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Here are two things one would not normally put together in the same sentence: Dude Ranch and the Catskills. On the one hand, you have horseback riding and rodeos. On the other, you have bingo and Jackie Mason. How someone thought to bring these two concepts together is a mystery to me, and yet here we were, on our way to a Wild West weekend at a real dude ranch in the Catskill Mountains.
I looked for signs of Wild West-ness on the car drive up. We went through a town named Ellenville, which was surely founded by someone named Ellen or maybe someone who liked someone named Ellen, but was certainly not even as Wild West-like as Disneyworld’s Frontierland. We passed a place called Tom’s Taxidermy, which would have been somewhat Wild West-like if not for the stuffed swordfish in the window. We passed a place called Tird’s Farm Stand, which was neither Wild West-like, nor Catskills-esque, but was very funny to our 10 and 12 year-old passengers.
Eventually we pulled up to a large log cabin and were greeted by the unmistakable, well-heated, wafting smell of manure. We had arrived. My daughter and I cheered. My son and husband rolled their eyes. You can guess whose idea it was for the dude ranch weekend.
“Where are the horses? Where are the horses?” shouted my daughter.
“Where is the game room?” demanded my son. OK, yes, we bribed him into coming with promises of Nintendo and X-box. Not very Wild West-like, I have to admit, but it got him up there. As for my husband, he was all about the togetherness, the family bonding time, and of course, the chicken and ribs.
That night we slept on battered, old mattresses that sunk so low in the middle I felt like I was sleeping in a hammock.
“I bet these are just like the beds they slept on in the old west,” I said cheerfully to my husband.
“I bet these ARE the beds they slept on in the old west,” he clarified.
The next day, we noticed the horses looked the same way: Soft around the sides and sunken down in the middle. With diminished expectations, we waited on line for our first trail ride.
“This is your horse, pretty lady,” the wrangler said to my daughter as he led her to a white pony with a bag attached to its face.
“What’s on his face?” asked my daughter.
“It’s a feed bucket,” said the wrangler helping her mount the noble steed.
“Oh. What’s his name?” she asked.
My husband and I looked at each other and stifled a giggle.
“Here you go, Ma’am,” said another wrangler, leading me to a larger, white horse. “You’ll be riding Sir Kicksalot.”
“Why do you call him that?” I asked nervously.
“Cuz he kicks a lot.”
We were beginning to notice a trend here. My husband was put on the tallest horse they had named “Big-Guy,” and my son ended up on another small pony they called “Shorty.”
Finally, with all the guests saddled up, we set off on our adventure. The horses lumbered down the path with Bucket in the lead with his feed, and Sir Kicksalot in the back where he couldn’t kick a lot. We were going at a brisk clip of about 1 mile an hour when suddenly one of the horses in the middle of the group reared up and broke out of the line. The rider tried to get his horse to turn around, but he stubbornly refused, and finally trotted off with the guest yelling “whoa” all the way back to the barn.
Stunned, I turned to one of the wranglers riding beside me and said, “Aren’t you going to go get him?”
“Nah,” he said.
He shrugged. “That one is Homer.”
©2008, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at www.lostinsuburbia.net, and check out her hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan” at Amazon and www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com