New Mexico, Chuck Wagon Etiquette

Speaker is from Roswell, NM; he is a 76-year-old white man with a grade-school education.

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[INF:] And you are never supposed to eat on the chuck box lid. We have a lid, a box where the cook keeps all of his dishes and his, uh, cooking utensils with a fire about ten feet behind that wagon. The chuck box is lid down, and you are never supposed to walk between that chuck box and that fire, because that part of the ground belongs to the cook. And you’re never supposed to eat on a chuck box lid. The beds are thrown off at noontime for the boys to sit on and rest on. And they sit down on the ground and put their plate right on the ground. When we’re through eatin,’ there’s two big wash tubs, right close to the fire. Every man is supposed to clean out his plate, throw it away, and take it and put it over in the tub. That’s what we call rackin’ ’em, rack the dishes. Sometimes, they’ll stand twenty feet and try and see if they can rack, rack ’em but then, that’s a, that’s an unwritten law that belongs to the wagon. And you are never supposed to ride up to the wagon from the side the wind’s comin’ from, because your horse and the dust and the hairs off your horse will fly into your cookin’ utensils. You’re supposed to ride facing the wind coming to the wagon and never get too close.

[FW:] Do they have any other unwritten laws like that?

[INF:] There’s a lot of unwritten laws that they have and it’d just take too long, too long to tell ’em, and some of ’em are a little funny. Might run into something wouldn’t be pleasin’ for the lady. We had the ladies come and go to the, uh, coffee pot, or to the pot rack. And they would ask the cook, “Cook, how do you get the coffee out of the pot?” Cook ‘d say, “Oh, just like these boys do. Wrap your tail around the rack and dive in.”