Experience The Bar J Wranglers With Cowboy Troy [PHOTOS]
The Bar J Chuckwagon along with its namesake musical group, the Bar J Wranglers, has been a Jackson Hole staple for over 30 years. This summer I was fortunate enough to be able to take in a great dinner and a truly memorable night of music and entertainment. It was so much fun in fact, that I couldn't miss an opportunity to share my experience with you.
Seven days a week-from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September, the Bar J Ranch right outside of Teton Village comes alive in dramatic fashion. There's no ignoring the excitement of hundreds of nightly visitors from all over the world (except Rhode Island :)), the smells of smoky barbecue, and the anticipation that something really special is about to happen.
From a crowded parking lot, I, the honey, and the rest of my soon-to-be extended family filter through a covered entrance into the grounds of the Bar J. We traipse past the "trading post," over the "Welcome" bridge and into the huge dining hall/barn complete with lighted stage. By the way, huge means that 700 people sitting side by side on long log tables can all eat comfortably at the same time. The barn is adorned with lots of personal items including a special dress, train, anvil, and the boots of many a guest.
Not ever having been here before, I didn't realize the magnitude of what I was about to enjoy. As it would turn out, the founder and patriarch of the Bar J wranglers would make one of his rare appearances on this night. He has now been in retirement for a few years and has turned over the reins of the business to his family for the most part.
It's no surprise to many that the Bar J Wranglers have been around and performing for decades, albeit with a revolving roster of musicians over the years. This was the dream of one Babe Humphrey. Babe was born in Colorado in 1935. He would humbly profess to not having the greatest looks or build and therefore would resort to his talents for vocalizing and learning musical instruments to find his place. From these meager beginnings, a rich musical legacy and heritage would be born, nurtured, and cultivated into what it has now become.
While I could tell you quite a few details about Babe and the Wranglers (after all, these guys have met presidents, appeared on television, and Babe even has the distinction of contributing to George "No Show" Jones missing one of his own concerts), I'd rather let you discover them on your own, the same way I did--by reading about them in Babe's own memoir. I will tell you about the evening, though, and what drew me to want to read about his amazing story in the first place.
So, back to dinner. We find our seats and start to take in our surroundings while a gentleman on stage acts as emcee--directing guests and counting down the minutes until it is time to eat. Rules and chuckwagon etiquette that will be required to feed so many in such a short amount of time are then explained. I softly mutter the instuctions back to myself. "Tin plate... hot potato on one side, applesauce on the other. Hold under the applesauce...put utensils in the hip pocket of person in front of me, keep moving..." Maybe this wasn't going to be as relaxing as I thought.
Babe Humphrey would then take the stage--personally welcoming our large group and going into a little history about himself and the chuckwagon. He also informed us that a recently published book about his life was available at the "Song Shed." Hmm...I'm cautiously intrigued at this point.
Chow time! Just like a well-oiled machine, the lines move fast and in less than twenty minutes everyone has a full plate of rich chuckwagon goodness in front of them. Now we're ready to take this night to the next level.
After a very satisfying meal, the lights are dimmed and five Western-looking gents identifying themselves as the Bar J Wranglers would assemble on the stage before us. A couple of these guys looked familiar. Oh yeah! The one on the left had refilled my lemonade. The one with the upright bass had also given me my beans. Wow! These guys really cook...onstage and off!
What would follow would be turn out to be a solid and very entertaining night of fun, jokes, and songs by the Bar J Wranglers. The musicianship and skills displayed on that small stage were extraordinary and were done in such a way as to make it all seem effortless. You might have witnessed one of these events several times before and it would still feel like the first. They're that good! Midway through, I knew I was getting that book. It was a wonderful night and I tip my hat to everyone involved at the Bar J for turning me into an instant fan.
If you aren't able to make it to Jackson Hole, do not fret. The Bar J Wranglers book several appearances in their off season. In fact, they're coming to Casper for the first time this February as part of our Artcore concert series.
If I were you, I'd definitely make the Bar J part of your plans. You won't be sorry.
Thanks for the great time, guys!