A Kansas family ranch experience teaches our teen writer how to round up Texas longhorn cattle and overcome her dislike of horseback riding.
As we drove down the gravel road to the Moore Ranch, we were greeted by a cow, three calves and a goat who thought he was a calf. The Moore Ranch, a 1,416-acre family ranch surrounded by prairie in southwest Kansas (about 40 miles southeast of historic Dodge City), is where my mom and I were going for three days on what the Moores call “a ranch experience.” I didn't know what a ranch experience was exactly, but it sounded like something worth trying.
Soon after meeting the animals on the gravel road, I met their human counterparts—Nancy, Joe and Laramie Moore. Laramie, who at 12 is only a couple years younger than me, is home schooled. He doesn't watch TV, he already knows how to drive and he raises chickens—200, at last count. When he was in first grade, he wrote a book titled Everything You Want to Know About Chickens.
I was a little jealous of his life on the ranch, especially the fact that he didn't have to go to school every day.
After dinner of baked potatoes, green beans, homegrown beef from their longhorn cattle and banana bread, we went to see our cabin. It was a small, simple stand-alone cabin with a private toilet and shower. All seven of the cabins were brought in from an old motel in Cunningham, Kan. Five served as guest rooms and the other two were a gift shop and the Cook Shack, where you could get sodas and coffee and watch videos of the Moore's collection of cowboy movies.
While touring the ranch, I soon discovered that the bovine greeting committee was just the beginning. The Moores also have 600 other cows, Laramie’s 200 chickens, horses, guinea hens, sheep, cats and three dogs named Rita, Poppy and Molly.
Later that evening, Mom and I walked down to the Cook Shack. The wooden walkway leading from our cabin was covered with small toads that jumped away whenever I tried to catch them.
In the center of the big table in the Cook Shack was a small wooden box. My mom thought it was filled with playing cards and she asked me to open it. But instead of hearts, diamonds and spades, a fake mouse jumped out. My mom screamed, and I cracked up laughing.
In the morning, the hungry, baby calves work me up around 6 a.m.—way earlier than I wanted to get up. I also wasn't thrilled about having to put on jeans and tennis shoes, because it was July in Kansas which means heat and humidity. Turns out, even the tennis shoes weren't enough. Nancy insisted I wear cowboy boots because, “it was better to ride horses with, my dear.” None of the pair she hauled down fit, but just when I thought I was going to get away with it, Nancy took off her own boots which happened to fit just right.
I have to admit that, unlike most people, I'm not a big fan of horseback riding. I blame it on Strawberry, the first horse I ever rode when I was 6 and with my mom at a ranch in Arizona. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get Strawberry to move. All she wanted to do was eat trees, plants, anything green that she got close to. No matter what I did she wouldn't budge. So I wasn't looking forward to riding a horse.
Thankfully, the Moores gave me a refresher course after introducing me to Yancy, my horse for the day. They taught me how to make him go (I had to kick him—ouch!), how to make him stop and how to make him go in the direction I wanted. I learned that it was important to “be the boss” and to establish your authority early on.
After riding around the corral, I got the hang of it. The five of us—me and my mom and the three Moores—headed out to the pasture to drive the longhorns back to the corrals so they could be sorted for an upcoming cattle drive in Wichita's Cowtown.
Surprise, surprise, it was actually fun riding Yancy. Unlike most trail rides where your horse's nose is glued to the rear of the horse in front of you, I could ride wherever I wanted to. The Moore's prairie was wide-open. There wasn't a trail—just lots of sunflowers, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers.
After finding the longhorns, we had to drive them back towards the corrals. At first I didn't know what to do, but I noticed Joe and Laramie and Nancy would yell “whoop” and “walk on” and “move along” and eventually the cows would get the idea. If there was one that wasn't moving, you would ride over, holler at it and it would run forward. Two of the dogs, Poppy and Rita, came with us. They nipped at the cow's heels to move forward, and I learned that's where the name heeler came from.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (I've always wanted to say that but never had the chance), we sorted the cows along with their calves.
Moore Ranch ended up being really fun. It was a real ranch and when we drove the cattle, it was because they really needed to be moved, not because they were trying to entertain us. But the biggest surprise is I actually enjoyed riding a horse.
Moore Ranch, 2933 CR E., Bucklin, Kansas. 67834; tel. 620-826-3649; www.longhorn-cattle.com. Rates: $145/night. Three meals daily, horses and equipment included.
Themes: Family Travel
Activities: Horseback Riding
Teen Dream Thanks...now I know where to send my teen for a weekend getaway!