Tanya Takes on Texas

MarryingMinda Crop to UseHowdy! 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.Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 049

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. Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 058




One evening we hayrided to Comanche Bluff with Robert, a wrangler (Charlene, he bore a delicious resemblance to Tim McGraw) Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 120who 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. Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 125

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.) Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 032

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.”

Me on Butterbean for my First Ride

“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.

Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 016

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. RobSince 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.

Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 085Texas 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. Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 089

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.Bandera TX writers retreat April-May 2010 041 

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.


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54 thoughts on “Tanya Takes on Texas”

  1. Tanya,
    I am jealous – mostly of the riding, but also the cowboys.I wanted to go but couldn’t use my vacation days. I am so glad you posted this and the wonderful pictures. I especially loved the shootist picture and your husband’s comment.
    Great post.
    Mitzi Flyte/Macie Carter
    Teasing the Muse from TWRP

  2. Great photos!

    This WAS a WONDERFUL weekened wasn’t it!

    I had SO much fun, I’m going back to work a couple of months.

    Can’t wait.

    I felt more alive on that ranch those 3 days than I have in months.

    Everyone was so nice and sweet and a wagonload of fun.

    Great post!

  3. My husband has for years done his ranching with a pick-up truck or a 4-wheeler. But we had working horses when we were first married. He used to saddle up and ride out with the cattle.

    Once a week in the summer, he tried to find time to ride with each of our girls. He said they’d get out away from the house. Away from distractions and TV and sisters, and just start to talk. They’d just chatter away to him and he learned more about what they were doing and thinking on those rides then he did any other time.

  4. Tanya!! This is great! You made me laugh–so glad you learned what a “bane” is. I live about 80 miles NE of Bandera. I didn’t go to the conference, as you know, but I was thinking of y’all down there, whooping it up!I thrilled the gorup had such a successful conference and that you learned a little “Texas.” Ya’ll come back,now, you hear?”

  5. Tanya, I love the way you tell your adventure. So much fun and excitement. Isn’t the Hill Country fabulous? Absolutely some of the most beautiful country in Texas! Thanks for sharing your experience…wow what good lookin’ cowpokes!

    Mary, your comment about pickup ranching reminded me of something from my past. On my last post, I wrote about “Blackie” the big ol’ horse that I tried to ride. He was a true work pony and Clay (the camp foreman and husband to my friend) rode him out every morning and would work all day long. Late in the evening, Beverly and I would get in the pickup and take the trailer out to where they were and so Blackie could hitch a ride back to the ranch house. (Frankly, I think it was more that Clay got a ride back!) We were on a strict schedule as to when we could show up because the dang horse would work endless hours and never miss a lick, but the second he heard the pickup comin’ he’d lock down! He’d not work another second and wait for the trailer to take him back to the corral and dinner! Such wonderful memories. There was an outbreak of blackleg and all of the cattle had to be vaccinated. I wanted to show them I could be helpful, so I worked the gate to the chute. One head would come in, get his shot, and I’d release the front gate, so he could move out and make room for the next head. That’s when I learned why cowboys don’t wear white … I had yellow you-know-what all over me when I was finished! In my hair, between my fingers, and my shirt was covered. But I never gave up! Such wonderful memories!

    Tanya, thanks for a fun look into your experiences in Texas!

  6. Love your pictures, Tanya, especially the one of the discarded clothes. They’d make a great book cover. We did have a wonderful time. I rode Texas my first day. His trot was a lot smoother than the horse I rode Sunday.

    I can’t wait to hear about your wagon train experience.

  7. Enjoyed reading about your great outdoors adventure. One summer we took our children and went on a vacation in Gunnison, Colorado. We stayed at a working cattle ranch where we got to do all of the riding we wanted to. Sadly,it rained everyday for the 2 weeks we were there. I tell you,there is nothing like riding a wet horse in wet clothes in th ewet rain for about 6 hours daily. ugh Thank goodness we had been in that area when it was sunny and beautiful.

  8. Hi Tanya – oh, you look so good on those horses!! Love their names too. Butter Bean looks like a sweetie. I know you got so much out of going to this retreat! I’m sure we’ll see that new knowlegde in your next storiest too. Hmmm… a Tim McGraw lookalike? How cool!

    Love the title and cover for your first contemp!! Can’t wait. See ya SOON!

  9. Hi Liz, oh, it was all such fun. Everything I had imagined and more. Sigh. I still think about Bandera and wish I was there. I’m definitely going back! Thanks for posting today.

  10. Hi Mitzi, fellow author, I am very lucky to have been able to go, that’s for sure! A Texas adventure for a Western writer…couldn’t resist! Good luck with your books.

  11. Hi Pam! It was so wonderful meeting you in person! Wasn’t every second of it fun? You’re doing a book-signing in Bandera soon, aren’t you? Lucky girl!

    I just downloaded Tempered Hearts in my new Kindle…I can’t wait to settle down with your book. Thanks so much for posting today! oxoxox

  12. Mary, aw, that a touching story about hubby and his special times with each of your girls. Dads are so, so special. I wondered a few times while I was in Texas if it was anything like your cattle ranch…I’m not an early-bird (which is why there were so many posts I’m just now getting to reply to this morning), but otherwise, my secret self longs to be a rancher. oxoxoxox

  13. Hi Celia, yes, I missed you! I just loved Texas (the state and the horse LOL) and I fully intend to come back. I think the Silver Spur would be an awesome place for a family vacation. The weather was perfect, too. I’ll see y’all again, that’s for sure! Thanks for posting today.

  14. Hi Phiyliss, such fun to peek at your memories too! Blackie sounds totally wonderful LOL.

    Oh, the skinnydippers just hollered out some friendly hello’s. But the picture of their discarded clothes is just too perfect, isn’t it!

  15. Hey Lyn, oh it was fabulous. And I am definitely lucky and grateful I had the opportunity to go. Hopefully there will be other retreats in future…but we’ll always have Texas! Thanks for posting.

  16. H Linda, it was such fun riding with you, girl! I just got My Heart Will Find Yours on my Kindle and can’t wait to read it.

    I also had a great time in San Antonio after the ranch. More on that soon LOL. Thanks for reliving some great memories with me today.

  17. Hi Charlene, yes I thought of you a lot those days LOL. And yes, I tried to soak up as much local color as I could for future reference =)
    Thanks for the good words, my wonderful friend. See you soon! xoxoxoxo

  18. Hi Joye, a working ranch, huh? We’re kinda doing something of the sort in August…taking a cityslicker wagon train ride around the Tetons, adventures sponsored by a family ranch. I used the scenario as the setting in Hearts Crossing Ranch. I can’t wait for that experience, either.

    Ugh, rain. We got so lucky in Bandera. Sun, sun…beautiful spring weather. Thanks for coming by today.

  19. Hey Kathy! So good to hear from ya. Nah, no good views with the skinny dippers…but I agree with Linda. The pic of their cast-off clothes has its own book cover to make and story to tell. Thanks for posting today! oxoxox

  20. Hi Tanya, sounds like you had a wonderful weekend, I think I could really get into doing something like that!

  21. Tanya, I am DYING of envy!!! What a wonderful trip and what a wealth of writing material. So glad you had such a great time.
    Your book covers are beautiful. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  22. I sure wish I coulda gone. But thanks for the recap. I always loved horses and rode a lot when I was younger.
    But it sounds like you had a great time!!

  23. Hi Elizabeth, oh, thanks for the good words about the covers. I owe them all to the amazing Nicola Martinez. Who actually does just what I want LOL.

    Yes indeedy, the trip was something I looked forward to for months and totally lived up to my expectations. I love reliving every second. I had terrific roommates as well which made it all more special. oxoxox

  24. Hi Mary, always so good to see you here. I actually recall riding a bit during Girl Scout Camp but that was sooooo long ago, I couldn’t even count the experience lol.

    I recall Pam Thibodeaux giggling and saying, you write Westerns and are just now learning to ride! BTW, happy birthday, Pam.

  25. Oh what fun! I have never gone to a ranch… the closest was two summers at camp, where they had riding lessons.

  26. Hi Colleen, same here LOL. I’ve visited Nebraska farms but never a cattle ranch, and oh, I loved it sooo much. The wranglers there were so wonderful with all us city-slickers.

  27. I never got to go to camp or do the dude ranch thing. I have ridden horses a time or two, enough to know if you don’t post a trot, both you and the horse are sorry.
    My second daughter has been our horse woman. She did Girl Scout Horse Camp and went to the GS National Center West, WY for a horse program (the last year it was open). She worked at a Boy Scout High Adventure camp in Virginia for several summers at their wagon train unit. She handled the mules for the wagons and did trail rides. She also participated in the Virginia Wagon Train across the state for a celebration in the early 90’s. She was an outrider on the highways warning motorists they were approaching wagons. It was a nice group of people and a good experience for her.
    Your writers’ week sounds like it was fun.

  28. I rode all the time as a kid. The horses were our favorite toys.
    But they weren’t real GOOD horses. Catching them, always a challenge. Once we got them, they’d behave but they were stubborn old things. Hard to snag.

  29. Tanya, what a fun time you must have had. The only riding I’ve done is on those swaybacked trail horses that look crosseyed at you over their shoulder if you ask them to go faster than a walk. 😀 Someday I’m going to learn, though.

  30. Hi Patricia, always good to see you at Wildflower Junction. Oh, my, wagon trains. I think I already mentioned above we’re going on one this s ummer around the Tetons. So I’m sure you can all expect another blog about me as a cowgirl again. Hope your daughter is doing well. What terrific experiences she has had!

  31. Hi Mary, what fun…maybe. I can’t believe having to CATCH them. Our wonderful wranglers brought our horses over to us LOL. But I did learn how to guide them to and from the water trough. Oh, wish I could go again right now. Cool places like the Silver Spur are as magi to me as Disneyland…hard to believe it’s every day life for some folks. oxoxoxox

  32. Hi Tracy, oh yes, it was so, so much fun. Something happy and good to relieve when I’m trying to sleep or stuck in traffic. I only trotted that once though. Mostly it was a smooth not-that-fast speed. But after the Tetons…watch out lol. oxoxoxoxo

  33. Hey cowgirl Tanya! Yee-haw! Sounds like you had quite a time in my home state. 🙂 It is beautiful country down there. There’s a beauty up here on the Plains too but in a totally different way. I’m so thrilled you got to ride some horses. And thanks for the shot of the cowboys’ clothes who were skinny dipping! Set my imagination whirling. 🙂

  34. Oh, Tanya, it sounds like you had so much fun! Loved the pictures. Beautiful country, and the cowboys weren’t bad either. Now if ou’d only managed to snap more than the skinny-dippers’ clothes…lol!

  35. Hi Linda, yee-haw backatcha! Yep, I’m officially a Texan now. I totally want to see more of the state, esp. the Staked Plains territory. Thanks to you for helping me so much with my terrain and winter questions about West Texas while I was writing my 2010 Christmas anthology novella. Hope I didn’t get things too wrong LOL.

    And yes, that pic of the clothes…and I took a close-up of the boots. Yowza. Definitely a story in there…which is why I couldn’t resist the pix. oxoxox

  36. Hi Jennie, always so good when you stop by Wildflower Junction. Oh yeah, our sweimmers. We could only hope…but the guys just waved and hollered. Still, it was a great moment!

  37. Tanya, thanks for the post. It sounds and looks like you had a great time.

    My BIL Rick lives in TX and he is all Texan, complete with a drawl and always teasing me about bein’ a Yankee (from Iowa). Rick used to rope and he had a set-up to practice roping in his yard. It is really hard and the rope is heavy! I’ve got pics somewhere of me trying to rope. Rick used to rope with singer George Strait when George came to Abilene. It was so fun to watch Rick on his horse, chasing and roping cattle!

  38. Howdy Tanya. I’ve posted twice today but neither have shown up. Boo hoo. Anyway, your blog is great and I love the pics. My hubby and I had a wonderful time there, too. I’ve been to a cowgirl camp in NM twice. It was a working cattle ranch and we were up at 6:30 feeding and mucking stalls before horseback riding. Also learned how to team pen, roped the little doggies from our horses, went on awesome trail rides, barrel raced, and ended with a day-long cattle drive and then branded and vaccinated the cows. Quite an experience I’d recommend to anyone who wants to be a real cowgirl for a week.

  39. Hi Tanya. Okay. Now that one of my posts has finally gone thru, I’ll tell you about what I wrote the first two times today. We bought a new horse yesterday! He’s a beautiful 13-year old black and white Paint named Bill. He’s coming from Arkansas and will be with us on June 2. Check out the Bio page of my website for new pics of me and my Haflinger, Dusty, and also a pic of Blaze, our quarter pony. He’s wearing a baseball cap. Horses are like potato chips. You can never have too many.

  40. Hello Deb, those drawls really do something to me. Found it way easy to slow down the end of my words and sentences while I was there LOL.

    The Silver SPur did have fake wire cows and ropes laying nearby, but that was one cowboy task none of us attempted. We had a trick roper at our cowboy breakfast; wow, was he something.

    Ah, King George. How lucky! oxoxoxox Thanks for stopping by today!

  41. Hi Stacey, so glad you finally got through! Oh, I’m so jealous of you and your horses. I’ve lived in suburbia my whole life on a little cul-de-sac so no room for horses…there are horse properties in the nearby hills but they’r pricey and my bank account doesn’t stretch that far LOL. But I sure hope to get to some stables and keep on honing my skills. I’ll be be checking out your website and your critters. oxoxxo

  42. HI Stacey, a working cowgirl, huh? Our wagon-train ranch does have rodeo and cowboy classes, so maybe next summer! It was so fabulous meeting you and your hubby in Bandera! Hope we get together again in realtime and real place, not just cyber. oxoxo

  43. what a fun adventure!
    and you told the story so well 🙂
    i agree with the cowboys..i prefer the “boy” horses too
    i enjoy being surrounded by men of all species…seems females always have their own agenda, boys are better at doing what you tell them, and less moody, lol

    i LOVE riding!!
    glad you got a chance to do it!

  44. Hi Tabitha, oh, yes, I think it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences of my entire life. The animals, (goats, geese, dogs…not enough room for everybody LOL) the people, both at the ranch and all the Wild Rose folks. Fantastic.

    Oh yeah, David had me cracking up when he said girls of any species were too much trouble. I know my hubby would agree LOL. I too am so glad I was able to ride. Thanks for posting today!

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