|My Horse for a Week|
Usually I don't have trouble writing anything, but I remember pondering over this entry blank at the kitchen table with a terrible case of writer's block. Finally I said to Mom, who was washing dishes, "I don't know what to write." And she casually said, "'...because...' it would seem like a dream, and I want to know what it would be like to be dreaming when I'm wide awake." That sounded pretty good to me, so I wrote it down and we sent it in.
Except for a parade in Ellensburg at the end of the week that we younger boys, for some reason, didn't get to participate in, I remember only one lengthy horseback ride--a mountain trail ride lasting most the day. The trail in some places was very narrow and on the side of a steep hill, and several times my horse sincerely impressed me by keeping me alive.
|My two Best Friends at the Ranch|
Staying in a bunkhouse was a real treat for most boys. They felt like real ranch hands in TV westerns. But for me it was where I suffered the worst homesickness, lying in a strange bed on the other side of a mountain range from everything familiar to me. It was a long, long week.
My favorite place, though, was sitting around the campfire in the late evenings. This was the socialization I enjoyed--especially the creepy stories. One older boy there told us about the monster, like Bigfoot, that was known to frequent the area. And afterwards we were delightfully traumatized as we made our way in the dark to the bunkhouse. But one story in particular I have remembered and retold ever since, to frighten kids out of their wits: Alice had come over to spend the night with Susan. Susan's parents told the girls that they had to go out that evening and wouldn't be back until late. So Alice and Susan didn't wait up for them, but went to sleep in a double bed on a balcony which overlooked the living room. Later, Susan was awakened by the sound, creeeak, creeeak, creeeak, creeeak, and she recognized it as the sound of her mother's rocker in the living room, where she often sat knitting, and was comforted knowing that her mother was home. She reached over and felt that Alice was lying beside her, and then fell back asleep. Later Susan was awakened again. Creeeak, creeeak, creeeak, creeeak. She reached over and felt that Alice was still lying peacefully next to her, and fell back asleep. Still later Susan was awakened again by that sound. Creeeak, creeeak, creeeak, creeeak. And she thought, goodness, Mama is staying up awfully late. She reached over and felt Alice still lying in bed, but by now she was concerned, wondering why her mother seemed to be knitting so late into the night. So she quietly got out of bed to look down from the balcony. It wasn't her mother in the rocker. It was a maniac pulling the hair out of Alice's severed head!
Stories like this made the week worthwhile, and my nice pinto horse, and the ranch's gift shop, where I bought for my parents plastic replicas of a mare and her foal, labeled "Pride and Joy," and delicate bone china figurines of a family of deer. At the end of the week, the ranch hands heated up the Flying Horseshoe branding iron, and we were invited to bring whatever we wanted to be branded, for a souvenir. I had bought in the gift store a stand-up wooden nameplate, saying "Dale," and had them brand the back of that.
It was so good to get home after that homesick week, but of course, after the fact, I was thrilled that I had gone. And to this day, I have a warm spot in my heart for the Flying Horseshoe Ranch, which, by the way, still exists now forty-eight years later, an active dude ranch near Cle Elum, Washington.