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Back at the ranch in Texas

 SADDLE UP!

 

After one or two margaritas in San Antonio,Texas, nothing seemed more natural than to plan an excursion to ‘the cowboy capital of the world’. That’s Bandera, a mere 45 miles from San Antonio in the hill country, where there are about 12 dude ranches to choose from. (Some say ‘dude’ is old German for ‘fool’, others say it just means city slicker.) The Running R Ranch was my choice: no golf, no gourmet cook, but as much trail riding as you could ask for because the Running R adjoins the 5,400 acre Hill Country State Park, the largest in Texas open to horsemen.

The owners of this guest ranch are German, the head wrangler was Irish but the atmosphere was pure Texan. Fourteen timber cabins were set in a clearing at the edge of a woods. Each cabin had a long front porch with old-fashioned rocking chairs at the ready.  Inside, my cabin was neatly furnished with two double beds made of rustic hewn logs. A cosy corner was fitted out with cushioned benches, a table and small refrigerator. The spotless bathroom featured a stall shower. There was air conditioning. Not quite the rough and tumble bunkhouse of cowboy lore but a welcome concession to the requirements of a dude.

After ‘bunking in'(settling in to the cabin) it was time to pull on my jeans and mosey up to the barn to see a wrangler about a horse. They had 40 of them and for me they selected ‘Hobble’, a longhaired creature nursing a secret sorrow, possibly the premonition that he’d be paired with a novice cowgirl in street shoes. Before we moved out the wrangler demonstrated how a touch of the rein would signal my mount to move right or left.  In fact, there was never a need to signal him.  He’d clearly done it all before.

Under a sky of spray paint blue, Hobble and I bumbled down the trail behind wrangler Bob, who led the ride at a walking pace identifying the wildlife, the wildflowers and the trees along the way. We brushed under spicy smelling tree branches, skittered down limestone slopes, stopped to watch deer browsing, glimpsed a waterfall in the distance. Once we saw an armadillo, like a rat in a suit of armour, scuttling out of sight.  The two hours were over so fast that even Hobble seemed surprised.

What next? A quick shower, clean jeans and dinner in the Round-up Room, a large wooden building where the ranch hosts, the wranglers and all the guests assembled at long tables for a family-style meal while the radio in the corner played country music to make your eyes water. The cowboys kept their hats on. Later we drove into Bandera to Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Bar, the second oldest dance hall in Texas, and they kept their hats on there too. This basement room, with bullet holes in the ceiling, is the place to take to the sawdust covered dance floor for an evening of ‘boot scootin’. Along the bar, the drinks were whisky or beer. I slapped my greenbacks down and boldly ordered a Coca Cola.

To book or for  full details on the Running R ranch visit www.rrranch.com

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