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Friday, May 20, 2011

WHAT IS DUDE RANCHING ALL ABOUT

My first experience on a dude ranch was Valley Ranch in Cody, Wyoming, in the early 1980s, and the first person I met was Irma Larom. She and her husband Larry started Valley Ranch in the 1920's with one of the Brooks brothers. She loved to chat with all the wranglers and tell stories of going to New York City in the 1920’s, staying at the Waldorf Hotel to talk their friends into coming out to Wyoming for the summer. At one point Irma said to me that dude ranching was hospitality at its very finest. At that time I was 17 years old and being on a dude ranch was all about riding horses every day. Her statement meant little to me then. Since that time I have come to deeply appreciate Irma's words. Horse are important, but first rate hospitality makes a dude ranch experience unforgetable.
Historically dude ranches were part of year round horse or cattle operation. Having paying and working guests provided further income and labor for the ranches, and an opportunity for the "dudes" to "experience the west" after western expansion had largely drawn to a close. Nowadays ranches may be working cattle ranches or ranches strictly catering to guests. As they did in the past, they still provide a great opportunity to see the west and experience western lifestyle. And every ranch has the ability to affect people in profound ways.

A couple of years ago I had a woman from Scotland as a guest. When she made her reservation she sent me a hand written letter about why she wanted to take this vacation. Several years earlier she had a bad accident with a horse and broke her back. She had not been on a horse since, and on this trip she was hoping to get her confidence back. By the end of the week I had her on loping rides and she was talking about buying another horse when she got home. When it was time to check out she came to me in tears saying that she couldn’t thank us enough for giving her back her confidence and her true love for horses.
Yes, a well run dude ranch is “Hospitality at its very finest,” and this means everyone working on a well run ranch goes that extra mile to take 7 year old Sally out to the corral one last time to say goodbye to her horse; the cooks saying, “No problem…we are happy to take care of special requests"; and people leaving feeling well-cared for, relaxed, more connected to what matters to them, and wanting to come back.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said, Ted. That should be everyone's only thought, that extra mile. It is so much... well not always easier, but certainly what each of us should try- to put a smile on someone's face and a good memory to take away with them. So many good folks we meet only once, they only get one opportunity to take a trip like some of what we do. To give them a special memory to keep always is a good thing. Sounds too simple, but anyone that loves what they do, what we do, knows it is only the best ever, when you can share it with someone new.

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We would like to hear your dude ranch stories.