The summers following my freshman and sophomore years of college, I spent living and working at dude ranches out west. The first summer was set in northern California, and the second set just west of Denver, Colorado. A “dude ranch” by definition is not a ranch full of dudes, but an upscale, yet rustic ranch vacation for singles and families alike. It is a form of argritourism, to be fancy. It was on these ranches that I experienced the most wonderfully terrible, or terribly wonderful experiences of my life. Either way, it is not one or the other, but most definitely both. Though I could probably fill a book with these stories, (I’m already working on one for Kentucky) I’ve decided that this blog is where I would like to share them, and now is the time to start writing.
Each volume will have the consistent title of: “The Dude Ranch Diaries” and a subtitle such as the unnecessarily extended edition I included for the intro. They will be posted on Friday nights, filled with love, laughter, and lunacy to ease you into the weekend. #flashbackfridays They will exist until I run out of stories. I’d say there’s a good six months worth. Some will be longer, some shorter. Some will be stories of hope, and others will seem hopeless at times. Each story will start with the setting so readers will have an idea of which summer it was (i.e. “One day in the hills of northern California…” or “Fog spilled over the ranch that called itself home just west of Denver…”) One final important detail is that these posts will NOT be in any specific order. They will be posted simply as they come to mind to create an eau du spontaneity, and perhaps even to (in a sense) protect those involved – not that they need protecting.
Because it is real people’s lives that intersect with my story, I will be using pseudonyms for all the people and places in these excerpts. I apologize in advance if you do not like the way that I portray you or if you have a different perspective of how these stories happened (then I encourage you to write your own story, because all of our stories matter).
What? You ask, is so important about those five months out of the 353 months of my life? Well…
It was on those ranches that I became friends with people I never expected to, and experienced true community.
It was on those ranches that I learned about who I didn’t want to be, because at times, I became that person.
It was on those ranches that I met some of the most, dedicated and passionate, but down-on-their luck people.
It was on those ranches that I met families that were up-on-their luck, but still took the time for a summer-dude-ranch employee to share her story, hopes, and dreams.
It was on those ranches that I got to be a country girl that loved horses, rocked cowgirl boots, and acquired epic line dancing skills.
It was on those ranches that I clung to my beliefs like a security blanket.
It was on those ranches that I let go of some of my beliefs like a red helium balloon drifty slowly, and then swiftly away.
It was on those ranches that I remembered how important it is to love while you can, because you never know exactly how long you have with another.
It was on those ranches that I learned how to swear and “stand up for myself”.
It was on those ranches that I learned how deeply you can care for someone, even after only knowing them for a couple of days, or a week, or a few months…
It was on those ranches that I learned how not to treat people.
It was on those ranches I experienced life like each day was the last.
It was on those ranches that I learned how to love.
So buckle up! (You think I’m kidding, but seriously, buckle up!) It’s gonna be a wild ride.