Jeanie Verhelst has some sort of ‘76 that she’s had for about 35 years.
“I don’t even know what mine is,” she said. “It sat in the rain, the roof fell in. It was an ugly yellow and white and I decided it was time to fix it up about three years ago.”
Now it’s finished with a blue and white exterior. On the front hitch hang two blue and black acid-bleached cowhides from her daughter and a steer’s skull.
Outside sits an old silver metal Hamm’s beer cooler, dented a bit and worn in on the top from plenty of sitting.
“That was my husband’s beer cooler back in his drinking days,” Verhelst said. “Well, he’s still in his drinking days,” she laughed. “Younger drinking days.”
Barb Tschacher owns a two-toned light green and white reissue of a 1961 Shasta. Tschacher’s 2016 is number 727 of the 1,669 reissues that were made.
Tschacher’s daughter Michele Heib has a red and white 1958 Leino loaded with collected Western decorations, just repainted this summer. Heib’s “Cabin in a Can” has vintage suitcases on the front and camp chairs outside.
She’s had five classic campers since she began collecting them in 2012 and currently owns three. Her two others are a red, white and blue 1961 Nomad named Ole Glory and a 1961 Avion named Bittersweet Cabin.
Heib is nearly done restoring an old Suburban to pull her camper with. It still has original green paint that matches the camper.
Heib goes to car shows and has been asked to bring the campers to additional shows.
Heib takes her campers to Spearfish, South Dakota every year and camped in Custer South Dakota one year with MaryJane Butters, author of “Glamping with MaryJane,” who also designed a camper for Ralph Lauren.
The book inspired the group to start their projects. Anita Shepperson’s camper has a copy in it.
Shepperson’s camper is a red 1976 Rancho El Rey called the Ity Bity Bunkhouse. A mural on the back wall reads “God must have been a cowboy at heart. He made open spaces from the start.”
Two of the women didn’t bring their campers this year since they’re in the middle of remodels.
Billie Willadson is getting rid of her king size bed in favor of a twin bed and larger sitting area.
“Me and the girls need a place to drink when it rains,” she explained. “Come back next year, it’s gonna be hot!”
“Anybody’s welcome,” Shepperson said. “Get a little camper and come on.”