For almost 55 years, our family vacations were basically dedicated to the great outdoors and that was always acceptable. My wife, our daughter, our son, and myself would end up headed for a lake, setting up a tent, or unfolding our eight sleeper “fold out” camper and eventually upgrading to towing the 23 foot self-contained trailer. I always attached the 12 foot aluminum Sea-Nymph boat on top of the truck topper and I carried the 9 ½ horsepower Evinrude outboard inside the truck bed along with the firewood, groceries, clothing, fishing tackle, and other odds and ends. We spent so many weekends and vacation weeks fishing, frying fish, roasting hot dogs, and making s'mores over the evening campfire while enjoying the camaraderie of family and friends. We also made feeble attempts to do our own rendition of “Hee Haw” with our very amateur guitar playing and singing. (Nashville never contacted any of us).
Yes, those were very good times and sadly, as time passed, our daughter and son managed to grow up, get married and had families of the own. Our daughter now lives in Zionsville, and our son lives in Salt Lake City. Well, as the wife and I started aging and feeling the “aches and pains,” we started realizing we were not getting any younger and my dark brown hair has managed to recede and turn white, and as much as I hated to accept it, I have sadly watched most of my fishing career somehow take a drastic turn since I realized my old body could not take those 60-70 mph runs across the water. My twice surgically repaired lower back, my hips and knees started informing me, “Hey, this is no longer fun!”
Needless to say, many other vacations were scheduled and devoted around the deer hunting season. I felt rather guilty because at that time, I was the only person in our immediate family that hunted. I spent so many years roaming around the states of Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois in search of the elusive white-tail deer. I spent many days in motels, tents, truck campers, and camping trailers. As my son grew up, he started deer hunting with me until rheumatoid arthritis ended is ability to shoot a bow, but he continued to hunt with a shotgun and muzzleloader and as long as he could keep his hands and fingers warm, he did rather well harvesting a number of deer himself.
Today, I have three grandsons that ALL enjoy fishing and deer hunting as well. (Wonder where they got that). I have three granddaughters that enjoy boating, skiing, swimming, and fishing and we still manage to do some family fishing and I am extremely happy to watch them laughing and giggling when they catch a fish. They are all good looking girls, but they are not afraid to bait their own hooks or take the fish off their line.
Well, as the many years have passed, I started really feeling guilty because I was admitting there was never really a vacation for my wife. Even when we spent those weekends and weeks on vacation, she still had work to do. When the kids were younger, she still had to “babysit,” keep the camper clean, clean up the dishes, make the coffee, and most of the time, she built the evening campfire while I was in the boat catching the fish. She never really complained because she had become friends with many of the other “camping wives” and they managed to do the fair share of talking and gossiping around the campfire, and they sure made some fantastic meals.
I started thinking back over the years trying to come up with something that she and I could do together and not include hunting and fishing. (I can't believe I said that!) The only thing I could come up with was she had always mentioned she would like to go to a dude ranch. You know, if you ever watched any of the old western movies, many of them featured a dude ranch for the “city folks” to attend and “live like a cowboy” riding horses, roping cows, singing songs around the campfire, and eating meals at a chuck wagon.” I figured, “Hey, what the heck.” I started looking on the internet and I found a place in Montana that sounded like the perfect situation, so I booked a week stay and then I got to thinking, “I have not been on a horse in 50 years.” Since I had a history of lower back problems, hips, and knee problems, I thought it might be a good idea for me to take secret riding lessons because I did not want to embarrass myself or get injured in a freakish fall. I mean, here I am, a famous outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Perspective newspaper. How would it look if I was injured on a vacation due to a dude ranch? I could hear the ridicule from Bill, Don, and the entire staff at the office...
I started asking around and discovered one of my fishing buddies owned a nice farm and he had some horses. He told me if I wanted to come out and visit him, he would let me ride some of his horses and he would “give me some pointers.” I made him promise to keep it a secret because I did not want any of my family or friends to know I was “taking lessons.” I told the wife I was “working overtime”, so she would not suspect anything. I “worked overtime” for almost a month and I was starting to notice a huge improvement in my “horsemanship.” (Is that a word?) I got to where I was able to get in the saddle without falling off the opposite side and I had lost most of the fear I had for horses, but everything was “shaping up” and I felt rather confident I would certainly impress the wife with my riding skills and dexterity. I figured Gene Autry would be proud of the little guy that watched all his movies on Saturday mornings as I was growing up.
I figured it was time to impress my wife and I ran up and did my very best Roy Rogers jump into the saddle without using my hands. There was a bunch of people standing there watching and I was waving my brand new Stetson cowboy hat in my right hand and spurring the horse and yelling, “yippy-I-oohh!” and everyone was applauding as I twisted in the saddle and actually turned half way around in the saddle to where I was riding backwards. Suddenly, I lost my balance and I fell out of the saddle and the horse kept running and bucking and dragged me a long way. I became frantic and started yelling. You know, I felt so bad about showing off in the presence of all the kids and grown-ups, and I thought I might get hurt pretty badly, and I probably would have but the manager of Walmart heard me screaming and he ran out and unplugged that horse… (Bet I got ya that last paragraph) Ha ha!