I was doing so good at keeping up with my adventures. I actually have many of my small adventures already written for publish in May! Unfortunately after my October adventure I had to go on a work adventure, I got a promotion (yay!), holidays started, blah blah blah. Life is busy and the blog suffers. Anyway my cattle drive was too fantastic for 1 post, so I’m cutting it into a few and will hopefully get it and my November adventure posted before the end of next week. Before I describe the drive and my experience, I want to introduce the cast of characters that accompanied me.
I’m so thankful for others peer pressuring me into choosing the Two Creek Ranch because the people I met were so fantastic and colorful. The co-owners, Lisa and Shawn, organized the chaotic trip. I’m not saying they aren’t organized, I’m saying moving 1,000 cows 70+ miles is insane. From all of my trip planning, I know how hard it can be to schedule food, housing, and transportation logistics. Add to that having to depend on undependable weather, training people with no ranching experience, and keeping 1,000 cows on schedule for 70 miles and nothing ever runs perfectly. Fortunately Shawn and Lisa have their shit together and things ran as smoothly as possible.
Shawn constantly complained about having to get his “fat ass” on the horse. Shawn, you’re perfect the way God made you! And his mustache is fantastic, so he has that going for him.
Lisa is holding Shawn’s toothbrush. Between staff, guests, and visiting family, 7 people ended up vomiting with a stomach bug at the tail end of the drive. On my last night there, Shawn was taken out. Lisa was suppose to drive us to the airport the next day but sadly she also caught it.
The cows we ended up moving had many different brands. Shawn and Lisa had their own in the bunch, there were some shared with the ranch as a whole (apparently there are other partners), family members’ had a few, Morgan (who I’ll save for last on this list of motley characters) had her herd mixed in, and others belonged to Mr. Jim Brow. Like most of the ranches, the Brow Ranch is a family affair and his tween/teen grandson joined us for 2 days. Mr. Brow turned out to be a super nice guy but my first impression of him was that he was a bit odd/scary.
Jim can cut through the heard screaming like a devil to get cows moving. He’ll jump off his horse and chase them from the thickest brush or out of freezing creeks. He’s a wild man on the trail but inside very soft spoken and quiet. Here is what I wrote in my journal upon first meeting him:
“…barely talks but when he does it’s usually 1 or 2 words and always starts with a big inhale and “oh” on the exhale as he thinks of how to answer you.
‘Jim, have you ever been married?’
‘Jim, where is your wife?’
‘Oh….bodies in the crick.'”
I wrote this shortly after finding out most moving bodies of water are called cricks in Wyoming (also learned you don’t pronounce coyote with an ee sound at the end and chaps are pronounced shaps). Fortunately my first impression of an Ed Gein-esque rancher was completely wrong and Mr. Brow turned out to be a warm and wonderful human I’m happy to know.
If I have the family tree correct, Blake is Shawn’s nephew. It also seems they are grooming him to take over or run the ranch some day. His mom and he had cattle with their personal brands in the herd as well. The following are things you need to know about him. First he hunts and got an elk bull license (I guess that’s the name?) which is rare and given out by a lottery, so he drives around with his gun in the truck. This is a common thing though. He also called me a girl and showed me “how girls put on their saddle.” Whatever, if all girls are like Morgan, that makes me bad ass!
Blake’s family was around a bit of my time there. His girlfriend works on the ranch as well and his son and daughter play with the guests. Unfortunately it seems the kids were the little petri dishes who passed the bug around. By the time I left 3 staff members, both kids, Blake’s brother, and 2 guests had thrown up. Fortunately I was spared!
The first guest I met was Emilia. I told Morgan after I first met Emilia, I was going to marry her. She’s a fantastic person. So fantastically fantastic! In fact I’m going to visit her in Canada just before New Years! I love this woman. This was Emilia’s 37th time on the ranch! It’s her go to place to rejuvenate and clear her mind. She was born in Italy and has a gorgeous accent. At a young age though, she moved to Canada. In her late teens she opened a few clothing boutiques with some friends but when one of the partners passed away she walked out the door, across the street, and joined the Canadian Army. After years in the Army she got sick of “war games in the trenches” and transferred to the Canadian Navy. These days? Somehow she’s in the Canadian Air Force. Her superiors love her so much they keep sending letters to the Secretary of Defense to have her retirement deferred. Though she says she’s ready to retire, her talk about organizing fix-it trips in the Pacific for helicopter mechanics and her time wandering around the arctic near a polar bear show how much she loved her time in the service. Funny that she left the Army because she was sick of the trenches yet spends so much of her vacation time and money working on a cattle farm…
My bunk mate in the boy’s accommodations was Mark. He is very close to Morgan’s grandfather and is more a family member then guest at ranch. As he grew up in this kind of life he helps by driving the trucks and doing other tasks the guests aren’t trained or prepared for. He looks to be in his early 60’s and seems about 15 years younger than Jim Brow but is actually 76 and half a decade older than Brow! I hope I’m still going on these adventures when I’m 76.
Mark is a retired theater professor and actor. He’s acted and been friends with many big name actors such as Richard Dreyfuss, James Earl Jones, and Kevin Spacey (who he says has always been a jerk). Mark was the first person to die in the Andromeda Strain, killed by Willie Nelson in the Red Headed Stranger, and can randomly spout the perfect poems and Shakespeare quotes while riding.
This dramatic gentleman also gave me one of the coolest compliments I’ve ever received. My flight was at 6:00 am so I left our bunk house around 4:00 am on Halloween. He woke up for a few minutes to say goodbye to me and ended with “It was good riding with you.” Damn that’s cool. He didn’t say it was good to know or meet me. Good to ride with me. That’s some cowboy shit! That’s the kind of thing Butch Cassidy says to Sundance just before they get gunned down in Bolivia. What I’m saying is I’m basically Emilio Estevez in Young Guns now.
Apparently most of the guests at the ranch are women and come from Europe. The only other guests with us were two women from Germany. They were both from Hamburg and used the same travel agency but had never met. My feeling is they aren’t going to hang out together when they get home. I don’t think strong bonds were formed between the two.
Sandra was goofy. She made all kinds of silly faces and noises, it was great. I would call her a spaz but in a fun way that I think everyone enjoyed. She frequently said her English was bad but I thought it was excellent. There were a few words she didn’t understand (like homophone) but I don’t know any German so who am I to criticize?
Christine was the other German woman. She told us about all sorts of adventure vacations she’s taken to Everest, Africa, and Asia but I’m not sure this is actually what she enjoys. She did have a bad fall off her horse in Mongolia so she could have just been gun shy, but she didn’t seem to weather the hardships very well. I don’t have any good pictures of her because she was always covered from head to toe like an arctic ninja. Most of the time she did communicate with us it was about using a phone to contact her new boyfriend. I don’t think she enjoyed her time on the ranch. She often made things difficult by riding in the middle of the herd and sending cows in every direction. Since her head was covered by multiple hoods, she couldn’t hear us when we screamed for her to move. Sometimes the drive was frustrating.
At this point in my life, I’d say I’ve met four 100% truly cool people. I know lots of cool people. My friend Kevin has an awesome Mustang, can fix all kinds of car problems, and plays a mean guitar. But he’s not at the 100% mark yet. These four people are like Fonzie level cool. They don’t try to be cool. It’s not in their head that they may or may not be cool. It’s just how they live their life. They seem to have confidence but not smug about it. They’re passionate about things without coming off like fan boys. They’re laid back without being lazy. They’re nice and funny in sincere ways. They don’t feel the need to justify anything to anyone. They just are and that makes them cool. In no particular order those people are:
- Cap’n Fritz the sailor and guitar maker who can tell you where the best pina colada in the world is made.
- My barber George who has been cutting my hair for almost 30 years. He is a gourmet chef, amazing painter, traveled the world, experienced all sorts of adventures (braved a Scientology meeting/induction and laughed his way out), and had a dog that would attack if you said “Bailey, whack ’em” like a mob boss. He knows the best place in Mexico to vacation and get tequila. He knows that the French are actually nicer to tourists than Italians (Parisians excluded).
- My old professor and former head chef of Vita Nova, Joe. He has been the head chef at some amazing restaurants in places like Atlantic City and Aspen, CO. He taught me how to make great Clams Casino even though I loathe sea food.
New to this list is Morgan, former guide for Two Creek Ranch and now owner of the Archie Ranch. Amazing rider? She could cut through a herd by barely moving the cattle. She’s like a fish swimming through the water. Mechanic? She had no problems ripping off her gloves in freezing weather to fix parts of trucks, trailers, or generators. When she scolds a dog, cow, or horse, she has the commanding voice of God! But when you ask her a question, need help with anything, or tell her a bad joke she will talk to you with the voice of a saintly kindergarten teacher. I have full confidence she could kill me with her bare hands but is more inclined and likely to protect me from a rabid bear.
Also needing mentioned are several of the animals on our trip. Morgan’s dogs are worth more than any 20 guests and that’s not me being hyperbolic. They can get the herd moving or chase down a rouge heifer in no time flat. They are small but fast and courageous. Below is Abby. “Though she be but little she is fierce.” I watched her get into fights with cows and win. They would turn and headbutt her, she would growl/bark and show the bovine who was in charge chasing off the animal more than 100 times her weight.
Teddy was my guy. God I love this dog! He was so sweet and smart. Abby was great but always looked to Teddy for guidance. When Teddy wasn’t around, Abby lost some of her nerve. It’s like Teddy is her mentor. One day when we were snowed into the “Small House” I sat on the couch reading while Teddy laid up against me snoring. All of the dogs on site (at least 6?) were working dogs and Teddy was by far my favorite. They rode on the backs of flat beds, in front and back seats of trucks, and once Abby rode on Stormy (a horse) with Morgan! You can see Teddy is all about 4 wheeling.
Lastly my mount for the drive, Little Brown Jug. I’m not sure we will ever be best friends but I think we respected each other at the end. Apparently she is known for pretending to be sick or injured so guests won’t push her hard. Once I learned that and she realized I wasn’t buying into her nonsense and horseplay (ha!) we stopped fighting on where and when to go. No hard feelings, Jug. I wouldn’t want someone riding me through the mountains either. Stay tuned for more pictures and the tale of The Yuppie Hobo’s 1st Cattle Drive.