Pam Blanscet Schenk’s Story of the Sesquicentennial Wagon Train

Schenk, left, and McGaha in their pioneer women dresses. (Photo courtesy of Pam Schenk)

By Judy Wade

“I was one of five women who rode horseback or in the wagon every day that the wagon train moved,” Pam Blanscet Schenk said about her trip with the 1986 Sesquicentennial Wagon Train that zig-zagged its way across 3,000-plus miles of Texas celebrating the 150th anniversary of the state’s independence from Mexico.

“I was in Jacksboro working in my uncle’s ice plant when I heard and ad on WBAP radio about the wagon train. I thought, ‘That’s the closest thing I’ll ever get to living like it was 100 years ago,’” Schenk recalled.

Frances Johnson told her about Betty McGaha, who was outfitting a wagon in Henrietta, and Schenk was able to join her and her driver and horse wrangler Randy Chadwick for the journey. “My plan was to ride my mare Roxy and pack my other horse Bo with my supplies. I got a pack saddle and panniers and learned how to balance the load and pack everything,” she explained.

Her plan didn’t work out quite the way she thought it would. “I found out Roxy was pregnant, so I took my dad’s big thoroughbred, Duke. That didn’t make my dad too happy,” Schenk related.

Schenk is 5’ 1”, and Duke was a conservative 16 hands, or at least 5’ 4” at the withers, so saddling and mounting proved a challenge for the cowgirl every day, but she managed. However, Duke proved to be a challenge several times. “During one of our ‘practice wagon trains’ before we actually set out, we were camped on the Ross Ranch in Jolly. A pump jack started up, Bo and Duke spooked and Bo got a rope wrapped around my leg,” she recalled.

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