This story starts way back in 1960 when my parents decided to move from Massachusetts to California. They sold everything they owned and packed up the station wagon and a small trailer and headed west with 4 small kids in tow. Remember the times of no seat belts and laying down the seats? The small trailer was set up with our clothes, tent, camping stove and food supplies. We camped our way across the country, I don’t remember what time of year it was but remember that it was hot and on the front of the car hung a water bag for the radiator.
We landed at my grandparents home in Tujunga, Ca, where we stayed until we found a home our for family. My first day going to school I dressed in my best dress, red collar, with white top with buttons down the front and black plaid skirt. I loved that dress! Well, when I got to school I saw another girl wearing the same dress. Did we like each other at that moment? Not really, who wants to wear your best dress and someone else is wearing it as well. It didn’t take the two of us long to get over it and from that moment on we have been the best of friends. Our parents also became best friends, playing cards together, family camping trips, family dinners and just chilling together. With them being friends that really helped Barb and I get to see each other more.
We sadly moved an hour away to Upland, which was devastating to both of us. But we wrote letters almost everyday to each other. There were no phone calls as it was long distance and that cost money. Over the years we spent as many weekends as we could at each others homes. We were in each others weddings, we were there for the birth of our first babies, we went on camping trips with each others families. As time went on life seemed to get in the way, both of us moving farther away, working and raising our families, that we lost touch with each other.
I tried to find Barb thru phone books, I wrote letters to all the Barb W’s in all the books, I called as well, to no avail. Guy and I have a friend who was a detective try to find Barb for me but he was also unable to. This was before internet and cell phones or Facebook. Barb had changed her last name twice and moved out of Ca. to Az, I had also moved out of Ca. to Georgia and then to Alabama. When Facebook came into the picture Barb saw something about our son and sent him a message asking if we were his parents.
If not for Facebook we might not have been able to reconnect again. It was a wonderful phone call when Barb called me that first time. I think we talked for hours, it felt like we had never been apart as we picked up where we left off. We have gotten together since that call and try to see each other when we are in the area. We both have carried on the tradition of our families by continuing to camp, only now its not in tents but nice rigs with bathrooms.
We met Barb for lunch in Prescott as that’s the closest town for her to shop, we talked about mine and Guy’s plans for the next few weeks and not having anything solid planned, she asked us to come to the Cowboy Ranch. We, of course, looked at each other and said, yes. What a wonderful time it was being together for a week and the best part is that our guys like each other and also enjoyed a great week together.
The Cowboy Ranch is outside Kirkland, AZ on a dirt road about 10 miles from the main road. It was pretty dusty following Jim and Barb to the ranch. There was one area that we were pretty nervous about, which was the bridge. It says 14’ 3” high, 13’ 3” wide, 15 max tons. Barb had told us about a cut off around the bridge which would go thru a stream. She was not sure about either option.
The turn off was down a slight hill on a dirt road, we did not realize that was where Barb said to turn. So there was only one option left, the bridge. It was a tight left turn that we barely made. But we got over it. Before we left the ranch Guy went down to the turn off and chopped down a lot of the bushes that would scratch our rig as we had decided to take the turn off. Well the stream we would go thru had a dip that might have hung up the back of the trailer…so the bridge was it again.
This time we had another left turn and of course there were trees that Guy had not trimmed…yup, we got the new Arizona racing stripes. But we made it thru.
The ranch is about 300 acres, with horse stalls for up to 200 horses, cowboy camp housing, a cowboy bar with card tables, a race track for horse racing, and a corral for roping, bath houses, shooting range, 4 horseshoe pits, they even have an area for golf. Barb and Jim live in the main house that is fenced so that they can keep their dogs in when the horses are there. Behind the house is a fenced area where Barb raises her prized chickens and also has a garden for vegetables. Jim and Barb also have two horses out in the corral. Up on the hill behind the house Jim has his man shed with all the man tools he needs to take care of the Ranch. The ranch runs totally off grid..with well water and solar.
There are about 300 members that belong to the CowBoy Ranch, they pay an initiation fee to join, they may use the ranch when ever its available and bring friends as well. There is a Men’s only week once a year, about 200 men all in boots, hats, horses and guns show up. They all bring their horse trailers or camping rigs. The week is filled with lots of activities that they pay to play with lots of betting that goes along with these activities. Some of these activities include trail riding, horse racing, golfing, horseshoes, cards, and shooting and whatever else game they come up with. There is also a couples week once a year. A catering company comes up and spends the week preparing and serving all the meals, on trail rides there is a catering wagon that follows along with supplies and of course, adult beverages.
While we were there we followed Jim and Barb with our buggy and them in their jeep around the ranch and in the surrounding mountains. They told us that there were lots of animals, like bob cats, coyotes, elk, deer and rattle snakes and to watch out for LaciLou. Well, the only animals we did see were two squirrels, chickens and horses. Which I am really grateful that’s all we did see.
We took a ride into Kirkland to find a notary and stop at the only store in town, The Dollar Store. During the week we had been talking about the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire that had taken the lives of 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The memorial was not to far from Kirkland so off we went. The site is called Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park which was funded by the families, friends, elected officials, fire professionals and Az Public Service Foundation.
The 2.85 mile trail through Weaver Mountain leads to an observation deck. Along the trail about 600’ apart in rank and tool order, there are 19 granite plaques with photo and a story of each fallen Hotshot.
Down a .75 mile trail where the 19 made their last stand against the fire you will find 19 gabions, one for each Hotshot, they are united by chains representing their eternal bond. Inside there are 19 steel markers showing where each Hotshot was found. The photos were taken buy our friend Troy, who was a fire fighter in Alberta, Canada.
At the trail head there is a bronze statue that honors the Hotshots.
When we got back to town we stopped at the Yarnell Emporium.
What a fantastic and interesting place. It had everything you could want in the way of gifts or nic nacs. From clothes, to candles, lights, outside yard art, books, household furniture. We found some cool items that if we still had the lake house would have looked awesome at. It was a fun stop, one thing Guy did get was the book on the Yarnell fire.
We were headed to the community center to look for a couple of pots to make wind chimes for Barb, which we did find 2 and for the great price of .50, Barb found a shirt, I found 1 shirt and 1 jean jacket all for only $9.00! The community center has a lunch everyday from 11:30 – 12:30, it was enchiladas, beans, rice, salad and a drink for $5.00. It turned out to be a great lunch and the enchiladas were very good.
Barb belongs to a camping group of all women called, “Sisters on the Fly”, her number is 90, but there are numerous groups across the country, the group is now has up to 10,000 members. She had already made plans to attend a camping trip for the weekend. There were 50-60 women attending, it was going to be a crafting weekend. She has a truck and pulls her trailer, as she got to the campsite she ended up with a flat tire, then as she got home to her dirt road her spare had a flat as well.
Guy and I took our buggy out for a ride around the area and up on the top of the mountains. It was a super beautiful day and a super ride.
We really had no idea where we were or where we were headed but we knew approximately where the ranch was. Barb had told us about an old abandoned mine, when we found it we finally knew where we were.
The abandoned mine was left with the tractor and some of the machinery. Guess who decided to climb on the tractor and start playing with the controls.
While we were at the ranch a few of the cowboys came up for the weekend to go riding. LaciLou was ready to save me from the horses and went wild every time they rode by, she would also try to get into the coral with Barb and Jim’s horses.
It was a wonderful week hanging out at the CowBoy Ranch but it was made extra special by spending time with Jim and Barb. We can’t wait to go back and spend more time with them.