Before we head into Orville’s travels during the 1940’s let’s take a peek at the the animal menagerie which served as Orville’s traveling companions over the years. This is the group that provided quite a background for those wishing to take pictures with him. The ox, burros, donkeys and/or mules were obviously used to pull the wagon. The goats and chicken provided eggs and milk and sometimes butter when put in a jar and churned by full day of the wagon’s swaying. The animal names as documented in the various newspaper references provide a fun story in itself. When he began in 1938 he started out with the following:
- Two oxen named Tom and Jerry
- Two dogs, San Dimas the big tan dog and Pueblo the little white dog
- Two adult goats named Bessie and Edith
- Shermie, a little white goat
- Friday the brown he-goat
- Bobby Tom the cat
- Shanghai Red the rooster
- A Little Red Hen
The rooster, the hen and sometimes the little white dog rode on the back of the oxen. The ox named Tom died after a stay at the San Francisco World Fair, which subsequently changed Orville’s travel plans as he then had his rig shipped back to Pritchett rather than immediately heading east for the upcoming Worlds Fair in New York. In 1939 in addition to the Oxen Tom and Jerry there is a mention of a goat Archie the dog and some chickens.
In 1942 we learn that the remaining Ox, Jerry, is also known as Sweetheart and that Patricia the Burro is added to help pull the wagon. We also still have the dogs San Dimas and Pueblo, Bobby Tom the cat; Shanghai Red the rooster, and a Little Red Hen.
In 1952, Orville Ewing of Pritchett, Colorado, having retired his oxen, came down the highway with his traveling menagerie when he encountered Ovie Leona Plaster of Walker County Texas who had a pet mule named “Mary”. Orville struck a bargain with Ovie for old “Mary” and off they drove in his wagon with the mule hitched alongside other mules, a goat and a rooster.
In 1953 edition of the St Petersburg Times tells us that the donkeys were a relatively new addition to Ewing’s livestock. Two sturdy oxen who were their predecessors were retired last year to Colorado. They just got too old to make good time. By 1953 the total consisted of the donkeys Bessie, Moxie Mary and Chattahoochee. The goats are Groundhog, Micanopy, and Okafenokee. The Rooster is Shanghai and the dog Enchilada.
In 1955, Ruby, a 3 month old pup is mentioned riding on the back of the 3 month old daughter of Moxie, one of the two Burros pulling the cart. Seated on Moxie’s back was a brown goat and on the back of Moxies partner was a rooster named Ochlocknee – named after the Georgia town of its birth. Accompanying the group was a white dog whose name Ewing recalled as Enchilada, which according to the owner was Spanish for hot dog. The final member of the crew at this time was another goat called All Gone.
A 1966 The Vidette-messenger (Valparaiso, Ind.) article tells us a Rooster “Mr Jim Taylor” is named for the man who formerly owned him.
As he passed his 80th birthday and confirmed to the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1968 that he planned to keep on going as long as he can, the animals specifically mentioned were a goat named Nannie and a dog named Bob.
The year 1970 brings us near the end of the 31 year odyssey and the December 31, 1970 edition of the Southeast Missourian reports that 82 year old Orville Ewing, after 31 years on the road, is going home to Pritchett to stay with his little red trailer house, five mules, one goat, a rooster, a hen, and a dog.