A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Getting Old By Laurie Hartman, Wrangler Hello from one of those folks usually a day late and a dollar short, a jack of many trades and master of few, a perpetual student of the School of Hard Knocks, a late bloomer. But better late than never, right? I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, some good and some bad, and half my life was over before I got the idea to apply to be a guest ranch wrangler. I can’t recall how or when or why the idea came to me, but once it got in my head it would not go away. I questioned my sanity. I was 53 years old, thirty pounds overweight and well, frumpy. Age will do that to you. At least that’s what I’d been telling myself, like when I bought bigger sweatpants and when I stopped fussing over grey roots. My chin was sagging and other body parts were on the road to saggville as well. One of my eyes got lazy. I got lazy. I quit mapping my barrel racing plans on the calendar, I quit hauling every weekend, I quit riding when I got home from work. I was one step away from granny panties and blue hair. Then another thought came to mind. It was one of my characteristic play-it-safe what if’s, but this one had a twist. What if I didn’t apply? What if I didn’t get hired? The alternative didn’t look good.
So I worked up a resume, spent hours searching the internet for ranches I wanted to apply, filled out applications and investigated how ranches tick. I’d never been to a guest ranch…I’d never really been anywhere unless it involved a barrel race. I started working out and taking care of myself and I stopped worrying about what Grandfather Time was doing to me. I couldn’t do anything about my age or being hired but I could give it my best shot, another characteristic I’m known for. The bottom line is I stuck with it. And not only did I did get hired, but before it was over I knew it was one of the best things I’d ever done. I traded an office chair for a saddle and the great outdoors. My new seat offered breathtaking views, the scent of sage, the experience of not only seeing from a new perspective but through the eyes of others as well. I traded air conditioning for Mother Nature. The majority of days were made to order. It rained several times but there’s something magical about the sound of rain on your slicker and cowboy hat.
I traded fine-tuned barrel horses for dude ranch mounts that surpassed my expectations. The horses on the ranch weren’t nose-to-tail plugs like I expected, but they had been around the block a time or two and were very wise. They adapted to their new riders each week by reading them well and reading them quickly. It was interesting to see the horses change depending on the skill level of their rider, and humorous seeing them come to life when a wrangler rode them. A few old reliables gained my respect and gratitude for simply doing their job without taking advantage of the novice on their back. I traded moody clients for enthusiastic people appreciative of me and what I did for them, driving in traffic every morning for rides at sunrise bringing the herd in from pasture, coworkers I never related to for staff members whose joy to be there was contagious. A good guest ranch offers big country, great horses, awesome food and wonderful people. You really can’t ask for better job conditions than that, and in my case it changed the course of the rest of my life. I’ve heard it said if you enjoy what you’re doing it’s not work. That’s so true. I’ve noticed people who aren’t happy don’t bring that up. They don’t know what they’re missing. I didn’t know what I was missing.
Check out the employment ads for the following ranches. Click on their links for more information. Kitchen Work – Hideout Ranch, AZ & Laramie River Ranch, CO Wrangler – Red Rock Ranch, WY & 4UR Ranch, CO