The Sampler at
Guys like “roughing it,” to borrow a phrase from the inimitable Mark Twain. Women CAN “rough it,” but there is something in their constitutions that gives them a natural preference for well-appointed rooms filled with antiques and color-coordinated interiors.
Guys are happy with a campfire, an old saddle blanket, and canteen kitchen. Women like a little more “Amen” in their amenities.
When I set out for the Rawhide Ranch for a weekend of ridin’ and ropin’, brandin’ and bronco-bustin’ (well, ridin’, anyway) I took along my better half, the ever resourceful and understanding Mrs. Sampler, to get a little better read on the feminine side of things.
My dear one is many things, and a good sport above all, but “cowgirl” is not part of her core identity. Still, she set aside her misgivings and we enjoyed the ride down State Road 135 South to the Ranch, fifty acres of “My, my…” tucked away in some of the prettiest hills in all the Hills o’ Brown.
“…Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above;
Don’t fence me in…”
The Rawhide Ranch is bordered by the thousands of acres of scenic beauty that is Brown County State Park. There are plenty of trails for riding and no shortage of fantastic Brown County beauty right at hand.
My wife is open-minded, and a great fan of the outdoors in general, so she took in the ranch with a certain curious interest. But when she saw the rooms she fell slap-dab in love with the place.
A standard-looking horse barn at the center of the ranch is more than just a hotel, it’s a horsetel—a hotel for horses and people, with stalls below and 11 rooms upstairs.
The lower level is not a typical barn (a little too clean); it’s used for all kinds of gatherings from dances to dinners and even a fancy “horseback wedding.”
We made our way upstairs to a huge deck overlooking some of the prettiest country this side of the Pecos River, and once inside we were pleasantly surprised. The rooms go way beyond “bunkhouse.”
Mrs. Sampler was amazed and delighted when we walked through the well-appointed accommodations, which shared lovely common rooms with comfortable sofas, fireplaces, cozy chairs, and interesting knick-knacks and memorabilia (along with the stuffed deer, elk, boars, and even a little weasel or marmont perched on the mantelpiece).
In addition to the main barn, there is also a Ranch House, built like a private home for families or special events, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a full kitchen. It also features a giant wooden deck big enough for large parties.
We headed down to the remuda to eye out the hoss-flesh.
Rawhide Ranch uses gentle western pleasure horses and western saddles. All trail rides are guided and they do not allow any running on the horses, only walking. You do not need any previous riding experience to enjoy the experience.
The horses are beautiful and seem well behaved. so gentle, I later learned, that little buckaroos too young for the trail can have a guided ride around the stock ring on one of these hayburners.
Mrs. Sampler said she would try a little trail bustin’ after all.
“…Let me ride thru the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in…”
The Rawhide Ranch has a lot more to offer guests than just a pleasant day on horseback. There are beautiful hiking trails, a well-stocked fishing pond, a low ropes course for groups, a playground, horseshoe pitching, volleyball, and a basketball court.
You can enjoy a good old fashioned hayride or maybe just find a shady spot with a gently swinging hammock.
Rawhide Ranch is open year-round, is completely nonsmoking, is air-conditioned and heated, and linens and towels are provided.
Best of all, there are no TVs, telephones or Internet access (there are telephones on the property for emergency only). Visiting horses are welcome, but no other pets and absolutely no dogs are allowed.
“You are also more than welcome to help us feed the horses in the morning or the evening, catch, lead, groom and saddle, says manager Derek Clifford. “We will even let you shovel, if you are looking for the complete experience.”
As nighttime settles over Rawhide Ranch and the last rays of sunset settle over those storied hills, the lightning bugs start to rise and its time for a good old-fashioned Western-style bonfire.
They have a sayin’, out here in the wide open spaces of southern Brown County, a sort of Rawhide Ranch rule for livin’: “A campfire helps you see things in a different light.”
That’s really true, you know. It’s times like these that I wish I’d learned to play the harmonica.
“…Let me be myself in the evening
Listen to the murmur of the
Send me off forever but I ask you,
please Don’t Fence me in…”
Turns out, in the right setting and under the right conditions, the sweetheart of my rodeo is every bit as much a cowgirl as she ever needs to be.
And, you know, when everything is said and done, the very best way to “rough it” is with all the amenities and a whole lot of beautiful country between you and whatever you left back there.