Dude ranches (and other rookie humiliation)

I can not for the life of me understand why anyone would pay money to pretend to be a cowboy for a week. The real life ranchers running dude ranches probably look upon the inept wannabes signing up for these activities with near contempt - but for the money they wouldn’t be doing this. Maybe it’s just me, but I generally feel uncomfortable looking and being clueless. Why someone would pay for the privilege eludes me. Obviously, others feel differently because these things exist. Would you pay money to be a make believe cowboy?

You don’t “pretend to be a cowboy”. You go on vacation, away from a mob of pasty tourists drinking Whatney’s Red Barrel and walking around aimlessly in baggy shorts and socks with sandals.

You chill out in a rustic cabin, maybe off the grid. You have access to thousand acres of semi-wilderness and a horse (or motorcycle if you’re lucky). You are fed home-cooked meals.

You don’t round up little doggies or repair fences. You rest, relax and recreate.

It’s nothing more than a Bed and Breakfast, but out in the sticks.

No. I wouldn’t pay for that bullshit. I have a camper! (and I don’t like horses) I don’t pay to stay anywhere. I drive down a deserted road and park where it looks good. But my mom, who grew up on a *real *ranch did this once. She had a blast! It’s just a vacation.

Well, I feel the same way about beach vacations. Why would anyone pay money to bake on uncomfortable sand, surrounded by people? I can do nothing at home, cheaper. I don’t have to sit on the beach and read - I can sit on my porch swing and read.

The point is - different strokes.


Why would anyone want to spend too much money going to a place where people dress up like cartoon characters? And have their pictures taken with them? That just sounds stupid.

Because it’s fun!

Same with dude ranches. For those of us who grew up in the country, it ain’t no thing. Seems too much like work. I hated mending fences and moving the cattle around, or rounding them up when the busted down my (obviously poorly made) fence repair. So why would I pay to do that again?

Do you think country folk that vacation in The Big City look any less clueless, standing there on the corner with their jaws hanging open looking clueless, staring up at the Empire State Building, while someone picks their pockets, laughing at the stupid hicks?

Now if someone would make a dude farm, where I can go drive tractors, make hay, plow, disk, run the planter, I’d be there in a heartbeat! I miss that. For me, tractor work was never “work”, it was fun. I even took a summer job running green pea harvesters.

Heavy equipment adventures https://www.extremesandbox.com/

There are some people who are TOTALLY obsessed with anything cowboy! I know one guy who watches NOTHING ELSE on TV but old westerns.

As for dude ranches and the owner’s/workers opinions of their visitors, they LIKE THEM VERY MUCH! Especially if the ranch is having financial difficulties (not uncommon for ranching/farming) and these rich people come along. They can help the money strapped ranchers out of a bind.

Something similar is when rich people go “camping”. Everything is taken care of for them - dinner while camping is set up on tables with plates, silverware, and linen napkins!

Anyway the guides like the cash!

My Dad was an inspector for chicken farms in Maine. One summer for Father’s Day the kids all chipped in and got him a week at a dude brokerage in lower Manhattan. He had a blast, dressed up in his gray pinstripe costume with the STA Academy tie and Princeton class pin, “trading” and “arbitraging” and whatnot. They even had Alec Baldwin come in and deliver his speech from Glengarry Glen Ross (yeah that was real estate but nobody cared) which was a real hoot. They all got to pose for photos next to a cutout of Ivan Boesky and pretend to be real outlaws too! Dad loved the experience but said he didn’t think he’d ever get comfortable sitting on and riding a yellow cab.

My mom told me that one night the owner of the ranch she stayed at showed up to dinner all dressed up and his hands roundly razzed him because they had never seen him in a suit before. She said it was a fun evening.

Dig This.

And the award for Best Post of the Day goes to…The King of Soup!

My family did a vacation at a dude ranch when I was ten. There was a swimming pool, a bar, tennis courts, hiking trails, a camp out where you rode out to this small lake and the ranch did everything for including baiting your hook and cooking your fish. I think my parents were a bit bored but the four kids adored it. Me especially because I was totally horse crazy, I spend all my time down at the corrals getting in the way. There were guided rides for different age groups multiple times a day.

The scenery was also awesome, the meadows full of wildflowers, the mountains snow-capped. I think there were cows, but cows have never interested me so I may have just blotted them out of my memory.

To this day it remains a highlight of my childhood.

By the way, most people do more or less dress like cowboys when they ride, at least out here in the West, because it is highly practical clothing for trail riding.

It could be a regional thing, but the three dude ranches I remember vacationing at were not working ranches. They were basically resorts with a western theme , and the main difference between them and other nearby resorts was the horses. Just like the other resorts , the dude ranches had pools, nightly entertainment, bars, ball fields, rock climbing walls , a full daily schedule of activities etc. I think one of them had an optional program for kids where they worked in barn for a couple of hours , brushing and feeding the horses but that was it as far as “work” went.

I have looked into them in the past (at least the week long pack trips) and there are different kinds of experiences available. I was looking at overnight trail trips and camping, sort of like a guided backcountry hunting trip, but not hunting. In fact that’s probably the deal, these are off season trips to take up the slack probably. I’ve done plenty of hiking, so the idea of riding instead of walking has its attractions, and not worrying about camp setup or meals has a certain appeal too.

There’s too much arbitrary planning and regimentation involved ahead of time, deposits, this and that, and the rest of it. Pretty spendy to just to take some greenhorns camping.

If the ranchers treat their guests with contempt, the ranch soon goes out of business.

Also if you have a steady job which is sometimes repetitive and a bit boring, dressing up and having a laugh is a real change.

I visited Las Vegas (from the UK) and played in a poker tournament. It only cost $20 to play, but I got:

  • a real poker dealer
  • the poker table with poker chips
  • the lighting plus a rope to keep spectators back
  • proper betting rules, live opponents and the thrill of going ‘all-in’

I enjoyed the whole experience!