For many early homesteaders, the cook stove was their most prized possession. It was the centerpiece of the cabin, of the family, and of survival. To brave a burning building to rescue the stove was worth the risk. Meals were served on dishes made from heavy china, and flatware was made from steel that protruded from wooden handles. The steel needed near-constant polishing, which was a chore performed by the children on a regular basis. Iron pots of varying sizes and brass pans and buckets were used to cook the meals. A big brass kettle was a kitchen mainstay, and many items had more than one use. Washing linens, making soap and heating bath water were additional kitchen chores.
Wood ashes left over from the soap making process were used as water softener to scrub floors, creating a lye-like mixture. This note of Melvina’s suggests that their family did indeed have wooden plank floors, as packed dirt would not need scrubbing. Mops were employed, made from willows fixed to a long wooden pole. Water was often transported from nearby creeks or streams (nearby was often a relative term, but we know the Wilsons had Flat Creek at hand), and some fortunate homesteaders even dug shallow wells and hauled water up through buckets in the yard.
While life in Jackson Hole was limited and isolated, once resource was plentiful. Wild game provided the basis of the Wilsons’ diet. Moose, elk, deer, antelope and bear were regulars at the kitchen table, all expertly prepared by the wives and their stoves. Fish were caught from streams, and wild berries were preserved in jams and jellies. Along with plentiful wildlife, bees were kept for honey and pigs were purchased. A dairy cow often provided enough milk to make cheese, butter and cream. By the time dude ranching arrived in the early 1920s, fresh daily products could be purchased from neighboring homesteads (a service many dude ranches took advantage of). Hardy vegetables like potatoes and rhubarb were often raised in kitchen gardens.
In order to provide their families with a variety of wild game, men often made their own bullets with molds, and loaded them into their own cartridges. Fairly early on, South Park established a blacksmith shop to service the community’s variety of needs.