Family vacations were extremely popular during the era of my childhood. However, this didn’t mean spending a lot of money. Most households went camping for one or two weeks. In some ways, this time away from the normal daily life was harder. There wasn’t that comfortable bed to sleep in. Meals meant gathering firewood and sticking with menus that required grilling instead of baking. Still, it was a time once a year when the family was together 24/7 for a short time.
My family wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea of camping. We did it a few times but we couldn’t get really the hang to roughing it. To compensate, we would usually go visit one of the cousins who had a cattle ranch. It would take us approximately eight hours to get there and the cousin and his family were always glad to see us.
The vacations at our cousin’s ranch always occurred after my brother’s birthday in the first part of August. The reason for this was that these vacations were spent working. About the middle of August, there were added jobs that must be done before the weather turned cold. The alfalfa, oat, and wheat fields needed to be plowed. The cattle had to be brought down from the high pastures to the lower ones. A thorough cleaning of the barn needed to be attended to.
While my dad would be on a tractor in one of the fields, my brother and I would attend to the chores that are always done on a daily basis and help with cleaning the barn. My mother would be inside the large two-story house, helping our cousin’s wife do the housecleaning.
The herding of the cattle to the lower pastures was always the finale of our vacation. My mom, brother and I would ride to the high pastures of Horsefly Mountain in the jeep with our cousin and the fixings for the meal that would be cooked and eaten before the ride down again. My dad, our cousin’s wife, the owner of the one restaurant in the nearby town, and the two ranch hands would travel by horseback up the steep incline to the top.
The meal was always fabulous. After all, the person preparing it was the owner of the restaurant. Each person got his steak exactly the way he wanted it. The baked potatoes that had been precooked at the restaurant were reheated over the campfire.
The ride down was a little different from the ride we had going up the mountain. In the jeep, we didn’t stay on the crude gravel road. Instead, we were out there with the ones riding horseback keeping the herd going in the right direction.
I never was too fond of that ride down the mountain. I’m sure that the ones riding horseback weren’t getting as jostled as I was.