Heading back to the ranch we could feel that the temperature had dropped. Today's balmy weather is tonight's brisk chill. Most of the riders pulled out their designer jackets.
A cautionary word about riding after dining: Stupid.
Time to learn to lope. This is a gait similar to a gallop. Surprisingly, the faster the lope, the more natural the horse's rhythm feels and the less it hurts. Besides, my heart was pounding so hard in terror that I really didn't have time for the pain.
The wrangler began--and ended --my first loping lesson with, "You're on your own, Mister M."
I looked like Kermit the Frog as I loped, flopping around, leaning and being tossed from side to side, hanging onto the saddle horn for dear life.
The wrangler smiled another comment: "That's a good way to get thrown, Mister M." Naturally, I thanked him for the compliment; who'd want to learn a \o7 bad \f7 way to get thrown?
Back at the Ranch
Back at the corral. One of the guests, trying to impress his wife, decided to remove his saddle and put it away. Error. The contraption weighs almost 60 pounds.
We dismounted carefully.
The wrangler contributed his final words, "Don't worry, folks, in another day or two you won't hurt a bit."
By the time we limped back to our cabin, I would have eagerly sold my wife and daughter to mountain men in exchange for 10 minutes in our Jacuzzi at home.
Toss of a Coin
My thighs and backside felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. We tossed a coin to see who would get the bathroom first. My coin, my toss, my call.
I stepped into the steaming shower, and collapsed.
Surprises: After three days my thighs hurt less. My fears disappeared. AppleJack, Lucky and I reached an understanding; I didn't stop them from slowing us down and nibbling at trees and they didn't run Thunder and me into them. I'd grown accustomed to the dust, dirt, flies and walking bowlegged.
But, the next time one of the wranglers plays a song by Willie, Waylon or Johnny, I'm going to take an ax to the dining room jukebox.
As for my silly neckerchief, it did have a practical use, protecting my lungs from the choking trail dust.
Driving away from the Greenhorn Guest Ranch I realized I would never have to hear a wrangler call me "Mister M" again. But topping off the weekend was the big hug and squeeze I received from my daughter. "You're all right, Dad!" she said.
Ah. To be a father in these modern times. Who needs computer games? Just give me my Gucci spurs, anytime.
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For more information: Greenhorn Guest Ranch, P.O. Box 11, Spring Garden, Calif. 95971; (916) 283-0930.
We checked in after breakfast Saturday and checked out before dinner Monday, spending two nights there but riding for three days. All meals included. Bar bill extra. Our rate was $87.08 a night per adult, $68.75 for my daughter per night.
Spring Garden is about 65 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe.