Sheep wagons as classic campervan: the Airstream of pioneers




Sheep wagons were once a common mobile home in the American West. These tiny structures (usually 7 to 8 feet wide and about 12 to 16 feet long) were used by sheep herders for months on end as they migrated across grazing land with their flocks.

Kim Vader’s family began herding sheep in Idaho in the early 1900s. Eight years ago, his sister wanted a wagon to use as a guesthouse that would pay homage to their sheep ranching grandfather. Vader, having spent 3 decades as a craftsman, agreed to build her one with his wife Kathy.

Word of their build got around and today, they’ve built, or rebuilt, 50 wagons for modern shepherds and those looking for a more original second home. Each wagon is custom and takes them 3 months (with 3 people working) to complete. They often build for the descendants of sheep ranchers who are looking to recreate some of their family history.

The Vaders built their personal wagon as a tribute to Kim’s paternal and maternal grandparents- both sheep ranchers. Parked in the front yard of their Boise, ID home (and workshop), it serves as a display for their business, Idaho Sheep Camp.

The Vaders build their sheep camps with 2” by 6” tongue and groove “all glued and screwed together” sitting on top of running gear. The curved tops are built with bows made from steam-bent ash covered in canvas. Their wagon is equipped with a cast iron stove, a queen-sized bed with a bed-in-a-cupboard beneath it for the grandkids, a portable RV-style toilet under one bench and a cooler (as refrigerator) under another.

Kim’s cousins are still sheep ranching and use the wagons as seasonal mobile homes for their shepherds, which is not so uncommon in the industry. “There was a time there they decided to go to travel trailers, but after a year they decided travel trailers didn’t work so they went back to the old sheep wagons,” explains Kim. “I think the construction of them [the travel trailers] just didn’t hold up. Too many foo foos and too many things to come apart and they just didn’t hold up.”

Idaho Sheep Camp:

* Workshop video filmed by Luke Holley

Original story:

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40 Comments

  1. CarLuvrSD
    March 4, 2016
    Reply

    You still see these in Utah, but not as common as they once were. Many have aluminum shells, instead of canvas. I've seen truck mounted campers and travel trailers in some of the same spots where just 10 to 15 years ago they still used the Basque covered wagons.

  2. Hako2004
    March 14, 2016
    Reply

    So beautiful. Americana. Really fascinating to see the history, and this couple amazes me.

  3. Chris Andersen
    March 17, 2016
    Reply

    im so interested how much dose it cost

  4. Danielchai S
    April 17, 2016
    Reply

    Is it possible to have the toilet at the very front or back corner…then apply a curtain, or hard plastic or thin plywood for a modesty division…

  5. staninjapan07
    May 20, 2016
    Reply

    Very cool indeed.
    If I lived in The U.S., with all the space and the D.I.Y. attitude towards learning, I would love to be involved in something like making these wagons.
    Here in Japan if you are not a licensed xyz-person, you are thought to be incapable of doing any such thing.
    Sad really. Here, you choose you 'career' as it were, and then that's all you know – for most people that is.
    Being British, I don't think that way. I am more like an American in that regard.

    Anyway you guys sure do make very nice looking wagons and it looks like you build them to a very high/accurate specification, too.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Ahmed Mohamed
    May 30, 2016
    Reply

    THATS SAD

  7. eydie C.
    June 19, 2016
    Reply

    I really NEED a small area 4 me and my 14 lb. dog! the basics R what is important. I survive on a disability check. Is something like this possible 4 me 2 obtain? what is ' faircompanies'? I have little choices due 2 my financial reality. thanx e

  8. Freddiecorvettie Corvettie
    June 21, 2016
    Reply

    I will like to buy the wagon i have cash ,HOW MUCH? PLEASE CALL ME AT 760-616-9210

  9. Janetta Schuch
    June 25, 2016
    Reply

    Think it is going to last longer & be useful than tiny houses, but does require a hardier sort of person.

  10. William Martin
    July 18, 2016
    Reply

    Price range?

  11. katrina stout
    September 16, 2016
    Reply

    Hi

  12. Lloyd Hayes
    September 22, 2016
    Reply

    These are still common for ranch workers in Wyoming and Montana. Yes, they are used for sheep. But they are also used for cattle. Some of those ranchers using them would object to calling them sheepherder wagons. Ranch workers will spend anywhere from 30 days to 3 months at a time watching their animals and living in these things.

  13. Spencer Bell
    September 23, 2016
    Reply

    i live in the same neighborhood as these people

  14. Jimmy Walker
    November 20, 2016
    Reply

    Inside toilet no more going outside Irish Travellers will not like this

  15. Harry Kuheim
    January 12, 2017
    Reply

    Bottom line…How much $$$?….How heavy?

  16. Jessica Woodsum
    February 16, 2017
    Reply

    I love the house but what do you do when you need to shower

  17. brandon darnell
    February 17, 2017
    Reply

    Very cool, do you have a website?

  18. Tubecraft1
    February 22, 2017
    Reply

    kirsten is so good because she lets people tell it without constantly interrupting the way a lot of modern journalists do.

  19. ted rebel
    February 24, 2017
    Reply

    :O thats r 13?! holy crap i need that……

  20. linda jansen
    March 4, 2017
    Reply

    I truly love this wagon . But i do wonder why the porto poti is placed in the middle. were they eat and make dinner

  21. Jas ward
    April 6, 2017
    Reply

    reminds me of the romany gipsie wagons

  22. Tiger Rose
    May 1, 2017
    Reply

    The Video or Commercial on the Extreme Physical Abuse to Cows is Eye Opening. I for one had No idea that Cows went through this Torture. Live Photo's do Not Lie. They drag off the Cows and chain their legs and force their Arms up their Rectum to get the Cow to Ejaculate. That is Nasty and the whole thing of what they do is Cruel. Why doesn't the Our Government have More Humane Laws to Protect these Innocent Animals?? Of course," The Almighty Dollar $$$" comes 1st and foremost as usual in this World. White House and American Government Watch these Video's on the Inhumane Torture of Cows. Someone should be held accountable!!!! Stop letting the Cows get tortured!!! Yeah,it makes me think about trying a different kind of Milk. Yes,and you make a point about the only reason we think Milk is good,is we learn it from School or Our Mom's. Oh my gosh,if Mom saw this Video she would be Very flabbergasted and Appauled too. God made Cows,but Not to be inhumanly treated!!! My Gosh. I Love Nature and All Innocent Animals. Thanks for Opening Our Eyes to the Vicious Cruelty done to Cows!!!

  23. bere georgiana
    May 25, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, that wagon park was surprising! I guess there have always been people who wanted to live a mobile life. These days it's just easier to find out about them thanks to people like you.

  24. Danja Zone
    June 4, 2017
    Reply

    very nice…love the wagons and the spirit of granddad…have ya et yet…. what a beautiful spirit. (i must confess…the lovely spirit of giving is absolutely with the fella..the misses however is extremely snooty. She'll learn tho..sadly she will learn)

  25. MsNevadakid
    June 7, 2017
    Reply

    I sure do love the history of the "sheep wagons" ! we just purchased a 1929 made sheep wagon from a very nice lady in "nevada" who was able to bring in from her ole home from "the pitchfork ranch.. ( sheep n cattle ). in whyomig. the same wagon when she was a lil girl.. we are so happy with it ! ….happy trails…

  26. Firemanfood 1988
    July 9, 2017
    Reply

    my dream home I can poop and watch TV at the same time

  27. Michael Anderson
    July 10, 2017
    Reply

    i remember the old westerns with the wagon trails the kids peeking out from the back of the wagon

  28. Frank Gerlach
    July 14, 2017
    Reply

    My Grand Dad came from Spain (but was Basque) to work as an in-denature worker as a sheepherder. He had to work or the man who brought him to America for, I think 7 years herding sheep in Idaho. He lived in one of the sheep wagons He was one of the most handy people I have ever seen. He would build every thing, from tables and chairs and houses to toys for kids. He could play damn near any musical instrument,Guitar, violin, accordion and what was crazy he could pickup a instrument that he had never played and within a couple of days would play some decent music on it. Don't have any idea how he could do that but he did.Fix anything and was really a hit with kids, if their toy was broke, give it to Grandpa and a couple of hours later it worked again.

  29. harleycharley
    July 16, 2017
    Reply

    You guys are incredibly interesting and talented…Thanks for sharing this video about your work!

  30. Derrek Duden
    July 31, 2017
    Reply

    What's the price of one these wagons I absolutely love it

  31. bipola telly
    August 5, 2017
    Reply

    i had a monkey wagon once!
    a 66 monkey team was chaotic to run, but the kids loved it!
    not cheap to run tho' AND they fart a lot!

  32. bipola telly
    August 5, 2017
    Reply

    a megalith in the backyard?

  33. Self Driven Income
    August 5, 2017
    Reply

    "have ya et yet" <3

  34. Maria Trayter
    September 7, 2017
    Reply

    I had seen this video a while ago. Admire the Sheepherder way of life of long ago and these Wagons-Trailers are a fantastic reminder of the past and way of living.How great it is that the Basque people immigrated to Idaho Amerika and settled down to make a prosperous living for themselves and their descendants.And the life styles and customs are continuing with their offsprings and grand and great grand children. God bless all Immigrants where ever they settle down and those who where in the hseep herding bussiness earlier times..From New South Wales, Australia.

  35. Laura Kender
    September 11, 2017
    Reply

    How much one of this would cost?

  36. D Brickell
    September 22, 2017
    Reply

    What a nice couple doing terrific work! I really love the workmanship. Beautiful!

  37. Sacred Thyme
    October 6, 2017
    Reply

    my oregon youth with basque people & sheepdogs ~

  38. Sacred Thyme
    October 26, 2017
    Reply

    rewatched and truly want one ~

  39. gloria oh
    November 4, 2017
    Reply

    love the stuffed animals.

  40. Foxiepaws ACAnderson
    November 22, 2017
    Reply

    Those waggons are great, I remember seeing them when I was a kid up in the Highlands. Of course we call them Shepherds not Sheep herders just like we call goat people goatherds. Our oned had the woodstove oven but, if you read Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy you will read about the main job of the oven was to bring in little newborn lambs when it was freezing at lambing time and the Shepherd would warm them up and dry them before giving them back to the mother. This was the original job of Shepherd's huts.

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