Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Great Eatons' Ranch Adventure of 2010: You Only Hurt the One You Love

I stumbled across my wrap-up of our 2010 trip to Eatons' Ranch as I was cleaning documents off my netbook. Because I wrote it before I launched Clanging Bell, I decided to relax today and publish this opus as today's blog post. It's longer than my typical blog; so pop some popcorn and enjoy.

Another trail-ride trip at Eatons' Ranch in Wyoming has passed into history. The bruises are beginning to fade, as are the aches and pains from straddling a horse for six hours a day. It's a week that always flies by much too quickly. Some years the adventure is more punctuated with notable happenings. This year was one of those.

Beer remains a critical ingredient for these annual trips. Jose and I had our first of this trip at a little bar in Terminal E of Salt Lake City's airport where we met after our respective flights from Tucson and Greenville. These were followed by more with my fraternity brother Devin at the bar in the Billings airport as we waited for Les to arrive. He then had to have one with us there as well. Lubricated and happy we headed for the rental car desk.

The first hitch in our well-laid plans was the rental van we were scheduled for was knocked out of service by a deer that evidently the night before crossed the street against the light. We wound up with a Tahoe in its place. It was a tight squeeze loading in luggage for four guys for six days.

We made our traditional Costco run for Moose Drool Ale and peanuts. This is when we encountered the second bump in this trip's rocky road.  To our horror, Costco rotated Moose Drool out of its beer lineup. It was carrying some other Montana-brewed ale in its place. We weren't going to chance buying three cases of beer that none of us had ever heard of, much less tried. Besides, Moose Drool is an institution on these trips.

This was a revolting development with the potential to throw a damper over the entire trip. While beer in general greases the wheels of these outings, not just any beer will do. For those front-porch debates at Big Graham (the perennial cabin of The Three Amigos), only Moose Drool fills the bill.

We decided that there are indeed some scary folks walking the aisles of Costco. It looked like a casting call for Toby Keith's Trailerhood video. But I digress….

The Moose Drool near calamity was avoided when we found it at Albertsons. It was more expensive, but hey, we're worth it. A couple of 1.5-liter bottles of red wine and a half gallon of vodka (plus the bottle of Maker's Mark and 12-yr old Rum that I brought and the bottle of aged tequila that Jose brought) rounded out our cabin's potable liquid needs for the week. We also picked up a bottle of Wild Turkey and a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon for Kirk and Ports. Oh, and Les insisted on buying a flat of damn water and a 12-can sleeve of Dr. Pepper. We didn't have room for that crap! Somehow we shoehorned all of this into the Tahoe that was already stuffed to the gills.

Devin and I were almost giddy over the news that the Steelers, with their third-string quarterback at the helm, had somehow defeated the Falcons as we dined at Fudruckers before heading to the ranch. At least something was going right that day.

We arrived at the ranch in time for dinner. We settled into our cabins, had a beer and then dinner. Hal arrived via the Sheridan airport early that evening and the ranch shuttle was dispatched to gather him up.

The ranch office is closed on Sundays, so we couldn't officially check in until it opened on Monday morning. Because the office is located near the barn and horse staging area, we went to get fitted for our saddles and checked in at the same time.

I may be a bit of an alarmist, but it’s sort of distressing when you go to check into the ranch where you will be riding horses all week and the kid behind the desk looks like he just stumbled away from a plane crash. He's standing there greeting guests in a neck brace. It was hard not to laugh.

Eatons' isn't known for slick marketing, but having this guy checking in guests was pretty far out there even for them. It was even more humorous when he slid the medical waiver in front of me and asked me to sign it. "Did you?" I asked. This guy did everything but wear a shirt with "Run for Your Life" stenciled on it. I signed the waiver and he had to bend at the waist to double check that I had. Devin coined the name "Lucky Jack" for the guy, who, as the story goes, was trying to jump his horse over a little gulley, came up short, flipped over the top of his steed which then managed to land on him. I looked for a horse in a neck brace when we got over to the barn, but didn't see one.

The last of our merry little band arrived around on Monday. As the five of us already in residence headed out on the first ride of the week, the ranch shuttle headed back to the Sheridan airport to fetch Kirk and Ports. They had yet to set foot in Wyoming when our collection of riders was reduced by one.

Heading back from the morning ride and in sight of the barn, Jose's horse, named Happy -- Happy should have been named "Dial 911" -- pulled a Crazy Ivan to the left, ducked down pulling Jose forward and then reared back up cracking Jose in la cabeza with his head. More dazed and confused than usual, Jose found himself on the ground.

Les had ridden ahead leaving four of us involved in this event that sent all of the horses bucking and spinning. After a few seconds of this (seemed much longer at the time), the horses settled down; however, in trying to rein in his horse, Devin had actually snapped one of his reins. With a final little turn, Devin's horse deposited him into some shrubbery. This sent all of the horses bucking and spinning a second time.

As the dust cleared we took inventory. Jose climbed to his feet, holding up his right arm and showed us a wrist bent at about a 30-degree angle. None of us have a medical degree, but we all jumped to the conclusion that it was probably broken. Devin, shaken but uninjured, remounted his horse. We headed back to the barn.

Les drove Jose into the hospital in Sheridan. Indeed, the wrist was broken. They returned just before dinner with Jose sporting a cast that ran from his hand to above his elbow. His riding was done for the week.  

Although his cast interfered with his riding, it had zero impact on his drinking. He managed to find a doctor in Sheridan to prescribe vodka and tonics to dull his pain. We couldn't let him medicate alone. He deserved our moral support and we freely gave it.

On Wednesday everyone but Jose and I headed up to Cow Camp. I refuse to embark on a ride requiring the packing of a lunch. Although the weather wasn't particularly good, the group set out. By the time they got to the top of the mountain, fog and clouds prevented more than a few yards of visibility.

Not sure where the connecting trail was, these intrepid adventurers were stopped, debating what to do next. It was at that very moment that a guy stepped out of the soup. Armed with a bow and arrows, and dressed in camos, he approached the group. After providing directions to the trail head they were looking for, he marched back into the fog, disappearing from sight. The boys eventually made it back to the ranch where Jose and I were already into our second or third Moose Drool of the day.

Unfazed by their near-death experience on Wednesday, Les, Ports and Kirk headed back up the mountain on Friday in weather nearly as bad. We took photos of them as they departed so we would have something to give the Sheridan newspaper in case they didn't return. We also bid farewell to Devin who was flying to Denver to visit with his daughter. We didn't take his picture; we fully expected to see him again. The mountaineers managed to find their way back without freezing to death. It was cold.

Saturday was our last ride. Hal had shipped off to the airport for an O'Dark-thirty flight. The rest of us still able to sit a horse went out on a morning ride. It was pretty chilly, but that was fine with us. Jose, Les and I planned on heading back to Billings around . Kirk and Ports had a ride scheduled to Sheridan for their late afternoon flight.

We showered and began packing. Suddenly Les discovered his cash was missing along with his credit cards that were all clipped together.

The search began.

He unpacked and repacked his two suitcases twice. He rummaged through every pocket. I went behind him double checking everything he looked through. Kirk and Ports were on hands and knees looking under furniture. Nothing, nada, zip, zero. Meanwhile I walked the paths outside the cabin thinking if someone had grabbed it, maybe they kept the cash and tossed the credit cards. Did I mention his driver's license, required to board the plane on Sunday, was also gone?

Kirk went up to the dining room and made an announcement asking everyone to keep an eye out.

From our cabin the cry suddenly went out that the clip had been found. Where was it?

Young Les, wanting to put the stash somewhere he would easily find it, put it in his tennis shoe before going out for our last ride. After showering, he put the shoes on. He had been walking around with it in his shoe – in his shoe! Kirk made the all-clear announcement to the dining room and explained what happened. We could hear the laughter from our cabin's front porch.

After returning to Billings, we hit our newest favorite Billings brewery, Carters. Great beer! That was followed by our traditional dinner at Texas Roadhouse and ice cream at Dairy Queen.

Another great trip over and done.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to suggest to my buddies that we consider something like this after reading about the beer and all. Then I came to the part about horses.