Meet The Wranglers
The Smokey Hills, S bar H Wranglers are well known
for their rich 3 and 4 part harmonies and intricate instrumental work.
Above all, the Wranglers are traditionalists when it comes to their
music - they even perform using the traditional one microphone set up.
You will truly enjoy an evening with the
Wranglers at the Smokey Hills Chuck Wagon Supper Show.
The Old West Has Arrived In Park Rapids, Minnesota
Talk to some of the old timers and they will say that the old west moved here over 70 years ago. That was when western ranchers were fighting the dry years and they could no longer stand to hear the frantic bawling of their cattle as they clustered around dry water holes and wind mills which pumped only air. They couldn’t watch their herds try to chew cactus and brush.
Logging had stopped in Minnesota and thousands of acres of cut over timber land would provide wonderful grazing. Not only that but northern Minnesota had thousands of lakes filled with fresh water and the streams ran clear and cold. It wasn’t long until box cars full of starving and thirsty cattle pulled off on the Dorset railroad siding and Dorset was the new pasture land for 1000 or more head of cattle. Local men and boys were hired as trail hands. They tried, but nothing could stop the mad rush when the thirsty cattle smelled the water of Little Sand Lake north of town. In the fall, carloads of sleek and fat cattle were sold, or shipped back to the Dakotas and Montana, but many of them stayed. Those days are long gone, but fat and sleek cattle still graze on farms and ranches around Park Rapids. Men still wear boots and Stetsons and now, 70 years later, finally the chuck wagon has arrived at the Smokey Hills Wilderness Retreat.
Todd Payne, developer of the Smokey Hills Wilderness Retreat and the “trail boss”, has turned a beautiful portion of the grounds over to the Smokey Hills Wranglers. Friday and Saturday evenings, that is where you will find the biggest covered wagon top you have ever seen. Under this big white cover there are sturdy tables and benches sitting in front of the old barn stage. Off to the side is “Cookie’s” fire pit where he bakes cobblers in Dutch ovens and boils Arbuckle’s coffee in big graniteware pots. It’s strong enough to float a horseshoe, just the way the cowboys liked it.
The Smokey Hills Wranglers Chuck Wagon Supper Show carries on a historical tradition of the old west. 50 years ago the “Flying W Chuck Wagon” started up in Colorado Springs. Two people attended the first performance. Now almost 1500 people gather each night to be fed and entertained. Other chuck wagon supper shows in locations like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Ruidoso, New Mexico, and Rapid City, South Dakota offer the same friendly hospitality, good cowboy food and great traditional western music each season to tens of thousands of guests who love the old west experience. Now you can find it in Northern Minnesota.
The chuck wagon cook, “Cookie”, ruled the trail drives and most of the time he was crabby. The chuck wagon was so important that nobody referred to it as the chuck wagon; they just called it the wagon. It was the wrangler’s home, where his bed roll was stashed during the day and where he kept his one pair of extra jeans and a clean shirt. Some of them had an old guitar or a fiddle rolled up in a quilt. That is where a lot of cowboy songs first were heard. No matter how green he was, a cowboy soon learned that you never rode your horse into cookie’s fire pit area and you never tied your horse to a wagon wheel. If you wanted to eat your next meal you didn’t leave your plate laying on the ground, you put it in the wrecking pan. Cookie wouldn’t do it for you.
At the Smokey Hills Chuck Wagon there is an easy going, tall fellow named Mark "Cookie" Bridge whose ancestors helped settle western South Dakota and Colorado. Not only is he a good Dutch oven cook but he has had years of experience entertaining people with his banjo, mandolin and guitar. When you eat in his camp you will have tender roast beef, cowboy beans, red hot potatoes, hot biscuits, a peach to cool you down and you will top it off with bread pudding and cobbler and cowboy spice cake. If you don’t like beef, grab a piece of chicken. Don’t forget your Arbuckle’s coffee.
When you have eaten your fill, you
dump your dishes in the wrecking pan and the show begins.
Four of the best traditional western musicians in Minnesota
will entertain you. There is Dale Blatter who is known for
his vocals and instrumentation. Jeff Menten, an award
winning violinist, whose true love is the smooth sound of
the cowboy songs so many of us heard as kids. “Cookie” makes
a banjo talk and used to play with the Circle B Cowboys and
the Custer Park Chuck Wagon Show. And Dick Max, who sings
and ties the whole bunch together with his upright bass. You
will hear old favorites sung just the way the Sons of the
Pioneers did it, or Gene and Roy. You can sing along as they
play Home on the Range and Red River Valley and many others.
The Wranglers 1
If you have seen our chuck wagon supper show, you know that we are traditionalists. We like to play vintage western and bluegrass music in a traditional style. In fact we perform in the old style with only one microphone - something of a lost art now days. This album was recorded in a traditional manner too. We all got together at Jeff's studio, chose the songs we wanted to do and performed them just like we do for our shows. All of the songs were recorded in one take, warts and all. There were no isolation booths, over dubs, or other gizmos to enhance the sound, only pure performance.
1. Home Sweet home
2. Navajo Trail
3. Silver Wings
4. Ashokan Farewell
5. Western Trilogy - Red River Valley, Tumblin' Tumbleweeds, Cool Water
6. Blackberry Blossom
7. Blue Shadows On The Trail
8. Gal I Left Behind Me
9. Blue Spanish Eyes
10. Home On The Range
11. Westfalia Waltz
Bridge - "Cookie" - Vocals, Banjo, Mandolin
Mark has performed with the Circle B Cowboys, Bluebell Lodge Wranglers and has been a featured performer at the National Festival of the West, Disney World, Medora Cowboy Poetry Gathering and other locations throughout the West.
Westby - "Lightnin'" - Vocals, Guitar
Dean is an award winning song writer and shares the tenor parts on harmonies. Dean has performed for many years with the popular bluegrass band, "County 20" and has performed throughout the region. Dean earned his spurs working on cattle ranches in his younger years.
Amsberry - "Ranger Rick" - Vocals, Harmonica, Bass
Rick keeps the group cinched up with his rock solid bass and strong baritone voice. A highlight of the show is his "handless" harmonica playing. Rick has performed for many years with the popular bluegrass band, "County 20" and has performed throughout the region.
Menten - "Pecos" - Vocals, Fiddle, Mandolin
Jeff has performed as a member of several symphonies and played with Mariachi Estrella and members Asleep At the Wheel in Austin, TX. Jeff took 1st place instrumentalist of the year for the Minnesota Country Music Association and received the Archie Hill Horizon Award.