Comeback for sprinkler wagon at Rock Ledge Ranch

       The long saga of the Rock Ledge Ranch sprinkler wagon has finally ended... or rather, begun.

While Rock Ledge Ranch manager Andy Morris drives the sprinkler wagon during a trial run by the ranch's team of Duke (the nearest horse) and Dan, Morris' children, Parker (left) and Casey run along behind.
Cynthia Morris photo

       A relic of the 1890s, when city officials needed to keep down the dust on unpaved streets, the horse-drawn wagon will be regularly spraying the dirt lanes of the city historic site near Pleasant Valley, according to ranch manager Andy Morris.
       "I'm just proud and excited," he said. "We're the only living-history ranch in the nation, that I know of, that has a sprinkler wagon that will be used for its intended purpose."
       He gave credit to Gene Smith, City Parks' Rock Ledge supervisor, who found the wagon 25 years ago in a city storage yard and had it moved to the ranch.
       For the past several years, Morris, Smith and City Parks grant writer Aimee Cox have been researching grants that would not only make the wagon look as good as new but also allow it to become functional again. "That's why it took so long," Morris said. "There was a lot to figure out."
       For the past three years, thanks to a grant from the State Historical Fund, the wagon was being restored at Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop in South Dakota.
       One key aspect was keeping the sprinkler wagon's barrel watertight. Happily, the state agreed to allow a modern interior liner spray to be used because it did not change the historic look of the machine, Morris said.
       Upon its recent return to the ranch, Morris began making sure the wagon's load (more than four tons when the barrel is full of water) was not too much for the ranch's two large horses (Duke and Dan). To Morris' delight, "Old Duke and Dan leaned into their harness and pulled their weight," he said.
       Morris plans to have the rig in action (weather dependent) for the first time during Earth Day activities at Rock Ledge Saturday, April 19.

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