These letters are just one of the many things that fell by the wayside this summer, along with my hair, my cuticles, and my sanity. We woke up with the sun, and often fell back into bed sometime long after it had sunk back down. During our breaks I was lucky if I found enough energy to shower and maybe even brush my hair. It was a long five months, a never-ending summer that somehow flew by. Every day dragged along, every week felt like it took several seasons with it, and yet in a moment it was over, and none of us could quite figure out where exactly it had gone.
You can’t immerse yourself in dude ranch life for that long without learning more than you signed up for. I could mend a high tinsel fence break with my eyes closed, and probably measure feed bowls in my sleep. Five months of grumpy horses, grumpy children, and grumpy bosses taught me that there isn’t a lot of difference between the three. Colorado weather ensured that I will never again trust the forecast, nor buy a tent that isn’t properly waterproof. Any horse I own from this day forward will be perfectly still when ground tied, able and willing to assist with opening gates, and completely comfortable with cattle, goats, fish, saddle bags, ponchos, tractors, screaming children, crying children, sleeping bags, umbrellas, fishing poles, golf carts, bicycles, fire trucks, superhero capes, fluffy tutus, and the possibility of coming into human living quarters if necessary. When is that necessary, you ask? Become a wrangler and maybe you’ll have the pleasure of finding out. The application’s online, along with the necessary forms to sign away your soul.
I spent my days leading clueless guests on trail rides through the mountains. The kind of clueless that lends false confidence and the arrogant belief that they actually know how to ride. Here’s a tip: If you ever find yourself, by choice, at a DUDE ranch on a push-button horse who dutifully places himself in line without any help from you, then you’re not a good rider. You’re just not. You may be an improving rider, maybe even promising, but above all else, you are a novice. Novice. The fact you’ve been on a horse more than twice in your life and have, in fact, loped once before does NOT make you an advanced rider, and I promise the trail guide in front of you is rolling their eyes and gritting their teeth at your ignorance. Cool, glad we cleared that up.
I’m also not sure any of these parents really understood what they were entrusting us with when they handed over their six year old’s and watched us plop them up on a horse and haul them off into the great unknown. We fed them pudgy pies and milkshakes. We encouraged them to kick their horses “like you would kick your brother” (They have tiny legs. Tiny legs are not very effective. Big kicks are therefore necessary on big, stubborn horses.) and to keep their horses away from one another because “you don’t like your friends touching your butt either.” We taught them to pee in the woods, which is a humorously complicated concept to a six year old. We were obviously
horrible the best influences you could have found to entertain your children for a week.
About the time we all figured out what the hell we were doing there it all started to end. My body had adjusted to crawling out of bed and dragging myself to the barn every morning in the dark. I could tack a horse in four minutes flat. I had perfected my lesson script. Then all of a sudden, Breanna needed a ride to the airport. Chelsea was packing up her car. Our little family was shrinking, our guest number decreasing, our workload lightening. That’s about the time I began realizing just what I was going to lose when the summer officially ended. A group of girls that knew me better than I wanted to admit, who had become my best friends, who had lived with me and worked with me for months and still found me interesting enough to spend their time with. A collection of hearts that would forever be tied to mine, ensuring I never lacked someone to miss.
There were so many difficulties this summer, and so many frustrations. Mountain fencing was hard. Dealing with EIA for a week without hitting anyone was hard. The never ending line of navajo blankets to be washed was hard. But the hardest part by far was saying goodbye to all of them, watching Jenna drive off and Lexie board her plane, and walking away knowing that was the last time I would see those faces for far too long. At the same time, they’re what made the whole thing worthwhile. I would powerwash a hundred more navajos for those girls…although I can’t honestly say I would put up with EIA again for anyone. Ever.
On to the next adventure.