The home-made nature of most toys gave each a unique appearance and design. Some toys were strictly utilitarian, and could only be identified by those who made them and those who played with them. Other toys were so intricately designed and created, they were almost works of art. B.H. Roberts confessed of having so much admiration, as a child, for one particularly handsome, hand-carved toy buffalo, "to this day I sometimes wonder about my standing in heaven, so great was my jealousy and covetousness."
On the trail, a toy didn't even have to be a toy to be important to pioneer children. One company leader wrote in his journal about breaking up a bit of commotion between two boys who were fighting over a sturdy stick. One claimed it was his rifle, while the other said it was his hobby horse. "To me, it looked like a stick," said the captain, "so I broke it in half and gave a piece to each boy to use as his own imagination saw fit." Imagination was the key ingredient for almost all pioneer toys.