May

15

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(Click here for the album pictures from The Hideout)

I’m back home after spending 10 wonderful days in Marlboro country, ridin’ the range and living out my John Wayne fantasies. And boy, it was sure hard to come back to New York. I almost asked Jenn to pack up the kids and move out to join me in Wyoming. I was staying at a working cattle ranch, called The Hideout, located at the foot of the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming. The ranch runs about 1,000 cattle on 300,000 acres in some spectacular country, and features prairies, creeks, desert and mountains.

The Hideout is an authentic ranch; we spent almost all day in the saddle, sorting or driving cattle, checking fences etc. One day was devoted to branding calves; I learnt more than I ever felt I needed to know about castrating calves…  The hard riding tired out even the best of horses; as a result, we didn’t ride the same horse each day. That meant that we got to try different mounts in the course of the vacation, which provided a great learning experience. Pretty soon it was obvious how horses that looked similar could have wildly differing personalities.

And it wasn’t just the horses that got tired out. A day on the range or in the mountains would wear out anyone; after a shower in my log cabin I had to drag myself over to the main house for cocktails and dinner.  Of course, one of the main reasons for picking The Hideout was that it provided great meals; instead of the more traditional pork and beans, we were treated each night to sumptuous gourmet dinners. The one thing I was a little wary of was encountering prairie oysters on the day we spent branding, but fortunately fish was on the menu that night.

The life of a cowboy is a hard one, and a lonely one too. As a result, there’s a great tradition of cowboy music. One night after dinner we were treated to a concert by Stewart, one of the wranglers, who performed oldies but goodies such as El Paso, The Streets of Laredo, and Red River Valley, as well as some more recent favourites. I trust we were more receptive than his usual audience, the cattle.

The Hideout located in the heart of the west – the Little Big Horn river flows in this country, and of course is famous for a battle that occurred there. The ranch is only 50 miles from the town of Cody, founded by Buffalo Bill, and features an impressive museum devoted to his memory, housing magnificent collections of firearms and the Whitney Museum of Western Art. A little further to the west is the spectacular Yellowstone National Park, with its varied wildlife including buffalo, elk and bear, and impressive geysers. I spent a day exploring the park (by car, since it encompasses an area of 2.2 million acres).

The weather was great for most of the trip, with highs in the 80’s and 90’s, although on one day we had snow. The ranchers were probably pleased to get some precipitation; Wyoming is suffering through a 6 year drought, and water is in short supply. Much of the land is not very productive unless irrigated.

On Thursday morninng I spent some time looking over the site of a proposed ranch development, where some homes will be built. Who knows, perhaps we’ll buy a place to get away from it all. I was sad to leave – although of course I was looking forward to be getting back to the family in New York.

The kids are thrilled at their daddy’s return. Orla had her riding lesson on Trunket on Friday; it won’t be long before she joins me herding cattle in Wyoming. In the 10 days I was away, Eoghan learnt to count to 10, and now knows his colours, as well as developing the Haughey temper…



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