After seeing Billy Crystal on horseback in “City Slickers,” I had always wanted to vacation at a dude ranch. It’s difficult to explain the dude ranch concept to my international friends. They understand that “dude” refers to someone considered cool, and they know that a ranch is kind of like a farm. Put the two words together and they suddenly become very confused. “So it’s a place where fun people play with animals?” they ask.
Well, kind of.
At 63 Ranch in Bozeman, Montana, I became fast friends with a tall strong guy named Noble. A bay quarter horse gelding (translation: dark brown, stalwart, and neutered), Noble carried me across rocky terrain, through mountain streams, and along narrow paths flanked by steep drop-offs.
Every day at high noon, he brought me back to the ranch in time for a filling lunch. Never lacking in western charm, the meal always consisted of at least one dish with marshmallows. The bear sighting, which I unfortunately did not witness, was a hot topic around mid-week. So was the forest fire that roared just miles away, clouding ever the air around the ranch.
My other friend for the week was from Minnesota, and the only other young gal at the ranch. Kerry was a natural cowgirl with a suitcase full of plaid shirts and worn jeans. We discussed large animals and constellations at great length, and we exchanged the odd dating story.
Together we determined that gals looking to get married should reside in Minnesota, and that independent girls are better off in Massachusetts. I explained that, in Boston, short-termed dating seemed more the custom. “Wow, I need to go there!” she exclaimed. “I chop wood once with a guy or we go riding on our motorcycles, and suddenly they think we’re a couple!” Lesson learned: instead of sipping tea on my next first date, I will wield an axe.
At the very least it may land me another date.