Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Week at a Dude Ranch

I was seven years old the last time my entire family took a vacation together. We went to a dude ranch somewhere in northern California….which is now called a “guest ranch”. The five of us packed into our wood paneled station wagon and we stopped at a motel on the way to break up the drive into two days. I remember this motel mainly because we got locked out of our room while we were at the pool. Not even the management could get in. I don’t know how we finally got it, but it took a long time. The dude ranch had lots of activities for my two older brothers (Louis was 12 and JP was 10) and me. Looking back, I am sure this made my parents happy to have a break from us. We rode horses twice a day, went on hay rides to camp fires, played softball and it all culminated in a rodeo at the end of the week. I wore jean and boots and my hair in pig tails to play the part. I was the smallest kid there that week and the first horse they gave me (Julie) was small as well. This horse would not ever go though so they put me on a new horse named Shorty. Shorty was one of the bigger horses so it was amusing to people to see the smallest kid on such a big horse. Shorty was a nice gentle horse and it was great fun riding him all week…except for the time I had to gallop without my feet in the stirrups. During the day while my brothers and I were riding horses, my dad went fishing and took pictures and my mom socialized with the other moms. Maybe they did more than this, but that is all I remember. A bell was rung when it was time for dinner and we would all head to the chuck house to eat family style. I was not much of an eater at this point in my life and meat was something I just did not like to eat. One night I was served something I did not like so I just flat out refused to eat it. My parents made me stay at the table until my plate was clean…this was back in the days of the clean plate club. All the families left and then the staff came out to eat, and I was still there. Eventually my parents let me leave because I think they were closing down, and I never ate it. My family had its first exposure to country music on this trip. My brothers and I hated it, but my parents really liked it. At the evening camp fires there were men playing guitars and singing songs. “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” was a bit hit. After dinner most people hung out in the bar and game room. There was music, dancing, billiards tables and video games. My brother Louis was quite a hit with the girls here. There was a 16 year old girl he hung out with a lot at night, which seemed like such a scandal at the time. I also learned the hard way that people will use you to get what they want. There were two 10 year old girls that befriended me, which was nice because there were not any girls my own age at the ranch that week. It turned out that they were just using me to get to Louis. There was an awards ceremony at the end of the week where all the kids were given an award based on their week at the ranch. Mine was the “Easy Rider” award since no matter what my Shorty did, the expression on my face rarely changed (except for that one time...). JP won the “B&B Bottom” award since he had some rough rides. Louis won the grand prize for the week called the “Golden Horseshoe” award that was given to the best boy and best girl rider of the week. I have very fond memories of this trip. We were still young enough to want to be together as a family before we all hit the years where everyone is busy with activities and friends and not wanting to be with the family. On the last day, we piled back into the station wagon and listened to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” as we drove away from the ranch on our way home.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Hey the post about your trip...and sorry about your mom. I bet she was one fantastic lady because you are and she definitely did something right.