DUDE RANCH VACATION
Shortly after Christmas, 1977, we started entertaining the idea of a vacation but really didn't quite know what we wanted to do. I sent away for information on a covered wagon trip in Western Kansas only to find that the price was a little steep. Seems like the price was in the neighborhood of $1000.00 for three people for a three day/two night venture. The family poll nixed this idea without much adieu.
I remembered a few years ago I had toyed with the idea of a dude ranch vacation and had written for information from several guest ranches. All this "gleaning" had been tossed when the family uprooted from Missouri and settled in Nebraska. . . so it meant starting from "scratch".
I wrote thirteen letters to various ranches in Colorado. Twelve ranches wrote back and Jim, Rick, and I read and re-read each letter. Rick and I sort of made decisions about the one(s) we liked best from the literature sent but Jim was holding out for that thirteenth ranch to answer our request for information. We waited and waited and still no letter. Jim's patience had given away but not his perseverance to know what this last ranch had to offer.
Ma Bell and Jim connected one evening and he called the ranch. Polly, the ranch wife informed him she had not received our letter so she took our names and address and a few days after, the long awaited letter of information arrives. The brochures and letters from thirteen dude ranches are now read once more and Jim's decision is made. Rick and I agree with his decision. (It's either agree or stay at home!!!)
In talking with Polly over the phone, Jim told her what week in June we would be able to visit their ranch and Polly writes that she is reserving us space in the main lodge. After our decision, the middle of March, to visit the Two Bars Seven (hereafter referred to as =7), Jim calls Polly once again to confirm the reservation and to tell her our deposit will be sent in the following day's mail.
Money is saved, lists are made, wardrobes are replenished with boots, jeans, extra socks and underwear, and the long awaited day finally arrived. It seemed we had been longing for June 16, 1978, for an eternity.
Jim had arranged with Omaha's newest mediator, Harold Walton, to house-sit for us during the week we would be away. Harold was glad to oblige as he was living in a motel awaiting the arrival of his family from Wichita, Kansas, and the readiness of their apartment.
Rick had been singing in the Joy Singers '78 all during the past school year and their last performance was at 7:00 PM the evening of June 16, at the annual Papillion Days Celebration. After a fast crock-pot supper, we all walked up to the Park to hear the Singers one last time. It was so hot and the humidity was awful -- felt as high as the temperature. After the performance we all showered and finally left for =7 at 9:18 P.M. with Rick at the wheel. He had reached his 15th birthday May 31, and obtained his long-awaited-for driver's permit.
Rick stayed under the wheel for 212 miles, which put us at the Cozad Rest Area. He did a real good job. At the Cozad Rest Area we all slept a couple of hours and then Jim took over and drove awhile. Then it was my turn and I saw a buck deer along the road shortly after daybreak. (I better back up here a minute and say we stopped for gas at North Platte. Of course the 1977 Mercury takes unleaded gas and at North Platte it cost us $.75¢ per gallon. Therefore, 15-7/10 gallon cost $11.75. Here I had to get into my "sock" and haul out gas money. ~~. I had hit the daily double at Ak-Sar-Ben the Saturday before and won $174.80. I "socked" this money for our trip expenses outside of the ranch fee.
I "steered" us into Kimball, Nebraska to the Holiday Restaurant for breakfast. We were hungry after our early supper the evening before and being on the road all night. Rick ordered three pancakes, a side of bacon (a side order, not a whole
Side of bacon! ha). Jim had sausage, two eggs, hash browns and toast. I had ham, one egg, fried chicken, (I guess I had fried chicken -- Rick kept telling me that there was a chicken in my egg) toast, hash browns, and everyone had coffee. Breakfast was $7.73 plus $1.00 for tip. The "sock" was "socked" again. After breakfast, Rick snapped a picture of us in front of the restaurant and then he drove. A little ways from Kimball we spotted our first antelope of the trip. Jim had Rick pull over so he could take several pictures.
Our next stop was in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming at a rest area and was it ever chilly there. Jim took some more pictures while we were stopped. Rick related to us that he had eaten lunch at this same rest area when he was with Frosty's in 1971.
ON TO CHEYENNE!
We arrived in Cheyenne at 9:15 A.M. Drove to Little America Motel and of course we found our room was not cleaned up so we went uptown. Our first stop was in a Western clothing store where I purchased a hat for $6.23. We looked around at other items in the store before going to the Wyoming State Museum. In the Museum I bought Rick a 50th Anniversary Amelia Earhart commemorative cover envelope and stamp at the Earhart Postal Station -- cost $2.00.
We went on to the State Capitol Building but only got inside the lobby - it was not open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, but we entered through the first door we came to which was the only unlocked one in the entire building. A policeman did get us some Wyoming literature and give us a map, etc. He said some dudes were to hold a demonstration on the Capitol lawn later in the morning to protest the helmet law. We heard on the news later in the day they had demonstrated but was relatively quiet with it.
After a little shopping at Annie's Nook & Cranny, and a look in another Western clothing store, we went back to the motel to find our room was still not available. We took our ham sandwiches, potato chips, cookies and pop that I had brought from home, out to the pine trees on the edge of the motel golf course and ate lunch. After lunch we sat around the pool and then watched antelope over on a hill a short distance from us. Rick went swimming later in the heated (?) pool but Jim and I caught a couple of naps.
The temperature in Cheyenne was 49 degrees earlier in the morning and the wind blew hard out of the northwest all day. I later toured the motel gift shops. Prime rib suppers for three that were fairly good but too expensive from the motel restaurant filled us up. Cost $29.64. At least Rick got full!!!
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. It had to dawn that way as it was Father's Day (June 18, 1978) and this was the day our reservations at the long awaited dude ranch began. We were up at 9:50 A.M. I bought a charm at the motel gift shop ($2.86) while Jim paid the motel bill ($37.44 but the room was beautiful and had two queen size beds).
Left Little America at 11:03 A.M. with a thermos of coffee from the coffee shop ($1.04). The drive from Cheyenne to Laramie, on the Lincoln Memorial Highway, was very pretty. We saw lots of antelope and we stopped at the Lincoln Memorial Rest Area and took a few pictures. We filled up with gas at Laramie, 18.1 gallon -- $13.00 and then ate lunch at the A & W Drive In - $5.36.
Arrived at the =7 Ranch, located on the Colorado/Wyoming border, just 28 miles south of Laramie and a little southwest of Tie Siding, Wyoming, around 1:30 P.M. Everyone was in the dining room eating dinner. The afternoon was spent getting settled in and helping the "little old lady from Pasadena" (Cheyenne, actually) get her Volkswagen off the rock pile she backed it on to! Rick went to a roping at Tie Siding with Polly and Jim and I read and explored up behind the lodge.
The name of our room, located on the east end of the lodge, is Virginia Dale. Rick was located at the other end of the lodge and his room is called the Wyoming 2. His room has a single bed, night stand, chest, a lavatory in one corner and a place to hang his clothes in one end of the room. Our room has a double bed, chest, night stand, small closet and a bathroom. Cozy but spacious enough.
Supper bell sounded at 6:30 P.M. and here we met the other guests: Wolfgang Fedder from Munich, Germany, Bob and Thayer Boswell from Harvey, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans), and Thayer's mother Hannah Barnhart from Jacksonville, Florida who will celebrate her 90th birthday September 12, Donna Somebody from New Jersey, Ray Yost and his two grandchildren - Jennifer and Roger from New York and New Jersey, and us. Supper was a casserole of everything left over from dinner - mashed potatoes, peas, chicken, ham, and noodles.
Other items served with the casserole were delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, celery and carrot sticks, bread, butter, coffee, and plums. DELICIOUS!!! The cinnamon rolls were made by Peggy, Polly's mother, -- she helps out "in a pinch" and she told me there's lot of pinches. Getting back to the casserole -- Rick gobbled it up and he deplores casseroles at home. The Boswells, Barnhart, and Somebody are leaving Monday morning.
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1978
Jim up at 6:00 A.M. - Something about that Wyoming air made him rise and shine. Maybe the air could be bottled and released in our bedroom each morning. HA Breakfast bell at 7:30 and we sat down to cantaloupe, juice, coffee, toast,
eggs, bacon and jelly.
After breakfast we got horses assigned to us. Jim got Buckwheat. Jim is quite at home on horseback so Bill assigned him this particular horse - - Buckwheat is pretty spirited. Rick got a horse named Cimarron and I got Lelani, alias Plug, Slowpoke, and a few other unmentionables.
Rick went on the trail ride with the other riders but Jim and I stayed behind. I have never ridden a horse very much so I rode Lelani in the arena for a while. Later Bill told Jim and I we could ride in the meadow southeast of the ranch house. He also told us to cross the creek to a big pile of rock south of the ranch house. On this pile of rock is an inscription: "Ted Schaffer, 1906-1967, =7 Ranch".
Ted Schaffer was the original owner of the dude ranch. Ted had inherited the ranch from his father and in 1947 or 1948, Ted and wife Peggy, along with their children Teddy (is now an officer in the Air Force and stationed in California) and Polly, started the dude guest operation. Polly is now married to Bill Millican, and they have three daughters - Peggy, LeAnna, and Esther. The ranch is now owned and operated by the Millicans. Peggy lives in a ranch house up the lane from the old ranch house.
Bill is originally a cowboy from Meeker, Colorado and he met Polly while she was in Arizona teaching school. Ted had asked Bill and Polly to return from Arizona and help him with the ranch in the mid 1960's. They had not been back very long when Ted died of a heart attack up in the mountains on a pack trip in July of 1967. He was the originator of the Little Britches Rodeo and also was a sheriff back in the 1930's. After spending some time riding in the meadow and gazing at Memorial Rock, we headed back to the ranch house for the lunch bell that rings at 12:30 P.M.
Lunch consisted of tacos, cottage cheese salad (w/marshmallows, dry jello, whipped cream and fruit cocktail in it), iced tea, cherry/apple cobbler with whipped cream. It was pretty yummy. Polly cooked today as it was Nettie's
This afternoon I went on the trail ride and rode two and one-half hours solid. PAIN, DESPAIR & AGONY ON ME. OUCH, too!
Another delicious meal for evening. Fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, lettuce salad, homemade bread, cobbler and coffee.
We saw two deer; a buck and a doe, this evening before supper. We were sitting on the lodge veranda when we saw them approaching the lake. Jim took pictures but they were pretty far away even for the zoom lens.
After supper Jim built a fire in the fireplace in the rec room. Jim and Polly strummed on their guitars. Polly sang what she could remember of "Teddy Bear". Peggy found the record and played it on the record player. (This is little Peggy I'm referring to here - I'll have to remember to define which one I'm talking about from now on.) Little Peggy couldn't find the center spindle to play 45's on the record player so she held the record in place with two fingers.
The next day I asked her if she was going to play records for us that night and she replied, "I don't think my fingers are up to it". She is a character.
TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 1978
Jim and Rick up at 6:00 A.M. I finally managed to find nerve enough to get my Sore, bruised bod out of bed by 6:45. I first thought I might try to roll out of bed but then decided it would be further to get up from the floor than from the bed and I better not take any chances!
Breakfast was eggs & sausage (cooked together - a new taste experience – but was good), pancakes, hash browns, juice and coffee. Finally took a trail ride this morning. Polly took pity on me and loaned me her chaps (nice fringed rough-out leather) for the duration of the week. The chaps plus large (giant) bandaids all along the inside of both my legs seem to help. Bill gave me a different saddle today - a youth saddle - which fits me better and I have a different horse also. High Level Leo and I will hit the trails today. Rick got a new horse also - He is riding Lucky and Jim still has Buckwheat.
Bill was our trail ride guide this morning. He was planning to lead a four year old horse with a pack saddle on him but the horse threw a fit, laid down, rolling under a hitching rail. When he tried to get up he broke the pack saddle on the hitch rail. Bill had hobbles on his front feet plus a scotch hobble.
Anyway, Bill does lead this horse, without pack saddle of course, on our trail ride and we finally get away from the ranch about 11:00 A.M. Bill took us up to Ted's favorite place on the ranch called “Ted's Lookout". From this point one can look down on the ranch buildings from the south - it was beautiful. I think this spot was one of my favorite places of =7 too. Although I had several!
Dinner was bean & ham soup, Texas Toast, relishes, and a raisin-cinnamon crisp. Very good.
Polly took Rick and her kids to a track meet this evening in Fort Collins. Ray took his grandchildren. The three new guests, Mother Carrie from Denver, and her two daughters Nancy (34) and Andrea (31) both from California, and Wolfgang went to Laramie so that left Jim and I to go On our own trail ride this afternoon. We rode through Lover's Lane and by the Rodeo Grounds. We saw deer and an antelope.
Bill had Jim, Debbie, Cara, and I in for a drink before supper to night. Supper was meatloaf, baked spuds, lettuce salad, plums and brownies. Good. Polly and kids back at 11:00 P.M. Peggy won two firsts, Esther won a third, and Ray's grandkids won some thirds. Rick entered a race and since there was no one else in his age group, he had to run with the 20 year olds and up. Running against seven, he came in seventh. I told him that wasn't so bad considering the altitude and the more experienced runners.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 1978
Jim and Rick up at 6:00 A.M. again. I nearly missed the breakfast bell --- I got up at 7:20. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, pancakes, juice and coffee. Our morning ride was neat. We rode northwest into Wyoming this time and saw several antelope, wild mountain goats, deer, porcupine, and some baby colts. The state line runs through the ranch - the ranch house is in Colorado and the lodge is in Wyoming. No one is exactly sure where the line runs, however, so Jim says even though he and I slept in the same bed, he slept in Colorado and I slept in Wyoming!
Our trail ride took us by a little log cabin with a stream running in front of it. We all drank from the stream - real cold and good water - of course Jim filled his hat and drank from that. Dinner was a macaroni and hot dog casserole, lettuce salad, cornbread, iced tea, and watermelon. In the afternoon, Carrie, Andrea and I walked up to Peggy's (Big Peggy) house to see the western jewelry she sells. Jim and Rick went fishing. LeAnn went with them. They came home with three trout.
Supper was a cookout behind the lodge. The menu was hamburgers with all the trimmings, potato salad, bar cookies and coffee. Bill and Polly had us in for a drink before the cookout. Polly and Jim provided music for us.
It was real cool at the cookout so we all had on our jackets to eat Supper. About 9:30 we left on a moonlight ride which actually ended up in a practically moonlight-less ride. The highlight was when the bull came up across the meadow hunting the young heifers. It first sounded to me like a bear. I was scared it was and yet it would have been exciting (!) if it had been. We got back to the ranch about 11:30 tired and very dirty. Then it was showers and bed.
THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 1978
This week is really flying by and we're having such a wonderful time. Up a little later this morning but we all made first breakfast bell. French Toast, sausage and oatmeal with raisins plus juice and coffee were on the breakfast menu. Jim, Rick and Peggy went fishing. LeAnn, Carrie, Andrea, Nancy, and I took a short (little over an hour) ride this morning. Went to Memorial Rock, through an aspen grove and back. Today I am not so sore -- feel sort of like a human today (at last).
Dinner was spaghetti, slaw, rhubarb pie, tea and coffee. Jim and I went to the junk pile and shot cans and bottles after dinner. Rick and LeAnn went fishing. Jim shot the head off a snake that Rick had caught on his fishing line and then had thrown back into the water. Jim also shot four prairie dogs - I shot AT forty! The prairie dogs are really thick out there and so are the whistle pigs.
Later in the afternoon Jim, Rick, and I rode out and helped Dave bring in a bull. The only help I was: I saw the bull first. From then on, it was up to them. Before supper Carrie, Nancy, Andy, and I went to Tie Siding for pop. Supper was Swiss steak, parsleyed potatoes, green beans, bread & butter, peaches and coffee cake. Again, delicious. Wolfgang, Jim, Bill and Ray had a game of horseshoes after Supper. Then we sat on the veranda and Jim played guitar until bedtime.
FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1978
Jim up at 5:30 AM to help Bill butcher a cow. Rick was up early to wrangle in the horses with Dave and Andrea. Bill seemed awfully glad to have Jim's help in butchering. It seems to me Bill is impressed with Jim's abilities and common sense - he depends on Jim. Bill tried to shoot the cow in the head with a .22 rifle - two shots into the head from that only gave the cow a nosebleed. So the 30.30 laid her out! Jim and Bill were a little late getting in for breakfast as they wanted to finish the butchering before the sun got too hot on the carcass.
Breakfast was bacon, eggs, pancakes, juice and coffee. I went on the morning ride as did Debbie, Rick, Ray, Roger, Wolfgang, and Jennifer. We went to Stark's Lookout which is over by Camel Rock. On top of the Lookout there are large depressions in the rock. These depressions will hold water for quite some time after the snow melts and the rainfalls. Bill told me earlier that the wild cats drink from these places, therefore not having to expose themselves by going down to the creek and/or lake. The kids and Debbie had a water fight from one of these "waterholes". Dinner was a choice of salami or peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, potato salad, potato chips, and a fruit cup for dessert.
Jim and I laid down for awhile after lunch. Jim went on the afternoon ride to drive cattle. I washed our filthy jeans and were they ever grubby!
Supper was Porcupine meatballs, baked potatoes, cabbage, iced tea, and cobbler. After supper we visited on the veranda. Peggy did an impersonation of Wolfgang for Jim, Ray, and I. This kept me giggling for an hour. She really should do something in drama in a few years.
SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1978
Rick wrangled the horses again this A.M. along with Ray and Dave. YIPEE TI YI YO
Breakfast was French toast, hash browns, bacon, juice, and coffee. Jennifer lost her camera yesterday and since they are leaving for home today, she was a little concerned. I found it in the tack room before breakfast.
Wolfgang, Jim, Rick and I rode to Cap Rock this A.M. Had a nice ride. Wolfgang and Rick visited quite a bit about English style Vs Western style riding.
Dinner today was fresh fried liver (YUK), & onions, cauliflower w/cheese sauce, boiled potatoes, bread, butter, jelly, something rubbery for dessert, and lemonade.
Tonight is dance night. The Moonshiners will be the band playing for the dance. Bill has worked all day getting ready for the big night and Polly is waxing the dance floor. After dinner Jim took a nap and Rick helped get ready for the dance. I walked up behind the lodge then went to the lodge rec room and went to sleep on the divan. Went to Tie Siding for a while this evening.
At the breakfast table this morning, Bill, Jim, Rick and I were lingering over a cup of coffee when Bill offered Rick a job for the rest of the summer. Rick "wrestled" with what decision to make all day. Supper was steaks cooked to our order, potatoes, salad, bread and peaches. Steak was “tough as a boot", Polly said.
After supper everyone got powdered and primped for the dance which was held in the Roost (two loft rooms over the horse barn.) Not many people came -- some of the neighboring ranchers and families, etc.
Rick finally made his decision during the dance - he will stay on for a month for $175.00 plus room and board. He will put up hay, cut wood, and spray pine trees for a beetle that has infested some types of pines in the area. We finally got to bed at 12:30 A.M.
SUNDAY, JUNE 25, 1978
We bid Rick adieu at 6:42 A.M.
Stopped in Laramie for a thermos of coffee - 84¢. Stopped in Cheyenne for gas.
We drove in two hour shifts, stopping at several rest areas. Stopped at North Platte and was it ever hot when we stepped out of the car. We had been used to cooler and dryer temperatures so this was quite a change.
We picked up Vienna sausages, crackers, milk, pepsi and a bag of ice - $4.31. Got right back in the car and ate while we drove. Stopped again at Kearney for gas.
Hit Papillion at 6:42 P.M. Took us eleven hours to get home (time change at North Platte.)
Called Rick at 7:45 P.M., our time, to let him know we got home.
IT WAS A TRIP WE WILL LONG REMEMBER WITH MUCH FONDNESS.