As I sit at the airport waiting for my flight home from the Flying ~E~ January 2010 Cowgirl Weekend, I have plenty of time to reflect on horses and dude ranches and the huge part both have played in my life. While John F. Kennedy was campaigning for man’s first trip to the moon, I was busy running my own campaign for a week at a dude ranch in the New York Catskill Mountains. As it turned out we were both successful and both events would change the world I live in forever.
Roundup Ranch Resort in the Catskill Mountains of NY was the first dude ranch I ever visited and I wish they had kept track of the number of times I visited like the Flying ~E~ does, since I would have been in the triple digits at least! My family vacationed at the RRR for 10 years and after I was married and then divorced, I started going back again. Like the Flying ~E~, it was like I had never left and driving up the long ranch road felt like coming home. Also like the ~E~ , meals were served family style and on my first evening, I sat next to a couple that lived in the same part of NYC as I did and were about the same age. During dinner, I found out that they actually owned horses that they boarded at the RRR and visited the ranch almost every weekend. By the end of my stay, I had become friends with the lady, her name is Gloria, and I had a new dream … buy a horse and board it at RRR!
My dream became a reality and at 25 years old I bought my first horse. Gloria and I became best friends and spent countless hours riding together on the trails, in the arena and in horsemanship clinics. Two years and countless boyfriends went by quickly and one weekend I said to Gloria “If I could just meet a guy who liked horses and wanted to live up here by the ranch, I would be very happy”. Well, the following weekend, like magic, he appeared at the RRR barn. Turned out, he had worked as a wrangler at the RRR during college (I remembered him but he did not remember me) and the head wrangler introduced me to him. After we talked for a few hours, I found out he was in the process of getting divorced, so I gave him my business card and told him to call me after his marriage was dissolved. A few months went by and he called! That was almost 27 years ago. We had a horseback wedding at RRR with about 75 mounted guests and naturally Gloria was my maid of honor.
Shortly after our wedding my husband Tom and I moved from the NYC area to upstate NY so we could be closer to the RRR and our horses. Unfortunately, the RRR fell on hard times and eventually closed. We moved our horses to our backyard and Gloria moved her horse to a local stable. Gloria and I remained friends but did not get to ride together like we had in the past. We all sorely missed the RRR
A few years went by and I went on a business trip to Scottsdale. Tom came along so we took a few extra days and toured the state. On the way back from the Grand Canyon, we drove through a quaint little town that had horse manure covering Main Street (there must have been a parade earlier that day) … WOW I thought, this is my kind of place! Then we passed a billboard advertising “Wickenburg, the Dude Ranch Capital of the West”. I grabbed a scrap of paper, wrote Wickenburg on it and stuffed it into my wallet.
About a month later I was at Gloria’s house and her husband (who was a big golfer) had a book of the 50 best golf resorts in the USA. I was thumbing through the book and one of the courses caught my attention since it had horses in the picture. The resort was in Wickenburg AZ. The light bulb went off in my then blonde head and I got excited … the 4 of us should take a trip to this Golf/Dude Ranch in Wickenburg, which we did for the following February. The first ride we took was across the road to Robbers Roost. It was a magical place and the wrangler told us we were riding on Flying ~E~ Ranch property. All the best rides we took over the next week were all on ~E~ land so the following year Tom and I decided to go to the ~E~ instead. We have been going back ever since, each time stretching our vacations a little longer. The Flying ~E~ quickly replaced RRR as our home away from home … only thing missing was Gloria!
Meanwhile, in the spring of 2001, Gloria took a trip to a dude ranch in Utah. She fell in love with the state and once again a dude ranch changed my life! That fall the two of us made a cross country trip from NY to Utah, where she now resides. It was a bitter sweet trip, since I knew that my best friend and riding buddy would now be over 2500 miles away.
Lucky for us, Ande started Cowgirl Weekends at the Flying ~E~ three years ago. I have participated in all 5 of the weekends the ranch has hosted to date and I have met so many wonderful women. Each one of the weekends is a little different. The group in February has grown into a sell- out crowd and we all keep in touch throughout the year by email.
This January Cowgirl Weekend was extra special for me for several reasons. Three years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a lady at the Flying ~E~ named Lucille. I have been lucky enough to have spent 3 vacations with her at the ~E~. What makes her so special is that she is 95 years young and still riding daily! Even though my retirement piggy bank is not fat enough for me to afford to take the vacations she does for the next 40 years, she is certainly an inspiration to all us cowgirls! The other cool thing that happened is that Gloria, her sister Angela and her friend Roseanne all came to Cowgirl Weekend. Roseanne and Gloria started riding together in Brooklyn NY back in the 1970’s and had not seen each other in over 15 years! What a great time we all had together, riding, eating, laughing, hot tubing, catching up on all our lives and meeting more Cowgirls to add to our list of dude ranch friends.
One thing is for sure, I love my life and I can thank horses and dude ranches for making me so very happy!
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