The origin of the Aparejo pack saddle goes back several hundred years. The Aparejo came into use in the West around 1850. The chief advantage of the Aparejo was its versatility. Large, bulky, heavy loads could be packed on mules with little ill effect to the mule.
On the assignment of General Crook to the Department of Arizona in 1871, mules bearing Aparejo pack saddles were introduced into United States Calvary. Their use quickly spread throughout the United States Army. General Crook was later referred to as the “Father” of the modern pack service in the Army.
Success of the Army being able to cut loose from its wagon transportation, enabling the command to be thoroughly mobile, was the single largest factor in the success of the Army’s role of settling the West. Every campaign the Calvary embarked upon use Aparejo packs, including those of General Custer and later General Crook while on the trail of Geronimo. The mule’s average load was 250 pounds and the days’ march was 30 miles except in mountains when about 15 miles per day was the rule.
Contrary to Hollywood pictures, most battles were not fought on flat land or open ground. Most of the fighting was done in canyons, on ridge tops or other difficult terrain. The problem then arose of getting wounded soldiers from battle sites back to the wagons, which at the time could be 25-50 miles away.
What you see in the photograph before you was the Calvary’s answer to the problem. A special frame was fitted to the Aparejo which a wounded soldier could be transported on. The Aparejo was still in use by the packers of the Eastern Sierras as late as the 1950’s.
In addition to the Aparejo, learning how life used to be prior to our modern way of life, check out our other activities.
This photo depicts a the use of the Aparejo as used in the 1800's. The Aparejo was used during remote construction sites, to transport injured workers back into town.
In 2008, One Spade Youth Packers performed a demonstration at Mule Days. Here our team played an injured person while another led the mule around the fairgrounds. Just as they did in 1800's.