In 2005, when my youngest daughter, Meghan, was graduating from high school, I wanted to do something special for her graduation and maybe incorporate that something special into “our family vacation.” We (Emily, Meghan and I) had tried to establish a “new kind” of family vacation after Bruce’s death. Our family vacations with Bruce had always been very special times. We didn’t have a lot of money but we did some great trips on the cheap. We had wonderful experiences and made priceless memories.

So I asked my soon to be high school graduate “what would be your dream vacation?”. Meghan thought about and said “a dude ranch”. So I started planning a family vacation to a dude ranch. I investigated on-line and found the perfect place in Shell, Wyoming. In further discussion we decided to invite my very good friend, Carol, and her daughter, Jenna. The reasoning was that “mom needed someone to hang out with.” I asked Carol if she and Jenna would like to join us. I would finance the place, she would just have to pay their airfare and she said “yes”. Meghan was in shock. She never thought her “Auntie Carol” would say “yes”. I never doubted that Carol would say yes.

We purchased our cowboy boots, our cowboy hats, our long sleeve shirts and our gloves. We purchased our airline tickets and packed our bags. We flew into Billings, Montana. I checked Montana off of my states to visit list. We spent the night in Billings and on Sunday drove to Shell, WY. The scenery was beautiful – wide open spaces, nothing, I mean nothing for miles and miles. Town signs announcing population 12 or 26. Amazing. The ranch was beautiful. The accommodations were great, the food was gourmet and the people who ran it were so gracious and kind. And I would visit there again but not to ride horses.

This was a real working cattle ranch. They weren’t moving cattle around to give you something to do. They were moving cattle because that’s what they do. We had to help get the horses ready, then ride all day and truly move cattle. And I never laughed so hard in my entire laugh. It makes me laugh to think about it. The first day the wrangler had us ride around the ring so he could determine our riding skills. Meghan and Emily had taken riding lessons when they were younger. Carol had ridden as a child. Jenna was very athletic. So they all did well. And my riding skills were zero or lower. Did I mention I am afraid of horses? Well, maybe not afraid but definitely not comfortable with them. Horses are big and they can run fast and I am a chicken. As I rode around the ring, the wrangler commented “you wait and see by the end of the week, she will be good at this.” And my “family” commented “probably not!!!” The wrangler tried me on a new horse everyday. My first horse’s name was Cheetah but I kept calling him Cheyenne. Cheetah didn’t sound like a horse to me. Meghan would just shake her head. When I would see the baby cattle, I would think they are so cute I am never eating beef again. But when the bull would stand across the path and the cattle won’t move pass him, I would think give me a steak. Cattle are not very bright. They are noisy and it is hard to move them around.

By mid afternoon on our first full day of riding, I asked the wranglers if they could just throw my body across the horse like you see the movies. The head wrangler said “remember I told you not to believe anything cowboys do in movies.” Oh, my!!! I hurt in places, I didn’t know you could hurt. I was really, really bad at horseback riding and herding cattle. But you know what I did it and I will never do it again but I tried. And I have used parts of this story to encourage many a child to “try something new” because you have nothing to lose. You may have a great experience and find something new you enjoy doing or you may never do that again but at least you tried. Or you may just get to spend time with people you love and laugh harder than you had laughed in a long time. this is where we went. They have a very professionally done video.