The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
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Dude Ranch Trip I
June 1991
"That Look"

I somehow convinced my husband, Tony that my lifelong dream to go to a dude ranch was something that he, too would enjoy. He doesn’t much care for horses and made it clear that he would rather not ride while we were there, but I promised him that there would be plenty of people for me to ride with and he could hike and fish and read and relax.

We researched the matter for about 30 minutes and decided to go to the only dude ranch we could find that would give us an airline discount. A three day trip was all I could talk Tony into. When we arrived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we were greeted by John (the wrangler), a tall gangly fellow in a ten gallon hat. John (the wrangler) threw our luggage in the back of a dusty Bronco and we started over the pass toward Driggs, Idaho. We got about 30 minutes up the mountain outside of Jackson when the Bronco chugged to a stop. “Hmm..”, said John (the wrangler), “Looks like we are out of gas.” As you can imagine, Tony, not sure we should have come on this trip, is not very pleased. But John (the wrangler) is not worried because he knows we can coast back down into Jackson Hole and buy gas. “Five dollars worth, please”, John (the wrangler) tells the attendant. We tried to give John (the wrangler) money to buy more gas, but he was too proud to accept it. So, off we go, up the mountain again. This time, we make it all the way to the top where John (the wrangler) is confident we can coast the rest of the way to Moose Creek Ranch.

As we neared the ranch, I was surprised to see that there were no cars at the ranch, so I asked John (the wrangler) how many other guests were at the ranch. “Y’all are it.”, came the reply. The visions I had of nightly square dances and family style dining started to fade. Tony is giving me “that look” that husbands save only for their wives.

We meet Kelly & Roxanne , the proprietors. They show us our room and tell us to get settled & come to the dining hall for lunch. The dining hall is a huge room which will seat about 50 people. Tony & I sit down at one of the big old tables where we are joined by Kelly & Roxanne & John (the wrangler) and several of Kelly & Roxanne’s assorted children. John (the wrangler) informs us that after lunch, he will take us down to the barn and introduce us to our horses. Tony pinches my leg under the table and again gives me “that look”. John (the wrangler) says that my horse for the week will be “Diamond”, because diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and Tony’s horse will be “Lightning”. Another pinch and a sterner look from Tony. Tony explains that he is not much of a rider and if he rides it will have to be a slow, gentle horse, preferably with one foot in the grave. John is quick to explain that Lightning got his name because he was once hit by lightning and they thought he was dead, but when they went out the next day in the back-hoe to bury Lightning, he was standing at the fence.

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As we walk toward the barn, John (the wrangler) explains that the horses have not been ridden yet this spring (enter: “that look”) and are somewhat overweight and sluggish from the winter’s eatfest in the pasture. Lightning looks spry enough, but Diamond is obviously a BIG eater, because she is as wide as the dining room table.

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John shows us how to saddle the horses after which he assists me in the mounting process. Once atop Diamond, I can’t bend my legs because Diamond is SO WIDE. Tony gets on Lightning, with “that look” on his face. John gets on his horse which he introduces as “Waylon” and off we go.

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Well, off they go. Diamond decides it is time for a snack. John (the wrangler) is shouting instructions. “Don’t let her eat.” “Pull her head up”. “Kick her in the sides.” I’m not strong enough to pull this horse’s head up and I can’t bend my knees to kick her in the sides, but we finally get going, only to stop every few seconds for another little snack. Meanwhile, the lightning strike has left Lightning with a paralyzed tail which is of no use for swishing flies, so up ahead, Tony is riding along in a swarm of flies, and even though I can only see the back of his head, I know he is giving “that look”. As Diamond and I draw nearer, I can hear that Lightning has gas and is flatulating with every step.

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About half a mile from the ranch, John (the wrangler)’s horse kicks a rock which flies over in the ditch and hits a can and spooks his horse which rears up on it’s back legs, throwing John (the wrangler) in the ditch. Waylon (the horse) then steps on John (the wrangler)’s crotch and runs off down the road.

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Tony and I are still sitting atop Lightning and Diamond not knowing exactly what to do. John (the wrangler) gasps, “One of you get off of your horse and run back to the ranch and tell Kelly to bring the Bronco.” Having not been taught the art of dismounting, and unable to bend my knees to get off of this dining room table of a horse I am sitting on, the responsibility for running back to the ranch falls to Tony. Breathless, he tries to explain what has happened and shortly he and Kelly return to the scene of the accident where they decide that there are no broken bones, just a bad bruise where the horse’s foot cut through John (the wrangler)’s leather chaps. When we got back to the ranch, we decided to take a nice hike and relax and read the rest of the afternoon.  

That night, Roxanne took us into Driggs and dropped us off for the pot-luck supper & show, promising to pick us up after the show. When the show was over, we waited out front on the sidewalk for Roxanne. After about an hour, we asked the last cast member as they were leaving the theater if we could use the phone. Roxanne and Kelly had gotten to watching TV and had forgotten to come and pick us up. They were very apologetic.

The next day, on the way to the dining hall for breakfast, Tony let me know that he did not intend to ride horses that day, but when we got to the chow hall, we met Bonnie & Mark, a couple of consultants who had come over to instruct Kelly & Roxanne in the art of running a dude ranch. Bonnie and Mark wanted to show Kelly, Roxanne, and John (the ailing wrangler) how to teach guests to ride horses. We were still the ONLY guests at this point. Tony flashed me “that look”, but followed us to the barn for our lesson. Bonnie and Mark helped us onto Diamond and Lightning. Bonnie, Mark, Kelly, Roxanne, John (the ailing wrangler), Tony and I started out in the opposite direction of the horrendous crushed crotch incident. We rode for an hour or so straight uphill through some beautiful country. We forded streams, smelled wildflowers and saw wildlife. Then it was time to return to the ranch. Straight downhill can be pretty scary on a horse. I felt pretty safe from my perch atop the sturdy, dining-room-table-like Diamond, but Tony’s horse, Lightning, was not quite as sure-footed and not only stumbled with every step, but actually fell to his knees several times during the climb down.

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Dinner that night was a cookout where John (the ailing wrangler) prepared some wonderful pork chops over an open fire and played his guitar and sang (now soprano since the accident) for us. It was a little uncomfortable with just the 3 of us around the campfire, so we headed on back to our room after we had our dessert of warm bananas in aluminum foil with chocolate melted inside them.

The next day, two new guests arrived at the ranch!!!! Two girls from Canada had come west hoping to meet some strapping young cowboys. John (the ailing wrangler), would be busy now!

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The four of us, led by John, headed up the mountain on our majestic steeds before sunrise. John cooked the most wonderful breakfast of bacon and silver dollar pancakes for us. After breakfast it was time for us to head back to the ranch and pack our bags and say good-bye to Moose Creek Ranch.

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Stay tuned for the sequel (where I will tell you about our next dude ranch experience which involved a hospital stay!)

Tony and BJ