Howdy! Well, a couple of weeks ago, I had the funnest time ever at the Silver Spur Ranch in Bandera, Texas. My first time going Lone Star was a writing retreat with my publishing house The White Rose Press. As great as it was to hang out with editors and authors and speakers I’d only known in cyber-space, our busy schedule allowed for plenty of Wild-West stuff. And this native California suburbanite cowgirled-up big time.
During a hayride, I got to see the ranch’s longhorns up close and personal. They are considered “pets” –not used for hides or beef–but IMO are a bit large and sharp for any cuddling or foot -warming by the fireplace on a cold night.
One evening we hayrided to Comanche Bluff with Robert, a wrangler (Charlene, he bore a delicious resemblance to Tim McGraw) who totally rocked at skipping stones across the crick…where we came across two cowboys skinny-dipping . Sadly, all I managed to photograph was…their clothes.
At the weekly Friday night rodeo, I watched babies my 3-year-old grandson’s size “mutton-busting” (translation: riding sheep ) along with the usual bull, bronco and barrel race antics. Managed three kill shots on my green paper man poster my very first time with a Colt .45 Peacemaker. (I texted my hubby this and his response was: YIKES.)
Best of all, I learned to ride.
Head wrangler at the Silver Spur is a guy referred to hither and on as Tall David. This differentiates him from another cowboy referred to as David Not So Tall, who otherwise goes by Ricochet. Ricochet was my initial instructor.
I admit to needing the mounting block to get on my horse, a lovely gentle “carmello.”
“This here’s Butter Bane,” explained Ricochet. Since I’d only been in Bandera about 12 hours, I didn’t fully speak or understand Texan yet. It took me about fifteen minutes to translate: Butter BEAN. Well, I learned quick and I learned good.
Although the Silver Spur is gorgeous hill country, this was pretty much a flat-land ride. Nonetheless, I hung onto the horn for dear life and didn’t release my hands to take any pictures. I had to tie my hat to my head with my shoelaces. Duh. Didn’t chance losing it in the breeze. Yep. A real cowgirl here.
Next day after the cowboy breakfast outdoors in the woods, I found myself headed back to the ranch atop Texas, a sorrel quarter horse who had been featured in the Friday Night Rodeo. My wrangler today was Rob. Since he wears glasses, I was instantly drawn to him– the hero in my upcoming release Marrying Mattie, wears spectacles. He’s from a small nearby town where I think I’d like to live. Except it doesn’t have a mall or McDonald’s iced coffee.
“Since you’re riding Texas,” Rob explained, “you ride last. Ahead of me.” (We rode in herds of about ten, one after another, one wrangler leading, one following. Rob had the rear guard today.)
No longer a novice, I questioned him.
“Texas isn’t a tailgater,” was Rob’s response. Translation: He doesn’t like to get close to the horse and rider ahead of him, prefers to hang back and dawdle. Since Rob knew I was nowhere near the horsewoman I imagined I was, he needed to be close at hand to help me prod Texas onward to keep his place in the line-up.
Well, long story short: Texas and I got along just great.
Next day I found myself astride Zee, right behind our leader, head wrangler David, the tall one. I reckoned my trusty steed had been named after either Jesse James’s mother or wife, or both, since they shared the name Zerelda and were often called Zee. (They were also aunt and niece.)
“Nope.” David set me straight. “All our horses are boys. Girls of any species are too much trouble.” He went on, “Zee’s an honest horse. He’ll treat you right.”
I was glad for this, as today’s adventure took us up some very significant hills and then down ’em. “Just lean forward a bit when we’re going up,” David advised. “And lean back when we’re going down.” I had a few white-knuckle moments, but not only did I make it, I also dismounted all by myself for the first time. Hooray.
I managed one last ride the day we left. Wind in my face, saying good-bye to this beautiful land. Every second of my visit had been perfect including the food. Winchester was definitely not a tailgater and totally loved to schmooze with the horse ahead of him. But by now, total equine control was my name and my game. Ricochet was our fearless leader today, and I was riding about halfway in the pack on a trail the most ambitious of all—a ton of uphill-and-downhill this time.
I realized I’d ended up in a far superior batch of writer-riders today because they all decided we were up for a trot. I shouted out in terror. Ricochet, who mostly rode turned back in his saddle to talk and keep an eye out, comforted me. “Aw, Winchester’s not bad. Just stand up in your stirrups. Y’all do all right.”
And so I did.
How about y’all? Share your horse/ranch stories today!
Click on cover to order Marrying Minda. Marrying Mattie, featuring Minda’s sister and a handsome bespectacled horse doctor, will be available August 27.
Hearts Crossing Ranch, my first contemporary and first inspirational, will be released shortly.