Have you ever heard of a Brigand Roast? I hadn’t. I have heard of
brigands-- robbers who accost people in forests and mountains. After
all, I was an English major in college, but this is the first time I
get to write about ‘em.
Well sort of. My adventurous five-foot eight grandmother took a group
of friends for a wild ride from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Colorado’s Estes
Park and Longs Peak environs on one cold February day in 1931.
Jessamine had arrived at the Wyoming state legislature on February 3rd to
play hostess for her father, Sheridan County’s Senator Willis Spear.
Her mother had passed away the prior October, and Willis needed her
help. After several days of graciously serving luncheon to various
senators and guests, Jessa rounded up her gal pals plus her father
for a day of touring.
Somewhere in that touring car she had packed away the ingredients for
lunch. Her plan was to serve what she called a Brigand Roast—an outdoor
picnic over a camp fire (IN FEBRUARY?).
INGREDIENTS FOR BRIGAND ROAST: 1 3/4 pounds of steak; 2
pounds of rye bread; ½ pound of bacon; salt to taste; pepper to taste; and
1 ½ ounce lard (either from the meat while cooking or real lard).
Estes Park Scenery
They arrived in Estes Park via Loveland, Colorado. Estes Park at that
time was a small touristy village situated in the valley below the new
Rocky Mountain National Park. They drove up along Big Thompson River to
choose a site for lunch. Then they parked the car and started a fire.
For skewers they used sticks from the forest. Don’t try this today,
the rangers don’t approve of freelance camp fires.
Picnic in Estes Park
Cook’s directions: Cut the steak, clean all of the membranes and gristle
into ten equal portions, then flatten with the palm of the hand and sprinkle
with salt and pepper. Cut the bacon into ten equal portions and beat them a
little. (I assume with your hands?) Cut the bread into twelve equal portions.
Thread the ingredients onto a sharp skewer in the following order: one slice
of bread, a slice of meat, and a slice of bacon. Then repeat until all the
ingredients are used. Put a piece of bread at each end. Roast over an open fire,
turning the skewers, continuously sprinkling the meat with the lard which escapes,
until the meat is cooked. Keep your eyes peeled for unwanted guests—brigands or
After this high caloric lunch, they piled back in the car and bounced and swayed
over gravel and dirt roads for about ten miles to the Longs Peak trail head for
a view of the famous peak.
Longs Peak in the distance.
After that refreshing view, nothing was left but to head down the mountain to
Longmont on forty miles of windy roads, before they could connect to the best
road back to Cheyenne. Her diary states she drove about 300 miles round trip on
indifferent roads for the fun of mountain views and a Brigand Roast!
After all that, I’m ready for a coffee and a roll at the corner Starbucks!
Want to join me?
Cowboy jargon--Chow or Chuck: Words describing food. The chuck wagon
carried all food supplies while out on the roundup, and was under the specific control
of the roundup cook. The chuck wagon was the mobile cookhouse of the ranch for trail
drives and roundups. Chow was evidently borrowed from the Chinese in California.
Combinations such as chow line or chow time are common. Chicken fixings means
fancy food. For more fun stories, videos, and photos click on the “media” button at
The Spear O Ranch Chuckwagon @ Big Horn Cty. Museum
My personal photo.