Once Upon a Dude Ranch By The Rising Authors of North Oaks Middle School “Hey kids, you’re never going to believe it; I just won an all expense paid vacation for four to a dude ranch. For a week, we get to live like cowboys. Doesn’t that sound like fun? The only catch is we have to leave in the next two weeks.” Dad said, “I’m sorry, Marlene, but there is no way I can get off. I’m right in the middle of a big project. Why don’t you let one of the kids invite someone to take my place?” “Can I invite Eugene?” asked fifteen-year-old Tristan. “He’s always good for a laugh,” he added as he sanitized his hands for the third time and slid the container back in his pocket after checking that the lid was closed twice. “That’s not fair,” whined Leven, Tristan’s thirteen- year-old sister who was the queen of complaining. “Why can’t I be the one to bring a friend?” “It’s a trip for four and that’s all we can take,” Mom explained. “It would be nice to have another boy along since your dad can’t go. You never know what might happen.” The next week and a half went by quickly as everyone packed all their necessities: plenty of hand sanitizers, soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Eugene arrived with his shorts pulled up so high it looked like he had given himself a wedgie. Laughing Tristan said, “I see you got some cowboy boots. Nice look, nitwit.” “Yeah, I thought I’d get my cowboy on.” “Those boots don’t really go with your golf shirt and shorts that are pulled up to your armpits, you know,” said Leven. “You look more like a rodeo clown than a cowboy.” Nobody knows the pain and embarrassment I go through living with Tristan and now I have to live with Eugene too for a week. This is going to be pure torture, she thought. “No, I’m just trying to cowboy up!” returned Eugene good naturedly. That girl just doesn’t know fashion when she sees it, thought Eugene. I hope she brought some boots because she’s going to need them you know. She looks like a total doofus in her skinny jeans but I’m too polite to say it. “You know what they say,” said Tristan. “Wearing boots doesn’t make a person a cowboy any more than putting a boot in the oven makes it a biscuit.” “Hey, I’m excited about this cowboy thing. I think it’s gonna be fun,” returned Eugene “Well I’m glad someone is excited,” said Mom. They loaded up and were on their way. Before they had been driven an hour, she said she needed to stop for gas. Eugene said, “Dude Tristan, did your mom just say she had gas?” “No,” said Tristan as he rolled his eyes and laughed. “Good because I do. Hope we can stop soon. Remind me not to eat three burritos and gulp down a two-litter drink right before going on a road trip next time,” said Eugene as he happily got out of the car. Tristan went in the gas station with him and while they were inside Leven poured some syrup inside Tristan’s sanitizer bottle which was sitting in the drink holder. She sat back and waited. Sure enough shortly after Mom was on her way, he opened it and poured syrup all over his hands. “Mrs. Townsend, you need to drive like you just robbed a bank to get somewhere so Tristan can wash his hands,” said Eugene. For about thirty minutes Tristan, had to sit with syrup on his hands but finally they arrived at Wildcat Ranch. Two large rustic poles held up a sign that said, “Ride like a wildcat or get blown away.” When they pulled up to the main ranch house they were greeted by a man with a reddish white beard, and a tan cowboy hat. “Welcome partners, I’m Mr. Jim, the owner of this dude ranch. I’m glad you made it.” “Can you show me where I can get this sticky mess off my hands,” demanded Tristan. That boy’s may not make a full week. He seems so slow I bet he can’t even catch a cold, thought Mr. Jim. After showing Tristan a faucet he said, “I imagine you’d like to wet your whistle after you put your gear in your bunk so come on down to the mess hall. We’ll be serving lunch and then we have a trail ride planned for you.” Inside their cabin, the accommodations were rustic and sparse. There were two king beds made out of logs covered with a star patchwork quilt, and two brown leather chairs. A mounted longhorn was placed in between the beds and a little cross stitched frame was under it which said: May your stomach never grumble. May your heart never ache. May your horse never stumble. May your cinch never break. Out front was a hitching post that looked like it was right out of an old west movie. Not far away was the mess hall. The four walked in and they looked like the entertainment from Comedy Central as Eugene tugged on his elastic waistband shorts and tried to walk without wobbling in his new cowboy boots. Tristan had put on plastic lunch-lady gloves to protect himself from any germs. Leven looked like her purple skinny jeans had been painted on and Marlene was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange biker shorts. “You need to try one of our cowboy bender sandwiches,” said Mr. Jim. “What’s that?” asked Mom. “It’s a grilled sausage cut in half, put on a bun and bent over. It’s so tasty it’ll burn the soles off your cowboy boots. Or might I say, your flip flops.” “Good times,” said Eugene as he filled his plate the cowboy sandwich, ranch beans and potato salad. Everything tasted finger-licking good and in no time it was time to cowboy up and go on the group’s first horse ride. “Clay is going to be your guide for the day,” announced Mr. Jim. “He’ll take you to get acquainted with your horses and teach you a little about horse etiquette. You’ll keep the same horse all week and he’s going to give y’all some riding lessons.” Embarrassed and feeling tense, Leven was worried if she would be able get on with her tight jeans. Clay had to push her rear end to get her up. “I hope I won’t get too dirty,” she moaned as she heard her jeans rip in the back. She tried to hold her breath because she was feeling very uncomfortable after her big lunch. “Oh don’t worry. You will get dirty for sure, but a little dirt never hurt anybody. You’re on Little Bit. She’s a gentle horse. You’re going to love it, pretty lady,” said Clay as he smiled. “Riding a horse is like being given angel wings. You came here a tenderfoot but you’re gonna to leave a real cowgirl.” Leven couldn’t help but blush and she decided this cowboy thing might not be so bad after all as she looked into Clay’s sky blue eyes and saw his cute lop- sided smile. She almost forgot about the rip until Tristan pointed it out for everyone to see. Next Clay looked at Eugene and said, “Is this your brother?” “No, he’s my brother’s dorky friend. My brother is the one with the hand sanitizer and plastic gloves on. Sorry, you know you don’t get to choose your family,” she added apologetically. “I’m going to give you Gertrude to ride. You two look like you belong together. I know you’re going to need help getting on. Remember when you fall off just get back up; that is unless you fall in cactus, in which case, just scream and I’ll come get you,” said Clay. “Here’s some good advice, Eugene. Don’t squat with your spurs on.” “What did you say?” asked Eugene as he fell off his horse and dusted his seat off. “Oh nothing, I was just messing with you. Try again. I’ll give you a hand getting back on. Remember to hold on to your saddle horn instead of adjusting your glasses.” Finally Eugene was on feeling all proud that he was the only one in his group with boots on. “Surely you’re not going to wear plastic gloves while you ride?” asked Clay when he saw Tristan who was also wearing shorts and a floral shirt. “Actually I had planned to,” responded Tristan. “I have a thing about being clean,” he said as his right eye began twitching and he felt the urge to scratch all over. “If you’re worried about a little dirt, you might have chosen the wrong place to vacation because horses and dirt go together like pork and beans. You’ll like our horses. They change people’s lives and build self esteem. You’ll find people come and go but horses leave hoof prints of your heart,” said Clay. Next Mom got on without too much trouble and the foursome was off on the first horse ride.
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