Bested by a Buzz Wagon

I’ve spent many hours the last few weeks combing through digital editions of old newspapers from Pendleton, Oregon.

As I was browsing through the news on one front page, a headline caught my eye.

Buzz Wagon Proves Too Much for Ted

The first thought that popped into my head was “what’s a buzz wagon?” The second was “who’s Ted?”

If, like me, you haven’t been exposed to the early 20th century slang term, a buzz wagon is what some people used to refer to an automobile. (Presumably from the noise emitted from those early vehicles.)

On a lovely June day in 1912, a cowboy named Ted and another cowpuncher brought 300 head of horses to Pendleton to sell.

According to the newspaper, Ted could ride anything that had two ears and a tail, but the “golderned buzz wagon” was too much for the buckaroo to handle.

While they waited around town the evening before they were to set to sell the horses, Ted and his fellow cowpuncher wandered down to the Pendleton Round-Up grounds to see what amusements they might find.

What they found was an automobile left sitting in the arena, unattended, while members of the Elks club tried out teams for an upcoming chariot race (wouldn’t that be fun to see?).

The two cowboys thought the seats of the auto looked inviting, so they slid in to watch the proceedings. After a while, Ted landed on the brilliant idea of taking the auto for a spin. Although he’d never been in an automobile before, let alone drove one, he asked his friend to get out and give the car a crank to start it.

The car started but ol’ cowboy Ted found he couldn’t control the “red devil” as it traveled across the track of the arena. He whipped the wheel one way then the other, touched every button and pulled every lever to no avail. The auto stopped when he bashed into a pole at full speed.

When the owner of the car arrived on the scene, Ted offered to buy the man a new automobile. The owner thought he could have the auto repaired and they settled on $25 payment.

Ted declared he was through with man’s inventions, much preferring a bucking horse than the unpredictability of a “buzz wagon.”

To find out more about the happenings in Pendleton during 1912, be sure to attend the Petticoat Ball on April 12 on Facebook! The fun begins at 10 a.m. (Pacific Time) and runs until 2 p.m. Guest authors, games, giveaways, and details about my latest Pendleton Petticoats book, Quinn, will be shared!


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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

25 thoughts on “Bested by a Buzz Wagon”

  1. Good morning Shanna- what a hilarious blog. I bet Ted’s expression on his face was one of terror and awe trying to figure how to control that buzz wagon. I don’t blame him, I would of stuck to the 2 ears, 4 hooves kind of transportation myself back then. You have a great day.

    • I laugh every time I picture him pushing and pulling anything he could find to try to get it to stop. And the poor owner of the auto… he must have been quite surprised to see his car shooting across the arena and crashing into a pole.
      Thanks for visiting today, Tonya! Smiles and hugs!

  2. This was fun to read. Ted really found his match that day. I have to admit, when I heard the word buzz wagon, I had no idea what it could be. But the first thing that came to mind was that peddle operated bar that you see in some cites for people to have fun on while enjoying a cocktail.

  3. How funny! It kind of reminds me of my first experience on a Moped! Let’s just say I panicked and didn’t have time to gather my wits before I hit a parked car. I’m looking forward to the Petticoat Ball I’m sure it will be a blast! Did you know that only 3 Buzz wagons were ever made. Funny that that cowboy even came across one to crash! It probably only went a few mph. LOL

  4. Shanna, how funny! Ted must’ve had his brains scrambled from riding broncs or something. What on earth gave him the idea that he could drive a car with no instruction? And $25 to fix it. Wow! But those early cars were built like tanks so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. 🙂

    • Hi Linda!
      I got the idea from the article that Ted was quite a character. And those early cars were built so different from today’s vehicles. With inflation, I think that $25 would be around $600 today. It’s probably a good thing Ted decided to stick with horses. 😉

  5. Shanna, older readers may remember the Betsy, Tacy and Tib books, where Tib was the first kid in town to ride in a “horseless carriage.” Everyone was terrified for her, it would be like today if she went up in space. So funny, and how natural it is for us now to put the keys in the ignition etc. Good post!

  6. I literally had to LOL on this one!! poor ol Ted! My how times have changed, can you imagine trying to pay $25 today for wrecking someone’s car that you decided to take for a joy ride??
    I Look forward to your fb Petticoat Ball and reading more of your wonderful books! Love and Hugs a bunch!!!

    • I was laughing as I read the article… just picturing how the whole thing played out. Goodness gracious!
      Looking forward to seeing you at the ball!
      Thank you so much, dear Glenda! Hugs and love!

  7. I am sure it seemed like a pretty simple thing to do. As Ted found out, not so much. Today most people would have a general idea how to drive just from being a passenger. Back then few people had been exposed to the “Buzz Wagon” and how it operated. I wonder how many beers or stronger stuff Ted and his buddy had had before he decided it would be a good idea to drive one.

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