The Ranch Letter
This is a letter I wrote to Michelle, an American woman who lived in Italy and stayed as guest at Lake Ranch the first four days I was there. We made a lot of things together, I really missed her when she left. 
As a short explanation: 
Lake Ranch (Hulet, WY) is a real Working Ranch but in July there is almost no cattle work to do. The ranch has more than 6.000 acres and ca. 1.100 cattle. In addition there are two cow camps somewhere else with ca. 900 cattle.
All around in this area (north east in Wyoming) there were only plains with some hills but at Lake Ranch there were some buttes nearby the ranch so you could never get lost. The landscape at the Lake Ranch was very varied with plains, creeks, canyons, forests and big valleys.
Most of the guests (never more then twelve) were Italians since the ranch was promoted by two Italian guys.
There were not that many people working at Lake Ranch, just Max (the wrangler), Greg (the Horsebreaker), Keith (he fixed fences and repaired anything but just in summer time), Monte (the rancher), Luca and Ferdinando (the two italian guys who should take care for the guests) and Liz (an English woman who cooked and made housework just during the season). 

Hi Michelle!

Welcome back in Europe!

Thanks for your postcard from Colorado, I was really pleased to get it. Seems as if you and Francis enjoyed the rafting. At least your mail proofed it. It must been great. If there wouldn't be that many hikes even to the top of the canyon I could imagine to do something like this too. But I'm to lazy to walk by foot ;-)

Is Francis still in the mood to come back to Lake Ranch? Or do he now prefer the rafting?

So - I got the pictures made, on weekend I'll get the copies and send them to you. As promised I took some of Orio too. 

My vacation at Lake Ranch has been really great! It was a pity, that you and Francis left, I missed our ridings. The next two days I went out with Federico for a morning ride, he was a very nice guy. Nevertheless there was no reason to cry, when the Italians left two days later ...
For some days except me only Mark and Jenn (the American honeymoon couple) stayed at the ranch as guests. Mark was very nice, first I thought, he would be a noisy, unfriendly kind of man - but not so. We had a lot of fun and some good conversation.

Two times Mark and Greg made music with their guitars (do you call it "jam"?), we grilled marshmallows (specially for me as German tourist), visited a rodeo in Gilette and a horse breeder in Oshoto. Just twice I went to Hulet for diner or shopping - but I didn't miss anything. I didn't need to drive around - to be honest I thought that Amerika is great, big, has an incredible nature, but the villages, the houses and everything made by human is ugly. The houses are some wooden ... don't know how to say, we would call it in Germany "shoe carton". In every garden you see old, rusting cars, anyway - the Americans don't take a lot of care to their surroundings, everywhere they throw their garbage around.

After Mark and Jenn were gone too, I stayed alone at Lake Ranch for a couple of days. I think this was the best time for me, I had the choice to take any horse, Max allowed me to ride his horse, a very good gelding because it was not used to be ridden by a lot of different people. Greg allowed me to help him to train the young horses. After a while everybody called me "Calamity Jane" - I rode horses eight to eleven hours a day.
When the time came to go back home - I couldn't. I stayed there for another week. For me it was not only vacation. It was a way of live. 
I brought the horses from the pasture to the stable in the morning and back to the pasture in the evening. Liz and Blade (they became a couple) sat on the stairs of the ranch house and enjoyed to be entertained by the German tourist who tried to catch all these silly horses, which were always trying to escape.
When new guests arrived I showed them the horses they could ride and how to saddle them, rode with them to different places on the ranch and showed them interesting things there, went in the wrong direction and said "uups - now we lost the way! Hope, we will find back to the ranch ..." just to give them a little bit adventure feeling. I think they enjoyed this ridings because I explained as much as I could (always Italians who couldn't speak English - I learned more Italian than English this time).
After two weeks I knew nearly all pastures by name, did know if a cattle was on the right pasture or lost. While horseback riding I looked out for broken fences and reported them to Keith if I was not able to fix them by myself without tools, picked up barbwire which were just lieing around, checked if the cattle are ok and on the right place if I met some and - after all I was still a tourist - looked out for interesting places to take pictures and maybe to show them the other guests on a ride at a later time. 
Sometimes the dog of Max came with me, I had a lot of fun with him. He jumped in every water we passed and was hunting all animals (this was sometimes a pity, it's not that easy to take a picture of an escaping antelope). It was nice to have an always happy companion. He didn't talk to much and I had not to show consideration for him if I wanted to change the direction or make a break or whatever. And last but not least I felt a little bit saver. Maybe he would have found me if something happens. Maybe. He was not Lassie. 

On my last day the other guests went to a second rodeo in Deadwood. I didn't go with them, I had seen one, it was interesting once but for me as non-expert not worth to sit for another five hours in the car. So I had the last time the choice to take any horse I want (Gumbo wasn't at the ranch, the neighbor who sold him to Monte asked for him for some weeks). I rode Orio for one hour - I never tried before. He is a very good horse, all the time I had thought, he would be lazy - but not so! 
In the evening I went to Gregs round pen (the arena is nearly finished too). He had a three years old stud there called "Greeno". A very shy horse. I had had a little accident with him the day before. After riding him in the arena I tried to get off very slowly because he always did some steps back while the rider got off. This time he didn't go back but he jumped forward, I were just half off and had still one foot in the stirrup. So I fell down with my head first, still the foot in the stirrup, Greeno went some steps, I got my foot out of the stirrup and Greeno ran over me and kicked me in the stomach. Huhh - this did hurt good! I was laying on the ground and tried to clear my mind 'til the pain leaves. Greg came and asked what happens. I only said without breath "Don't touch me ... wait some seconds ... don't move me ..." Even in English ... very good for a German, who is thinking about his death, isn't it?
After some minutes (or seconds? don't know) I was able to stand up. It did still hurt, but it was just a contusion, my arm was worse but I noticed this later, when I tried to drink a beer - I couldn't lift it. Two weeks later I had still a big blue spot (don't know how to call it in english) on it. I went to Greeno to calm him down. It was not his fault and I think he got nearly more scared than I did. 
Greg asked "Are you ok, Heike?"
"Yeah, I'm! Where is the next horse to ride?"
I guess everybody thought, I would be crazy. I rode Greeno again two times this day.
On my last evening at Lake Ranch I tried to catch Greeno in the round pen, he wore only a halter. I tried nearly one hour but it was not possible, he is frightened of persons. Greg said I should try to rope him. Nice joke, I can't use a rope. But I took a rein, made a small loop from it, took a saddled horse (it was "Maccaroni", a red roan mare I trained the last seven days), rode with her beside Greeno who didn't run away from another horse and could "rope" him that way with the rein.
"Hey, Greg! Look, I roped him in the European way!" 
I saddled him and rode in the round pen and in the arena. He is easy to ride when you're once on, even a little bit lazy. Greg, Max, Monte and Nathan stopped working at the fence for the arena. Embarrassing, I told them, that I'm not their entertainer, they should work further. 
Afterwards we sat at the new platform for the people who want to look on what happens in the arena. We drank some beer and Monte was scolding about the tourists. He said the same then you did: everybody wants to be a cowboy, but to be a cowboy it needs more then just horseback riding. A cowboy takes care for the cattle - not only by riding horseback then also by fixing fences, feed them, give them medicine etc.
And it's a way of live.
Then he told me that he didn't like me when I stayed at the ranch the first two days. Maybe because I'm to honest - I don't start shouting "That's great! That's wonderful! I love it!" if I see just a nice lake. But this seems to be a typical American way to talk to each other.
In the last three weeks he changed his opinion - and he even thinks that I would be on the right way to be a real cowgirl. I said "Thanks, but I'm still a German office girl. And anyway - I'm not sure, if I want to be a cowgirl. I like to take care for the cattle, but I prefer to work with horses and people."
Nevertheless - I was very proud, sure. And maybe he is not that wrong - I'm really not a cowgirl but I guess I caught some of their way of live.
I couldn't say good bye to all the people at Lake Ranch, most of them were on the rodeo 'til late at night and I had to leave at four thirty in the morning. Only Monte got a hug and Greg sang me a bed time song in the pool room, a song he made on his own and I really loved (you see - I learned to say "I love it!" - but I do really). He has a very good voice, unbelievable! For me it was great that he did that. It was not only the song then also the fact that he hated to sing songs for the guests - but he did for me. Afterwards I told him a bed time story - but he began to snore just some seconds after I started with "Once upon a time ..." - what a pity - I really tried hard to invent a good story.
A story about a land far far away over the ocean with very much people living there. And these people only know about working, eating and sleeping, they never do anything else. Once upon a time one of these people from this land far far away over the ocean came to America, to Lake Ranch. The person learned there to live - learned what life is except working, eating and sleeping. And when the person came back to the land far far away over the ocean ... there I stopped the story, I didn't know further and noticed anyway that Greg was sleeping. 

Good bye Lake Ranch! For me this way was a good parting. 

Coming back to Lake Ranch? I don't think so. Not as guest, maybe for a visit. I would like to see some of the people again, they were really nice.
I'll be back in America for sure. But the new building will change a lot, at least because the kitchen is not further a place to live. The ranch will loose a lot of its familiarly charisma. Special for me, I never stayed at the ranch for meals (anyway that times it was only Italian spoken ...) but came in after riding or talking with Greg or something else and warmed up the meal or made some sandwiches. It was a kind of freedom to organize my time the way I wanted to. Sure - if every guest would act like I did - it would be a chaotic ranch live. But it was a working ranch - isn't a working ranch a little bit chaotic?

Maybe I will participate on a cattle drive in Arizona in fall. You remember I told about? I wanted to go there first but they said that they wouldn't be that happy to have one lonesome woman in a group of ten men for twelve days in the mountains. And I changed my mind because I was not sure if I would be able to sit ten hours a day on horseback. Now I know that it is possible. I'm not really interested in following fivehundred cattle or more for a couple of days (we did this once just for some hours at Lake Ranch - they smell bad and they are really slow, in addition it is hard if you have to ride behind them - you have always to make noises to push them). But I'm curious to see another ranch and this is the only way to be sure that I will have no boredom - e. g. by waiting for the other guests ... 

Who knows - maybe after all I will change some things in my live. To stay on the ranch - that was like a rebirth, coming home.  Not only horseback riding, not only having vacation - I can't explain.
I'm looking out ... I'm dreaming. There are some possibilities to do my job at every place in the world - just by using a computer and the internet. 
Maybe I should try to find a real cowboy as boyfriend - he could take care for the cattle and I could take care for the horses and guests. Just one problem - I can't cook ... (hope you see me grin while writing this and some other sentences of this letter ?)

Whow - this seems to be a long letter - and a good english training for me. Next time I should try to write in Italian (no, I won't!).

A lot of greetings from good old Germany (a land far far away over the ocean with a lot of people who are only working, eating and sleeping ...)

Heike

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