Guest Blogger Janette Kenny: Genuine Western Hospitality

onerealcowboy2.jpgonerealman2.jpgAn unwritten code of the west was that any cowboy caught on the trail at dusk could pretty much count on finding a hot meal and a bunk at any ranch.  Being a research junkie and nosy to boot, I decided to look into this open-door policy a bit deeper.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that some ranchers welcomed American and European sportsman to use their ranch as a base while they hunted big game.  In fact, they courted these guests to come to the West.  The reasons were varied and yet practical. Even with the railroad going coast-to-coast soon after the Civil War, news tended to travel slow.  Having “big city” or foreign guests was especially welcome in an area where newsworthy items were, for the most part, spread by word of mouth. 

Of course, there was another benefit to these visiting sportsmen, or “dudes,” and was that they could help control the wild game that preyed on their herds, thus saving ranchers time and resources.  I suppose that constituted just another way to “pay one’s way.” 

eatonranchcabin.jpgIt’s said that paying guest ranches came about in the early 1880s when a visitor at the Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Territory was enjoying himself so that he offered to pay the Eatons to extend his stay there and also grant him the use of a horse.  Word of such an arrangement spread, and other ranchers began providing guest quarters. 

By the 1890s, more visitors ventured west to partake of the western hospitality and thrill of the hunt on the ranches that welcomed guests.    

Being raised on a farm, I know full well that some years farmers barely eek out a living.  Running a guest ranch quickly became more lucrative than raising cattle, especially in light of the devastating winter of 1885-86 when hundreds of thousands of cattle died in the blizzards and ranchers were facing bankruptcy.  For years after that devastation, many ranchers held on to their land simply by opening up their ranch to paying strangers.   The guest ranches were fairly split on what they offered visitors.  Some, like the Gros Ventre Lodge in the late 1890s, was noted for their big game hunts that attracted sportsmen from the U.S. and abroad.  Others, like the Custer Trail Ranch, maintained a working ranch so visitors could get a taste of authentic ranch life, from the mundane activities of ranching to the cowboy exhibitions held on ranches, which were the forerunner of the rodeo before it was an organized and recognized sport.   

newprairiecabinnexttooriginal.jpgBy the turn of the century, the railroad and ranchers teamed up to advertise guest ranches.  It was a lucrative deal for both parties, and today dude ranches are going strong all over the U.S. The Eaton brothers knew a good thing when they saw it back in the 1890s when the started the first guest ranch.  They moved their operation from North Dakota to Wolf, Wyoming in 1904, and soon provided extensive guided trails into the Yellowstone region for men – and women.  It’s the latter that snared my attention.  

After seeing a picture that included lady “dudes” sitting before their tents knitting in the wild, I knew I had to include this bit of history in a novel.  Of course, I took free license and made my guest ranch exclusively for woman – a surprise that my cowboy hero Gil Yancy was none to happy to be involved in.   I choose Wyoming as the setting for One Real Man, my April 08 release, partly because I love Wyoming, and partly because it offered women far more freedoms in the 1890s, starting with being the first state where women could vote. 

custertrailranchcourtesyosbornstudios.jpgMy heroine Josie desperately needed freedom, and Gil had his mind set on taking control of her ranch – and her.  Ah, both had a lot to learn and a lot to give up in order to have a happily ever after.  But oh, the rewards.    

To get the comments going, have you stayed on a guest ranch before?  If you had your preference, would you rather stay at a working ranch, or a resort ranch?  Me?  I’ll take the real cowboy any day.   

I’ll give away an autographed copy of my March debut, One Real Cowboy to one of the commenters.  You’re welcome to stop by my website ( to read more about my books, and me. 

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35 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Janette Kenny: Genuine Western Hospitality”

  1. Wow! That’s cool. I never would have thought women would’ve been included on guided trails. That seems taboo for the time, but VERY interesting!

    I’ve never stayed on a guest ranch, but like you, I’d take the real thing rather than the resort type any day. I grew up with my grandparents living in the country and my grandpa had horses and mules (pigs, chickens and cows off and on too).

    I’ve always felt the country was part of my roots and since my grandparents have been gone, I feel like a piece of myself is missing. I think I’d enjoy seeing real ranch life firsthand and maybe get that “feeling” back. Even if it was for a brief moment in time.

  2. I’ve never stayed on a ranch before, but would LOVE to one day. Whether it is a working ranch or a resort ranch doesn’t matter . . . I just want to go! 🙂

  3. Great post! My parents love it out west. I’ve never stayed at a ranch. I think I’d prefer a working one. Just to see how they do everything. I love the covers on your books!

  4. Janette, welcome to Petticoats & Pistols! We’re delighted you took time to be with us this weekend!

    Add me to the list of those who love your covers. Hubba-hubba, you lucky girl.

    I would love to go to one of those dude ranches that cater to groups of girlfriends. They look FUN!

    Well done, Janette!

  5. Wow- had to check your post out from Writeminded. I see I need to get busy and read about these talented ladies. Westerns are one of my favorite genres!

  6. Dude ranches or guest ranches don’t hold that much interest for me as vacation sites since I live on a farm. We had horses for years when the girls were younger and my husband saddled up to check cattle, too. So not the thrill for me to go to a ranch it might be for someone else.
    I like the city for a change of pace.
    My husband goes every year to the Denver Cattle Show.
    I just checked(yay for Google). It’s actually called the Western National Livestock Show.
    It’s huge, goes on for at least two weels. He goes during angus cattle week…well, I think that’s how it’s split up. There are horse days and…maybe sheep? and then sub categories of beef, angus, charlois, hereford, brahman, longhorn like that. There might even be exotic animals there like llamas.
    I’m trying to remember. I never go.
    Anyway, I’ve thought that might be a cool setting for a book.
    You know:
    Buried with the Brahman
    Hereford Hitman
    Asleep Under the Angus
    Lynched by the Longhorns

    And here’d be all these cattlemen who would kind of revert to their older, harder, cowboy roots to find the killer….could be fun.

  7. I have never been on a ranch or even just looked at ome from afar… I know it is quite pathetic but a ranch is not very frequent on the East Coast!

  8. I have been on a ranch when I visited Texas but never stayed in one… must be great… especially if there is a hot and sexy cowboy on the grouds 🙂 which was not my case to say the least!!!!!!

  9. I have never stayed on a guest ranch but my family and I did visit a ranch when I was younger. We spent the day riding horses with a guide who took us on a long trek through the countryside. This was the only time I ever rode on a horse and I couldn’t believe how sore I was the next day. My legs and butt took a beating, I really give props to all the cowboys out there.

  10. Taryn Raye, I’ve found that a lot of western women had far more freedoms than their city sisters. A lot of it cama about because of necessity or practicality.

    No, I never have, Danielle. At least not consciously. My characters just come to me, and I’m always surprised by their backstories.

    I hear you, AndreaW.

    Thanks, Stacy S. I love my covers too–the cowboys look rough and tough like my characters.

    Hey, Pam! Thanks to all the gals at Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me. Can you imagine how a dude ranch would be after hosting a week of western romance authors??? That would be fun.

    Oh, you should bookmark this site, MariaV. I’ve read all these authors–several are longtime favs and others are new to me authors. It’s so wonderful to see a site devoted to western romance.

    Mary, that’s a good idea for a series! We raised Angus cattle, had horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats. I’ve been away from the working part of it for years, and find myself missing it at times. I’m sure the workload would be a shock now.

    So true, Lily. The lady guests in One Real Man had never been west or on a ranch. So it was a culture shock for them.

    LOL, Nathalie!

    A hunky cowboy or two would make the ranch stay more intriguing, Lila.

    Hope you get the chance to visit one some day, Minna.

  11. Janette, a warm welcome and howdy! I’m thrilled you could guest blog with us on P&P. Love your post and the little-known fact about women invited on guest ranches. Very intriguing and got my thoughts whirling. Women who sought an invitation to go would be bold and independent. I can’t see a timid woman taking on the challenges of the rugged outdoors. Nope. She’d be a pistol.

    An interesting side note: I live in North Texas only twenty miles from Oklahoma and President Teddy Roosevelt came to this area often to hunt wolves. Teddy, Tom Burnett, and Chief Quanah Parker were photographed together during one of Teddy’s visits west. The president was a fast friend of Tom Burnett who had a big ranch here.

    I’ve never been to any kind of ranch, but I’d prefer a working one over a resort. I say if you do something, go whole hog! Might kill me though. Ha, maybe that’s why I never signed up.

    Your books are eye-catchers. Love the covers. That sure makes me want to buy. And now that I know a little about One Real Cowboy, you can bet I’m going to have to get it. Hope you enjoy your stay with us this weekend and lots of success with your books.

  12. Hi Janette,
    Years ago I stayed at a guest ranch in Texas. I remember the food. LOL! Especially the butter. I also enjoyed the horseback riding. Living in Texas I got to ride horses a lot and I rode lots of cowboys too. Did I say that outloud? Is this thing on? LOL! I’d like to visit a working ranch.

  13. Hi Janette! Your book sounds terrific! Loved your post. It started my imagination working full speed, too. Ah, the possibilities contained within a couple of paragraphs of info. Thanks so much for posting it.

    I lived in Texas for 9 years and got just a taste of the ranch life (sans cattle, although I did have a few calves at one time–had to bottle-feed them) because I lived “up the country” from Houston and had horses. I loved taking care of those animals. Course, I was younger then. My vote goes to a real, working ranch.

  14. Hi Janette, great post. I would never have thought that women were allowed on guided trails. I knew that guest ranches existed, but I had never thought about why. So that that was new and very informative to me. Thanks for that, Janette.

    Your books sounds very good too. I’m really looking forward to it.

  15. Hi Janette. Really enjoyed your post and this bit of history. lol, I’m with you, I’d go for the working ranch. 🙂

  16. Ahh, Janette, a writer of like mind! I love research and all the fascinating things that can be found. I didn’t realize dude ranches started that far back. Great info! And the book sounds interesting!

    There are a lot of the ranches in Oregon that are going commercial in having people pay to hunt or one just down the road from us has turned their ranch into a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay ride, duck hunting extravaganza. They say they make more that way than raising cattle.

    Great blog!

  17. Wonderful post! I can’t wait to read your new book Janette! I am in love with that cover! I tend to fall for all the cowboy covers…LOL…but the new one does have my fave color on it!

    As for your question, I have never stayed on a guest ranch before. I think I’d like to do both…just to say that I have done it. It would be interesting to see how a real, working ranch runs from day to day (being a girl from the suburbs…LOL). But I think a resort-type would be nice too…probably more relaxing…and I’d be less likely to get in the way with my curiousity…LOL.

  18. Well, a ranch would be interesting to see. My home is on a VERY small dairy farm (we had 5-6 cows), but now the cows and even the cats have been gone for years.

  19. Great Info, Janette, I enjoy discovering the why & how of developments.
    My grandparents & aunt/uncle farmed in Iowa & Dad sold feed to farmers so I know that aspect. I was a horse fanatic as a young girl, but don’t recall the incident that was vivid to my mother-I apparently cried rivers of disappointment at not having funds to attend horse camp.
    We went to Chico Hot Springs near Yellowstone in ’94 for a family reunion (IA and Calif meet midway)- that was like a Western resort; had a great time!!

  20. LOL, Teresa W. I spend a good chunk of my life on a horse, and even broke one to ride once. That critter nearly broke me!

    Hey, Linda! Teddy Roosevelt adored the west and was one of those Easterns who was a dude before he bought a spread in the Dakotas to ranch. Thanks for the kudos! I love this site.

    Oh, Melissa, I spewed Coke on the keyboard. LOL There IS something about those cowboys…

    Devon, I’ve been the “bottle-feeding” route with calves long ago. One got so tame she followed me everywhere. It think she thought she was my dog, lol.

    I heart you, Cindy! Thanks for dropping by.

    Cheryl, thanks for asking me! I’m having a ball here. 🙂

    Thanks, Stephanie and Shelly. 🙂

    Paty, I can get lost in research! We have a lot of the commercial farm sites around here anymore too. The old ways of farming and ranching are getting mighty scarce.

    Hi, Jennifer! Oh, you’d find a working ranch relaxing in its own way. But I agree, both would be fun to sample.

    Minna, you would be surprised to see herds in the thousands on open range, then. It’s a gorgeous site, especially that cowboy on horseback on a ridge, just taking a break.

    Glad you enjoyed, Estella!

    It’s gorgeous up there, Lucky Lou. The only camp I went to was 4-H, and they had horses for experienced riders, and the city slickers.

  21. Speaking of broken. I broke my arm falling off a horse once…I was about five…maybe six. I know I was in school.
    My cousins and brothers and sisters (there were a lot of us) were having rides on their horse and they’d been forbidden to let me ride the horse by myself. They could lead me, but don’t let go of the horse.
    So, as soon as the parents went inside, they gave me the reins and the horse ran away.
    I fell off. All the big kids frantically begged me not to cry…yeah RIGHT!
    So they got in major trouble and we knew my arm hurt but it didn’t seem that swollen So three days later my mom finally got sick of my whining and took me to the doctor…oops…broken arm.
    I was never a real big fan of horse riding after that.
    We had a pony most of the years growing up and our neighbors were horse nuts so we rode a lot but I never got too good at it.
    I’d always rather read a book. 🙂 About horses probably.

  22. I would like to stay at both kind of ranches,both experiences would be different and rewarding.
    I love your book covers Jan,they are so yummy.
    I was glad to get your newsletter about what your up to and will stop by your site more since you will not be blogging at writeminded anymore.

  23. I’m not much of a cowboy so I’d probably stay on the resort ranch and just take in the sights & relax a bit. I did enjoy your post very much & thanks for telling me about it. See you soon.

  24. I really think that as I get older I would say a resort “ranch”…………….nah……………I’m not dead yet. Give me a real cowboy!

  25. I stayed on a bed and breakfast in Texas. Not a ranch, but it was great fun. Yeah, a real cowboy would be fun. Or “One Real Cowboy”. 🙂

  26. Jan:
    Loved your post–My family and I stayed at Eaton’s Ranch in Wyoming. It’s one of the reasons why I set my first book in Wyoming. I thought it was beautiful country. And by the time we left Eaton’s, I felt like we were family. This past year, we spent a week at a guest ranch in northern California. The name was Highland Ranch and it was a great experience, too.

  27. Mary, I was forbidden to ride one of our horses because she was too spirted, but it didn’t stop me. I climbed on her bareback and held on to her mane. My folks would’ve croaked if they’d caught me, and I realize now how lucky I was that I didn’t end up with something broken. 🙂

    Oh, thanks, Dena. I love them too. I hope to get my blog tweaked and back running next week, so drop by.

    Hey, Kathy! Come on, GF, you’d enjoy sitting on the porch at a working ranch too, watching those hunky cowboys work. 😉

    Exactly, Jeanne! It’s either a ranch or it ain’t, as they say.

    LOL, Connie. You said it!

    You crack me up, Edie! I envied you guys your stay at the B&B.

    Hey Beverly! Thanks for dropping by–it’s been too long since we chatted. It’s gorgeous country up around Sheridan and the Eaton Ranch. I based my fictional one around Laramie, and did my research with the owner of the Laramie River Ranch. Unfortunately it was by email, but I’ve seen the ranch before and would love to stay there.

  28. Janette, thanks for that last tidbit about Laramie. My closest friend from Jr/Sr high in Iowa lives there; I spent 10 wonderful days visiting in ’94, going to Cheyenne Frontier Days (heard Garth Brooks from the Midway!), Evanston & several other towns, plus a memorable clear day reading beside a mountain stream while she painted, her hubby fished, & white lab gamboled (as opposed to gambling, pun intended! LOL)
    So will DEFINITELY look up your book since I didn’t win this time.

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