Historic dipping vat restored

Cali O'Hare photo The brands of the 14 Hoback Basin cattle ranchers who used the dipping vat are visible on the wooden panels that complete the newly restored wooden structure.

BONDURANT — More than 100 people attended Saturday’s unveiling of the newly restored historic cattle dipping vat on national forest land near Bondurant. Used routinely from 1936 to 1938 during outbreaks of sarcoptic scabies, the strange structure has long protruded into the skyline along Jack Creek Road, a reminder of the quarantines issued for cattle herds by the state veterinarian nearly a century ago, and the physical and financial hardships that followed.

Following construction in October 1936, Hoback ranchers used the elevator-style cage and hoists within the structure to dip their cattle, one at a time, into the 100-degree mixture of sulfur and lime for a minimum of two minutes, to ward off any skin infestation caused by mites. A team of draft horses, led back and forth by a rancher, provided the power to lift and lower each cow. A hot water tank and wood-fired heater were used to ensure the dipping solution remained near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cattle infested with scabies had to be dipped four times, not less than a week apart, while those exposed to the mite had to be dipped twice a week apart before they could be shipped. Representatives from the Wyoming Livestock and Sanitary Board would oversee the process.

The Sublette County Historic Preservation Board, in partnership with the Bridger-Teton National Forest - Big Piney Ranger District, and Katherine Campbell Bond spearheaded the restoration project. An interpretive sign with historical information about the structure and its uses accompanies the dipping vat, which can be accessed from Highway 189/191 mile marker 143.7 in Bondurant near the Forest Service’s Hoback Guard Station via the Jack Creek Road (County Road 23-108) east for 3.5 miles.

Thanks to Campbell Bond’s brother, Kevin Campbell and Harmon Pfisterer, the structure now bears the brands of the 14 Hoback Basin cattle ranchers who received quarantine orders: Shel Baker, Noah Booker, Arthur Bowlsby, Bill Bowlsby, L.E. Campbell, Hearley Fronk, Lot Haley, Eugene Holt, Willie Jones, Lee Koontz, Kenneth Noble, Georgia, Jake and Eugene Pfisterer, Eugene Robinson and Fred Watts.

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