One of our wonderful guests wrote an article in Natural Traveler about her stay at the Covered Wagon. A big thank you to Linda Allen for your kind words, and allowing me to share this wonderful article!
July 31st, 2013 by coveredwagonranch
April 11th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
It is with great sadness that I must report we lost a long time friend and worker for us last week. Odessa, our personal pack mule and then a Covered Wagon Ranch mule, passed away from old age last week. She did not suffer and she was able to cross over up on Raspberry Butte, munching her last bit of fresh green grass enjoying the beautiful countryside.
She was a great mule. Back in the late 1990’s, while I still owned and operated my home infusion business in Montana, I would run across a lot of hardship cases of people who became ill and required my services at home but had no health insurance. Such was the case of an old, retired hunting outfitter who didn’t have insurance nor the money to pay for his prescriptions. After some conversation, I learned he still had his mule string from his outfitting days. He asked if I would be willing to accept one of his mules as payment for our services. Well, I knew darn well that this wouldn’t cover the cost of his home I.V. treatments, but I said I would do that. I knew that J.T. loves to use mules for his pack animals as opposed to a horse, and we only had the one 14 hand small mule named “Shorty”. Always wanting to please my beloved partner, I told this man that I would take Odessa home in exchange for payment in full. So back to Bozeman we went.
When J.T. saw her, his jaw dropped. She wasn’t exactly the tall, dark mule he was looking for. She was short, sorrel in color, and her belly was so large it made a burn barrel look like a soda can. In fact, her description was the “short, squatty mule”. How was she ever going to pack his gear and be able to walk down a trail? What did I know? To quote a common phrase I use: “Hey, I’m just girl from Joi-see”.
The first time he took her hunting with him was a real treat. J.T. was very proud of the fact that he just shot a beautiful six point bull elk (in fact, it’s the mount that’s hanging in the lodge to this day) and he needed to pack out the horns back to the trailhead. Well, she didn’t want any part of this. No matter how hard he tried, he could not mount those horns on her back. He stepped back. Thought a minute. Then remembered he heard somewhere that maybe he could blindfold her and she would take the cargo. So he took one of his camo t-shirts (quite frankly, I think the smell of this piece of clothing was far worse than any elk carcass) and blindfolded her. Voila!
Not only was her belly bigger than a barrel, but she loved to talk as she carried her load down the trail. She knew the exact size of her cargo on either side and could maneuver herself through trees and brush, no matter where she went. She was amazing.
Odessa served us well, and continued to do so once she started her job at the Covered Wagon Ranch. Many a pack trip took her up into camp.
She had a great life and was well cared for. She will be sorely missed.
In honor of Odessa, as with all our outstanding herd when they cross to the other side, “this one’s for you Odessa”
“Ode To Max” (a poem found in the Big Timber Pioneer one day)
“It was the best two hundred dollars I ever spent, Brett said-
On the day we found out that at the trail head Max lay dead.
This two hundred dollar horse had definitely earned his keep
We all prayed to God that he passed on while in blissful sleep.
No purebred Quarter Horse, thoroughbred, nor paint was he
He was of mixed blood with no fancy papers nor pedigree.
He had never dragged a calf to a branding fire nor ran on a track.
But many a precious load he had hauled into the wild and back.
He was honest and kind and never even shied that I ever saw.
The greenest rider or the smallest child would be Max’s draw.
He hauled guests for a living up and down the wilderness trail.
He never moved a muscle when a client fainted over his tail.
He endured being bridled and cinched by well-intentioned rookies
Who offered him a reward of carrots, apples, and Oreo cookies.
Hauling overweight off balanced clients could drive a horse insane.
But even if Max could have spoken, he would never complain.
He hauled dudes and dudettes of every shape and size.
And they all fell in love with his thick mane and brown eyes.
He crossed many hills, mountains, and streams.
Helped fulfill lots of hunter’s elk shooting dreams.
It’s hard to find a horse as honest as Max.
All the rider did was sit up there and relax.
So here’s to Max and the great dude horses who have gone before…
The trusty steeds who went to pasture but live in our hearts evermore.”
Thank you Odessa,
March 29th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
Okay, so I have to admit that ever since the fox story I’ve had writer’s block, and I’m not even a writer! I just love that story and it’s so touching. How do you write something after that? So I thought I would take a different track and go to something different. Hopefully, something funny.
I realize that owning the ranch has definitely given me some amazing situations and tons of material to write about. The people I meet and get to know are fabulous. Every one of them gives me a gift of some sort, as long as I take the time to listen. There are some truly amazing people out there with hearts of gold and bigger than the universe. I’m blessed.
Then I get these experiences that I just have to laugh about. Before I start, I must give a little background on myself. Although a health care professional by training, I picked a profession that minimized patient contact but still allowed me to help-pharmacy. So when it comes to things like nausea and vomiting, it’s pretty low on my list of things I can tolerate. It even started for me way back in grade school. I distinctly remember sitting at my desk in First Grade when Roger P. just finished his lunch, drank his milk, then politely threw up on my back. Nice. I was also blessed with a terrible gag reflex. The doctors don’t take my word for it, and when they want to look at my sore throat with a wooden stick, they don’t get very far. It’s a terrible affliction.
So now that you know this about me, you’ll understand my stress when one of our guests asked me to take her to Bozeman one Sunday morning because she thought she had come down with a stomach bug and really needed to get to town to see a doctor. Great. Was there really nobody else in the lodge who could make this trip? I searched the ranch high and low but there was nobody to be found that could take my place. She knew I was taking another guest back to town for an airport run so asked if she could come along. Of course I always wanted to help her, it was just the fact that I didn’t know how I was going to get through the hour long drive back to town. She said she had been ill all night and couldn’t keep anything in her stomach and would I mind??? 🙂
So in the car we go. She sat in the back seat with a trash can and a box of kleenex as we proceeded up the canyon. Little did I know that our other guest, Tara, suffered from the same affliction as I did when it came to nausea. So there we were. I watched her in the back seat as every ten minutes or so she proceeded to get sick. At times I had to pull over and ask her to stay outside for a minute or two to see if the fresh air would help. I thought this journey would never end.
Tara and I tried to divert the situation. The radio was as loud as I could possibly tolerate it. Tara and I nervously chatted with each other as we tried to avoid the noises coming from the back seat. Our skin color changed from a rosy pink from the cold weather to a pale gray for each mile we drove up the canyon. Eyes twitched and darted from nervousness, wondering if we were going to be able to make the trip. Sweat beads started to form on my brow and I felt that my time was dwindling as to how far I could actually make it. Knuckles were white and firmly gripped around the steering wheel. My posture was completely erect and forward so I wouldn’t even touch the back of my seat. My mother would have been proud, but she would have still told me that I should do something with those bangs and get the hair out of my face. Some things just never change.
As we entered the mouth of the canyon, I knew that I could finally step on the gas and go faster and faster to town. I prayed the highway patrol was enjoying coffee and doughnuts somewhere and allow me to move at mock speed to the hospital. Our guest was holding her own in the back seat, but I feared I might add the element of motion sickness if I traveled any faster-and this I did not need.
We rounded the corner and sped to the hospital (she didn’t need a hospital but it was Sunday and the ER was her only option). I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I must be honest. I generally consider myself a very caring individual, but given the situation I had to do what was in the best interest of all parties involved, and that included myself. I pulled up to the ER doors, proceeded to a rolling stop, and asked her if she wouldn’t mind that I don’t go in with her. I dropped her off in the parking lot. I can’t remember if I actually stopped, but I know she got out of the car. I know. Pretty cruel, but we made it.
Tara and I looked at each other and heaved a sigh of relief as we sped out of that parking lot as quickly as possible. Our guest was fine. Just a little dehydrated. They medicated her to stop the nausea and she was fine by that evening. Tara safely made her flight and never contacted us again. I didn’t charge her for the transport. And for myself, you won’t be seeing me do an airport run again 🙂
March 9th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
This is an amazing story and one that you may or may not believe-but it’s true. The business of dude ranching is so much more than horses and ranching and wildlife and spectacular country. It’s really the business of people-but only if you take the time to watch, sit and listen….and believe.
This family (unnamed) visited the ranch about 3 years ago. A family of four: mom, dad, daughter and son. They came to ride and they specifically came to book a pack trip in the back country in our wilderness camps. It was August. We were long into our season and starting to get tired. And we were busy. If the truth be known, the wranglers were really struggling to make the trip. These pack trips are a lot of work for the crew and the ranch. Packing mules, preparing meals, being away for 3 days, etc. It’s a wonderful experience for the guests, as well as the crew, but it’s the preparation that’s overwhelming before it even starts.
This family was insistent on taking this trip and we just couldn’t even figure out why-but it was extremely important that they go on this trip. So off they go-3 wranglers, 4 mules and the family of four. Gone for 3 days. On the third day out and back to the ranch, they ride over a 10,000 foot mountain, with 360 degrees of spectacular views. you’re literally on top of the world. Once they reach this point, they soon return into radio contact with the ranch. We always anxiously await their call to make sure everything went okay.
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March 1st, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
The day has finally arrived when Olivia turned six and she gets to go out on her own. Now she can ride with Mom, Dad and sister Madeline and not have to stay behind. I’ve never seen a happier child! Here she is on her horse, “Captain Safety” getting ready for her first ride at the trail head. It’s a big day for the whole family.
I’m proud to say that Olivia did extremely well that week they were here. She went on every ride that her family did, including half day rides as well as full day rides! She finally got to experience the spectacular country that one can only see on horseback. Our rides take us throughout the Gallatin National Forest, the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, and Yellowstone National Park.
There were times she was pretty tuckered out, but she held her own with the best of them. Here at the Covered Wagon Ranch, our horseback riding is our niche. We’re a small guest ranch, with only ten historic log cabins and a maximum capacity limited to only 24 guests. We keep our riding groups small and according to ability. At the very most, we have five guests to a wrangler and the guests get to participate in where and how long they want to ride each day. With over a million acres of forest and Park to ride through, our guests never get bored. If anything, it keeps them coming back for more!
And here’s the exciting conclusion. Mia and John’s story will continue. They are now expecting another baby!! We’ll get to experience this whole cycle all over again. That’s dude ranching!
February 24th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
So let’s continue our story about Mia, John, Madeline and Olivia at the ranch. Olivia was still too young to do much more than stay with Mom and Dad. They had to take turns going on rides since you have to be six to ride out on the trails. Here, John is hiking her up to Benson’s Point while Mia and Madeline are riding. The youngsters still get to enjoy the horses and are ponied around the ranch.
As she “grew up” on the ranch each year that the family visited, she loved being around the horses, which is pretty common for the kids at our ranch. They feel like the horse is their own and spend time petting them and grooming them. The older she gets the more she realizes she wants to be a real cowgirl. Here’s a picture of Olivia as “Cowgirl Fashionista”. Next week, “Olivia Gets To Ride”!
February 14th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
The Dude Rancher’s Association is a wonderful organization that preserves this special way of life and the wonderful environment in which dude ranching takes place. “Horses, Hats, Hospitality, Heritage, Honesty and Heart” are the core principles of dude ranching. Here at the Covered Wagon Ranch we have the honor of following a family that has been visiting our ranch for several generations, and here is their story…..
Well before our (JT and Debi’s) time, this family from Minnesota has been coming to the ranch. I don’t know how many years in total that Judith and Ken have been visiting us, but I know it goes back there! I can always rely on Judith to tell me a story or two about the ranch from way back when. I love those stories and it helps us continue to get a better understanding of the history of the ranch. As time went on, family members continued to add to the family vacation. Eventually, Mia, Madeline, John and Olivia all started showing up on this annual tradition. Our story will start pre-Olivia.More time passes and next thing you know, Olivia starts to enter the picture.
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February 7th, 2012 by Debi Naccarto
I mean, after all, it is the season of Valentine’s Day, isn’t it? And we don’t always have to talk about love between humans. Some of the deepest love we have is for our pets, and here at the Covered Wagon Ranch our guests get the pleasure of realizing that love with their horses. So I thought I would take a few minutes and write about How To Say “I Love You” to your horse.
To help me along, the February 2012 issue of Horse & Rider has an article on just this topic! On the very last page in the “You Said It” column, they interviewed several horse owners on how they express their affection for their favorite horse. Here are some of those quotes:
“I halter my horses and take them out of their pens to graze in an open field. I bring along a curry comb so I can groom them and tell them what good boys they are” K.P. from Washington…..”I give my mare hugs, pats, scratches behind the ears, and kisses on the nose” L.D. from Ohio…”I give my gelding a carrot, cradle his head in my arms, and stroke his forehead while I tell him what a good boy he is-and how much I love him” D.L. from Colorado…”My horses get neck hugs and chest rubs” K.S. from Michigan….”During a trail ride, I provide a nice stop at the best clover patch in the field” W.C. from Kentucky, and my favorite: “I close my eyes and lean my forehead onto my horses’ necks and talk to them softly while I caress them. My horses hold their heads down and shut their eyes while I do that.” A.L. from Colorado. I think there’s nothing better in this world than the beautiful eyes of a horse, the smell of their hair on their neck, and the sound of leather from a saddle. That says it all.
And remember, it’s not all about us. Thanks to Lyn D. from England for this photo, but our horses love it too! Happy Valentine’s Day from our wonderful herd of horses and for all the love you share with them at the ranch.
March 3rd, 2011 by Debi Naccarto
February 25th, 2011 by Debi Naccarto
“Teddy Rides A Moose” is an actual photograph (not “photo-shopped”) from an old Life Magazine. My nephew Daniel just sent this photo along. One of his classmates at Princeton was doing some research on Roosevelt and came across this very cool picture. The description below the photograph states: “Roosevelt once said, “the conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our natural life” (Photo credit: Bettman/CORBIS) in 1906. I really hope that riding a moose is not an example of the proper use of our natural resources!!
President Roosevelt was an avid outdoors-man and conservationist and one of the leading forces in promoting the United States National Park Services. He was a particular fan of Yellowstone National Park and did a great deal to promote the enhancement, protection and use of the Park.
In 1906, Roosevelt signed the Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, giving the president the power to officially declare natural and historic sites situated on government land as national monuments.
“It is a pleasure now to say a few words to you at the laying of the corner stone of the beautiful arch which is to mark the entrance to this park. Yellowstone National Park is something absolutely unique in the world so far as I know. Nowhere else in any civilized country is there to be found such a tract of veritable wonderland made accessible to all visitors” . With these few words, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the arch that now bears his name, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Gardiner, MT on April 24, 1903.
As many of you know, our dude ranch is just 3 miles from the NW boundary of Yellowstone National Park and 35 miles to the West Entrance where you can tour Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We are proud of our Concessionaire’s Permit that enables us to take our guests horseback riding in Yellowstone as well.
February 16th, 2011 by Debi Naccarto
Do you ever wonder what the horse is thinking when s/he encounters the wildlife out on a ride? It never ceases to amaze me. How come I get spooked but they just do the old “ho hum” deal and move on? I must admit, I’m grateful that this is the response I get!
Our guests love to see the animals when they go out on a ride. Sometimes we chuckle and tell them we’re going to ride where we “set the stage to see the animals” . It’s a real treat to see an elk, a moose, a deer, a wolf, and especially a bear when out on a ride. June is the best month to try and catch sight of one in the wild. As the weather gets warmer, the animals head for higher ground and can only be spotted in the very early morning or late at night. September is also “optimal wildlife viewing time” as well.
Moose are really tough to spot and pretty much keep to themselves. They usually have their calves in June as well. We typically have a “resident moose” at the ranch and mom and her baby can be seen around the ranch if you’re lucky.
And last, but not least, everyone is always on the hunt for the Grizzly Bear! This past year we had guests who had never seen a bear on their rides, and have been coming to the dude ranch in Montana for years. Well, Boone took them out on a fantastic ride and they saw seven bears in one day!!
Every day is a different experience and so is every month. But I can tell you this-it’s always exciting for both guest as well as wrangler! And even though the horses are pretty much cool, calm and collected, I know they are always happy to head back to the dude ranch for a bite to eat!
January 27th, 2011 by Debi Naccarto
TOP TEN MONTANA DUDE HORSES FOR THE YEAR 2010
The Covered Wagon Ranch is pleased to announce our Top Ten Dude Horses for this past season. We are really proud of our entire herd, and each horse contributes in some way to the overall success of our operation; but these are the stars of the show. The Top Ten are as follows:
10. COLONEL – Colonel is a big, black gelding who handles many of our larger riders with confidence and ease. This year he provided 38 guest rides, and two wrangler rides for a total of 40 out of the possible 96 riding days.
9. BUSTER – Buster is a smaller, sorrel gelding with a fair amount of age on him.
Very gently and friendly, he is pretty darn solid in the mountains, even with his very
crooked from leg. Riders who can keep him from enjoying the green grass (at his
convenience) really like his stable personality. He had 39 guest rides, 1 wrangler
ride, and 2 crew rides for a total of 42.
8. EMERSON – Emerson is our Tennessee Walker who is very comfortable for our
guests riding pleasure. He is noted for his high socks on each leg. He came to
us about 4 years ago from Kentucky, and has taken to mountain life quite well.
We have never worried about Emerson missing a meal, he seems to always maintain
a rather rotund figure. Emerson provided 40 guest rides and 3 wrangler rides for a
total of 43.
7. TRIGGER – Trigger is a good sized, and handsome palomino gelding. A favorite of
many guests, he has always been a very dependable mountain horse with a very
steady mind. He and his good buddy Chisum are always reluctant to go to pasture
on Saturdays, and are often seen being pursued (and probably cursed) by a couple
of wranglers way behind the rest of the herd. He gave 43 guest rides and 3 wrangler
6. RENO – Reno is a handsome sorrel ranch raised gelding. He came to us from
Georgia, and has become a really nice mountain horse. A couple of years ago he
quickly became a wrangler favorite, and the past two years has performed quite
well as a guest horse. Reno provided 44 guest rides and 2 wrangler rides for a
total of 46.
5. PROXIMO – Proximo is a very tall (well over 16 hands) palomino appaloosa
gelding. He had suffered a very serious leg wound two years ago, and was used
sparingly in 2009. This year one of our wranglers took him under his wing, and
used him for leading guest rides as well as wrangling horses to and from pasture.
He provided 48 wrangler rides out of 96 possible.
4. SIXGUN – Sixgun is a beautiful blood red bay gelding with a “zorro” star on his
forehead. A perennial favorite of the ranch, he has always performed at a high level
for our guests. He provided 49 guest rides, and one wrangler ride for a total of 50.
3. TUGBOAT – Tug is probably one of the best “kids” horses on the ranch. He is a
tall (upper 15 hands) and handsome bay gelding. Tug has a great mind, a very
kind eye, and is truly a gentle giant. He has been a Dude horse all of his life, and
does his job extremely well. Tug gave 49 guest rides, 1 wrangler ride, and a crew
ride for a total of 51.
2. PRIZM – Prizm is a tri-colored paint of medium size who had an exceptional year
for the ranch. He has always been unnoticed in the past, and seems to just do his
job without fanfare. He finally got recognized for the solid horse that he is, and
quickly became a favorite of all of those who had the opportunity to ride him.
He provided 44 guest rides, 7 wrangler rides, and 1 crew ride for a total of 52.
And finally, drum roll please…………. The number 1 horse at the Covered Wagon Ranch, for the third straight year is…………
DEUCE – Deuce is a very special horse on the ranch, and very quietly, confidently,
and reliably performs his job at the highest level. He is a ranch raised gelding who,
before coming to the ranch, had performed as a roping horse on a working cattle
ranch. Since coming to us, he has shown a great mind in the mountains, and can
still “get after it” if called upon to do so. He is an extraordinary Dude Horse, and we
are really proud of the excellent service that he provides our guests each summer.
Deuce provided 59 guest rides and 1 Wrangler ride for a total of 60 rides out of the
possible 96 days.
Congratulations to these great Montana Dude Horses for being the best of the best. If you have the pleasure to join us at the ranch, tip your hat to the hardest working employees at the ranch, for they are the true essence of the Dude Ranch experience.
December 26th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
It was love at first sight. When Cordy visited us from Switzerland this year (and Erna too!!) we were really excited to have visitors from this country, although they will tell you I kept saying they were from Sweden. At least both countries started with “Sw…”! They took full advantage of all the ranch had to offer, including a Backcountry Pack Trip right from our Montana Dude Ranch, and tons of horseback riding. It was a perfect Montana Dude Ranch Vacation including trips into Yellowstone National Park.
Cordy did not ride Annie (the mare, not the mule) for most of her stay. Towards the end she wanted to try a horse that was better suited for a more advanced rider. She (Cordy) is quite a cowgirl. She even has her own Western Store in Switzerland called “Western Store” (www.westernstore.ch). So the last few days of her trip she decided to ride Annie and just loved her. And Annie loved her as well!
Cordy heads back home. The ranch finished out its season. Then next thing you know I get an email from Cordy that she wants to buy Annie and send her back to Switzerland! I have never done anything like this before and basically didn’t think it was possible. I (unintentionally) put just about every obstacle I could think of in front of Cordy, but she is quite a goal oriented, determined woman. Much like Annie! She worked on all the details that were necessary to have her transported overseas. This was quite an exciting process for me to observe (I have to say observe and not participate. She did all the incredible legwork).
The time was drawing near. Her first attempt failed because Switzerland has a quota on how many horses they can ship into the country during the period of a year. They were full for 2010, so she had to wait until 2011. Then there’s the quarantine period, health checks, vaccinations, transporters, etc. that have to be arranged. But she charged forward and pulled this all together.
Once I could see this was really going to happen, we had Boone haul Annie back to Bozeman to go through her health checks and vaccinations.
She was pretty furry this time of year, as Montana has had some pretty cold weather for extended periods of time. The next difficult step was coordinating all her health requirements and getting the vet out here. Sometimes he’s just pretty busy and hard to find. You never know where he is!
It was all coming together pretty quickly now. Brand inspections, health certificates, vaccinations, etc were all being put together (might I add that JT was in Eastern Montana goose hunting during this time period??) (did I also mention that it was sooo close to Christmas??).
So here is what Cordy had put together. First, there was a hauler from Twin Bridges, Montana that picked Annie up at my house. He actually had another horse in his trailer (an Arabian) that was going to Kuwait! He was driving them both to Utah.
From there, they were hauled to Oklahoma, to this amazing company called Nedpoint Quarter Horses (www.nedpoint.com). Here they quarantine the horses for thirty days, then transport them, via plane, to Amsterdam. From that point they are hauled to where-ever else they go. Nedpoint was really fun to work with. Watch their video!
So Annie was loaded up on the trailer and headed to Utah. Some pretty significant snow storms delayed the trip to Oklahoma, but in a few days she was on her way again. She is now stalled at Nedpoint, waiting for her trip to Amsterdam on January 21! Good luck Annie! What an adventure. And thank you, Cordy, for taking such good care of her. It’s a rare occasion that a Covered Wagon Ranch horse gets sold. But when you know it’s the best thing for both parties, you can’t stand in their way. I’ll keep you posted when we hear she made it safe and sound to Switzerland!
December 16th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
I don’t care how popular that country western song is. I don’t think JT’s tractor is sexy. In fact, I think it’s a clandestine vehicle with the sole intent to kill me-or at least blind me. I just can’t determine if it’s the tractor or my husband that’s out to get me.
The weather up at Raspberry Butte Ranch, where our horses winter pasture, has been some of the coldest, snowyest, windy weather I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been here in Montana.
I thought JT was crazy when a) he wanted to buy a tractor and b) he “needed” to get some expensive snow blowing attachment for the stupid thing. Well, after watching Boone (bless his heart) plow and plow and plow with this tiny little bobcat, I finally got it. I was glad he got it….until now.
JT, being the Good Samaritan he is, volunteered to plow out our neighbors road to their house. Then the call came-he was stuck and could I please drive the white pickup out to help pull him out of the ditch. I mean “really”?? I’m just a girl from New Jersey.
But being the faithful wife that I am, I don the carharts, boots, hat and gloves, and head to the scene of the crime. I’ll take the truck. He takes the tractor. Bad move. I can’t budge the truck to pull the thing out of the snow bank. Assuming this was a safe bet, we switch places. Second bad move.
We’re now back to back. I’ve been in a vehicle before that was being towed, and knew there was a quick “jerk” when the chain reaches its end. I’m ready to get this thing out of there, when all of a sudden “BOOM”. I’m hurled to the back of the tractor with lightening speed. Then “BOOM” I’m pushed back against the tractor again. What in Sam’s Hill was he doing??? So here I am, thrashing about the cab of this tractor like a fish in a bowl in an earthquake, and now I watch the tractor slowing tipping to its side. I’m doomed, I fear, as I fight for my life to drive the thing backwards and steer it out of the ditch. I mean, after all, I AM a woman driver.
How we got it out of there without me killing myself was nothing short of a small miracle. Once on the road, I crawled out of the cab and back to safe ground. My knees were shaking so hard I could hardly stand up. Thankfully, I threw a menancing “wifely” glance towards my husband, that only those married long enough would understand, and simply stated: “Don’t ever do that to me again.” And then I drove back to the house to regain my sense of balance.
Not fifteen minutes later, I get a second call. I’m stuck again. OMG. I frantically search the ranch for some other source of testosterone. Damn you Boone for taking time off and going to the NFR. I look to the geldings-no luck there. The only thing I can find to a living breathing male is a very hyperactive ten month old Golden Retriever that’s been neutered and a fifteen year old deaf, half blind, neutered, demented Jack Russell Terrier named Francois Pierre. Nope. No help here.
So it’s back in the truck, and once again I don’t have the where-with-all to pull the stupid thing out. But who’s the stupid one? It’s back to the tractor I go. But this time I have the sense to expect the earthquake-like tremors in the cab when the chain takes force. We slowly move out of the snow, as rocks keep throwing back to the cab windows. The truck spins out to pull us out. Next thing I know the windows blow out and the safety glass is thrown all over the cab. I thought I was going to lose my eyes. Fortunately, all was well, with the exception of the windows, and we were once again back out on the road.
I quietly got back in the truck, passed a “classic” glance to my husband, and drove off. I’m headed for Arizona, I say. And I definitely don’t think “his tractor’s sexy”!!
December 10th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
I decided it was time to get over my writers block. Besides, I’m here with the horses and it’s blowing like crazy outside, snowing, and the temperature is in the 20’s. So it’s time to start thinking about warmer weather and all the fun we have at the ranch. This is a photo story of one family’s journey here at the ranch.
First things first. Monday mornings the wranglers get up around 4:30 a.m. It’s true. They head out up the mountain and find the horses on our 2000 acre grazing pasture above the ranch. They wrangle them down the mountain and into the corrals to get ready for work. Hey, even the horses have a “Monday”.
They ride all day and search for wildlife. It could be moose, bear, deer, and in this case, elk. This bull is in velvet. It’s a protective coating enriched with nutrients to help his “rack” grow. By September, when the elk go into “rut” (their mating season), he’ll shed this coating and the antlers will be smooth and shiny.
The rides are endless and into some of the most spectacular country you will ever see. However, if you’re so inclined, you can also take a day off and head into Yellowstone National Park and enjoy the sights there as well. We’re only 3 miles from the N.W. boundary of the Park and a lot of our rides will take you there. This picture is Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.
But there’s a whole lot more to do, include fly fishing, white water rafting, hiking, biking, and just plain nothin’!
The end of the week we have a great cookout on Friday night, with roping and music and all kinds of great food. Then it’s more riding on Saturday. Only to end the day with our “infamous” wrangle, where the horses head back up the mountain to graze on fresh green grass and play “horse”. This particular shot is one of Boone running the horses across the water to head up the mountain. When the journey is done, the wranglers come home and rest on Sunday. Just to get ready for their next adventure on Monday morning!
September 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
I think I can get through this memorial without crying, but there are no guarantees. And you will probably feel the same after reading this. I guess it’s somewhat controversial as to whether or not I should post a sad story, or some of the dark side of owning and running a ranch, but I feel you should know all that goes on at a Montana Dude Ranch and the difficulties we sometimes face on a day to day basis. When you own 60 head of horses, it’s not always about the good times.
He was a beautiful horse. One bright day in March our vet, and friend, Dr. Shannon Moreaux, brought Apache to our home. His owner needed to find a good place for him and Shannon knew we would take care of him. My sister and her family were staying with us this week, and it was an exciting time. He was a beautiful horse. A black and white gaited paint. He held steady as you jumped on his back without a saddle. Soft and fuzzy from a winter coat. But most of all, big, beautiful black eyes that you could look into and see what a kind soul he was. I believe the best way to tell a good horse is by the look in his eye and the smell of his coat. I could breathe in that smell-almost hypnotizing and peaceful.
He did well at the ranch after some rough starts. He always seemed to cut his leg or get a hoof abscess and we had a hard time getting him to saddle and ride. But midway through the summer he was up and running and the guests loved him. He was too kind to give anyone a hard time under saddle. I think he was happy to have found a good home.
And then last Friday night JT and I were cleaning up after the cookout. It was dark. I was walking my dog and could hear some noise in the corrals. I yelled to JT to get a flashlight to see what was going on. Apache was down on the ground and obviously thrashing about for about an hour. The dreaded signs of colic-the number one killer in horses with little explanation as to why it happens. We got him up and about, gave him a pain killer and took his vitals, then called Shannon. It was 10 pm, but he is always there to answer my calls. Such a caring, dedicated man. An hour’s drive and he confirmed he was a surgical candidate-but a good one. This particular type of colic-a right dorsal displacement, carried the best odds of success in surgery. But there are never any guarantees. The question, he said, was whether or not we were willing to pay the $4000-$6000 necessary to perform the surgery. The decision was simple. Yes. Off he went to the OR and we went to bed. At 6 am the surgeon called and said things did not go well. His intestines turned and cut off his stomach-never to recover. It was the end of his life with no hope for success. It was over.
I love my horses. They are beautiful animals and we trust our lives on their backs. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they sense who we are, how we ride, and how we react when we ride. They’re not big clumsy animals with a small brain-quite the contrary. And oh, those eyes and that smell. Heavenly.
So this is the hard part of the job. And to share with you just how much we care for our horses. After all they give to us, I could only honor and respect the decisions we make to help them get through life. At least I know I did all I could. You will be missed Apache, and Buster and Scout, your two buddies, say goodbye. I see you heading up Cameron Draw to your new pasture. I know that Satin, my beloved mare I lost last year, will find you.
“Don’t cry for the horses, that life has set free
A million white horses, forever to be.
Don’t cry for the horses, Now in God’s hands,
As they dance and they prance to a heavenly band.
They were ours as a gift but never to keep,
As they close their eyes forever to sleep.
Their spirits unbound on silver wings they fly,
A million white horses against the blue sky.
Look up into heaven, you’ll see them above,
The horses we lost, the horses we loved.
Manes and tails flowing, they gallop through time.
They were never yours. They were never mine.
Don’t cry for the horses, they will be back someday.
When our time has come, they will show us the way.
Do you hear that soft nicker, close to your ear?
Don’t cry for the horses, love the ones that are here”
September 3rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
It’s not always about the horses! Fall is approaching Montana, although I wonder where the summer went? The leaves are starting to turn and it was 24 degrees this morning when we woke up! Brrrr. But the days are in the 70’s, perfect riding weather (okay. I said it wasn’t about the horses). As the weather cools down, the mice and chipmunks are getting ready for winter and we’re starting to find them hanging out at the Tack Barn-not desirable. Such is the case yesterday, when I narrowly escaped death. Now I have your attention……
We put out some glue traps in the Tack Barn to try and catch some mice. JT and I took a leisurely stroll down to the barn later that day, and much to my horror, we caught a chipmunk instead. I was mortified. He was still alive and just his little legs were caught in the glue. I told JT that I was going to try and save his life and pick him out of the trap. He told me I was crazy (as he usually does) and the thing would bite me. No way. Not that little creature. They’re so cute and run all around with their little tails up in the air. How could you not love them??
So I proceeded to pick up the trap (glove-less I might add) and took a hoof pick to work the feet out of the trap. I was thinking how much this little guy was going to appreciate me and what a saviour I was. And then… the little xo!!??? chirped a couple of times and wheeled his head around and bit me on the finger! O.M.G. Horror ran through my head. Tetanus? Rabies? Infections?? I might add the bite was two tiny pin points on my pinky finger and I actually had to squeeze the finger to produce one drop of blood. Doesn’t matter. The damage was done. Blood. Doom. Terror.
I rushed to the phone and called my trusted vet and friend, Dr. Shannon Moreaux, who is the Equine Professor at Montana State University. He is keenly aware of my neuroses and manages to always say the right (wrong) thing to evoke fear. Yes, he said, there is the potential that chipmunks carry rabies. Can I find the animal and take it to MSU Diagnostics to evaluate for rabies? Yes, as it was glued to the board in the trash can fighting for it’s life (with no concern that he now jeopardized mine).
Of course the next likely step was to jump on the Internet, as I was sure I was going to find some article, chat or blog that told me chipmunks were highly contagious animals and carried a high risk of rabies. No such investigation. Quite the opposite. For your knowledge from the trusted world wide web: foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats carry a high incidence of rabies. Chipmunks, squirrels, mice, etc carry a low incidence. Good to know. My heart rate slowed down a little, but not much.
Well, I pulled him from the trash (with his one visible eye looking up at me with an angry stare) and took him to the lab. I quickly aborted the thought that I would save his life since it was apparent he could care less about mine. I sheepishly explained the situation to Andy at the Diagnostics Lab. Yes, it’s true, I was trying to save a “wild” chipmunks life. He graciously accepted the now deceased chipmunk and told me he would have the results later today as they were working on “skulls” this morning and he would fit Alvin (my newly appointed name for the dead animal) into his schedule. Thank God, as I didn’t want to have to wait through Labor Day for the results. Now that would be laborious.
While waiting for the results, I called my next trusty confident and fear invoker-my cherished sister Rene’e. Nobody can better help me think of all angles of concerns than my sister. I love that in her. She asked me about my last tetanus shot. I said maybe five years ago, when we traveled to Belize and went snorkeling. A spiny urchin pricked my thumb which immediately turned black and blue. Sheer panic raced through my head as JT and I kayaked back to shore and took a twenty minute boat ride to San Pedro, where the only physician available for evaluation was a gynecologist. Soak the thumb in vinegar she said (a likely treatment plan for any OB/GYN physician) and let me give you a tetanus shot. Are we beginning to see a pattern here?
So back to the ranch. I then went to the Health Department who immediately whisked me into the office and gave me a tetanus (okay, maybe it was just because she had an opening. I took that as Divine Intervention that I needed this shot). Whew. Now I’m covered.
I’m sure the suspense is now killing you. Andy called this afternoon. The “wild” chipmunk is negative for rabies. I’m saved. Back to finishing the last sixteen days of the season 🙂 And yes, the chipmunks are running rampant around the barn. So be it.
August 31st, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
I’m going to cheat a little here and post a blog that was published on one our awesome Guests Personal Blog. I don’t think I could have said this any better. Thanks to John and Serena, I now have photos. 🙂 Enjoy:
Category: Weekly Thought
First of all, yes, there is a version of monopoly called “Horseopoly.” And no, you don’t need to rush out and buy it. Not only is it confusing, but the horses on the box look slightly demented and creepy. But when you are staying on a Dude Ranch in Montana and your 5-year-old son finds it in the game closet, you clearly need to play it.
What was surprising to me was that he somehow “wrangled” all the professional wranglers into playing it with him.
For those who don’t know what a wrangler is, let me explain–they are these fantastic people who spend their lives working outside and doing anything and everything that is needed for the horses. Which can consist of:
a) Feeding, cleaning, brushing, and exercising horses
b) Cleaning up their poop
c) Leading packs of people who say they have riding experience and really don’t on 3-hour riding trips in the mountains of Yellowstone
d) Tirelessly leading your 5-year-old around the ranch on “his” horse Joseph and insuring that Joseph wins the “horse race” (i.e. when the horses run up the mountain to take their Sunday pasture breaks) by personally riding and pushing him ahead of all the other horses that are probably 5 times younger AND faster than him
Needless to say, those wranglers clearly need a break on Saturday nights. And yet, they stuck around after our communal dinner to play Horseopoly with us. How did G accomplish this, I wonder? I like to think it is because he is a good kid that people just like to hang around because they are so unaccustomed to 5-year-old children who don’t whine, throw tantrums, wear silly clothes with Disney characters on them, or glue themselves to some horrid hand-held video game. Or maybe because John and I are SO funny, we were the only entertainment those hard-working wranglers needed that night.
In reality, it is probably just because they are such good sports and secretly knew that ending our trip with a rousing game of Horseopoly with the wranglers would be the cherry on top of the sundae for G and that it would make his trip complete.
Which it did.
So I thank you Boone, Erin, Chris, and Kirbee (who had to actually get up from the table and do her best galloping impression of a horse in order to not get sent to the “stable” or what us Monopoly players know as “jail) for making the last night of our stay memorable. I am positive it is not how you wanted to spend your night, but it is a night a little 5-year-old boy will remember forever.
And for those of you who have always dreamed of going to a Dude Ranch in Montana like I did, look no further:
We had the time of our lives and when I asked G if he would rather go back to (gulp) Disney World or come back to The Covered Wagon Ranch, he didn’t bat an eye and picked the ranch. So I guess one could say, “Go to The Covered Wagon Ranch! Children like it better than Disney World!”
Thank you Serena, John and of course, Grayson!! Hope to see you next year!
August 4th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
How would you like to be sitting around the campfire one evening and taking in this view with your dinner? Well, Brinie, Rob, JT, Kenny and Erin had the pleasure of a most incredible pack trip this summer. Brinie and Rob were celebrating their honeymoon (hope you guys don’t mind the P.R.!!) and had a most enchanting trip.
The trip started out at Red Canyon where the wildflowers were just spectacular. It was a long, but beautiful day. Camp was set up and the views were amazing.
Now this next picture isn’t quite in focus, but I think that’s because JT’s hands were shaking he was so excited! And he knew if he didn’t have a picture of this we would have never believed them! For some reason, about 200 head of elk decided to walk into the camping area and start to graze! They didn’t seem to be too bothered with the horses, the camp and the people. Now I wish I had been there!
They camped therefor two nights, and then headed out on Day 3 over Snowslide and Monument Mountain, a 10,000 ft mountain top where the views are spectacular. However, you need to know that there is one spot on this ride that is not for the faint of heart!
But the trip is worth it (or so they say. I, personally, have a fear of heights and haven’t had the gumption to get over Monument Mountain. And the computer wouldn’t even download the scariest part!! Now what does that tell you?
July 8th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
Thanks to Erin, super wrangler, our horse “Commanche” has found a new job at the ranch. Erin came strolling up to the Friday night BBQ a few weeks ago with Unicorn in hand. It was a big hit at the ranch.
Although Robby, Matt, Dan and Tracey have been to the ranch several times, they must admit they never saw a Unicorn here before. It was a magical night.
PS I’m politely ignoring the fact that I’ve been extremely delinquent in writing 🙂 We’re so busy this summer and having so much fun I hardly have time to write! I have so much to share: the Grizzlies that Steve and Sheila saw for the very first time, the Rodeo on Fourth of July, the amazing rides we’re getting in this summer, new trails: such as “Boones Wander”, and the list goes on. I promise to sit down on this computer and make time!
June 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
Look who decided to crash our dinner at the ranch! Right after dinner was finished, our guests went outside to enjoy the evening, only to find this yearling moose prancing right down the front of the lodge! We couldn’t have planned it any better.
Everybody just sat on the porch and enjoyed the show! Several days later, as we got ready for our cookout, a mama moose and her brand new baby were munching on leaves across the way! Wildlife activity has been great. Lots of elk, elk calves, some black bears and even some grizzlies with cubs!
The season has gotten off to a great start! Our Head Chef Tim and our Breakfast Cook Cami Jo have been expanding the waist size on our guests! Josh, a 10 year old grandson of Andy and Elizabeth from Georgia, has really been enjoying the food. When he got home he asked his mom why she didn’t serve him his biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, eggs, etc . His mom served him a pop tart and said “welcome home son”!!
We’ll keep you posted on ranch activities as the season goes on. So far, off to a great start!
May 23rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
Welcome to our Country!! Meet Anya and Zoriana, both joining us this summer as house staff. Their home country is the Ukraine and we’re very excited to have them become part of our Covered Wagon Family this year. It was a long journey to get here, traveling at least a good 24 hours. Only to find that they had a seven hour layover in Minneapolis! They finally arrived after midnight on Friday evening.
After a night’s stay at the Wingate in Bozeman (thanks Brandon!) I picked them up and drove them to the ranch in a snowstorm!! They were quite impressed. I promised them there were actually mountains all around us, even thought we couldn’t see them. They said the temperature was somewhere around 90 degrees in their country!
Anya (on the left), 22, has a degree in Art and is going to school for architecture. I’m sure J.T. will fill her in with all the joys of being an architect! And Zoriana (on the right), 19, is studying Economics. And I’ll be more than happy to share the joys of owning a business. They are part of an International Work Study Program and their English is quite good. Much better than my Ukranian, I must admit. I had to Google it to find out where it was. Geography is not one of my stronger suits!
During the ride to the ranch, I got to learn quite a bit about these two. They are lovely. This is the first time Anya has been to the States, and her dream is to draw horses and eventually get to Chicago and listen to some great jazz. Zoriana (which means “Star” in her language) actually worked in North Carolina last year in an ice cream shoppe. She calls herself the “ice queen”!! However, I asked her why she didn’t return there this year and she informed me that her boss died of a heart attack while she was there. I immediately told her I would not be her boss this year and turfed that responsibility on to somebody else at the ranch-and it wasn’t J.T.!!
During their tour of the ranch we stopped at the corrals and they got to pet the horses for the first time in their life. They were thrilled and a little intimidated. Rumor has it that Boone and Lee are taking them for their first horseback ride and lesson today! Zoriana also told me that she’s afraid of dogs. Now really, how could you be afraid of Doc??? We’re going to have to de-sensitive her while she is here.
We made our way back to the lodge and got them settled in to their crew quarters. It didn’t take long for them to get settled in to the American Cowgirl way of life. They are ready to start work! You will definitely enjoy meeting them this summer and we all look forward to learning more about where they live! Please welcome our two “Wild And Crazy Cowgirls”!!
May 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
“Roxie” came to us as a surprise one very cold January morning, with temperatures hovering around 40 below zero. Yes-you heard me right! Her Mom was “Honey”-a draft cross horse. We purchased Honey the summer before. We thought she looked kind of fat but Honey was a big horse to begin with. Needless to say, after the season was through, the horses were put back up on winter pasture at Raspberry Butte Ranch in Big Timber. Kurt had been traveling up to Raspberry Butte on a routine basis to check on the horses, when one day in January he called to tell us there was a foal in our pasture. Well, those of us who know Kurt know he’s a prankster at heart, so I didn’t take much credence to his call. Besides, we did not breed any horses that year, and horses are usually bred to foal out from May on, due to the cold weather. Finally, I realized this was no joke, and he trailered the mare and foal back to our house in Bozeman.
She was a wreck.
She was covered in bite marks all over her body. When you ran your hand across her body it was covered with scabs everywhere. Her ear was bit off and suffered from frostbite. And all four hooves were separated from the coronet bands. The vet thought maybe it was from frostbite or infection.
The horses and mules didn’t take very well to having a foal around. As wonderful as these animals are, they get very competitive when there’s a new kid in town. The cool thing about this experience is that the mules actually circled Honey and Roxie and protected them from the rest of the herd. Too bad they didn’t start that a little earlier.
Roxie had a long course of treatments and TLC back at Love Lane, and we’re proud to say that she is now 3 years old and doing great. She’s had some minimal training and riding and passed her lessons with flying colors. She has an incredible disposition and is one of the friendliest, most respectful horses I know. If you walk down the driveway, she’ll run up to the fence and walk alongside you like a puppy dog!!
Roxie will be joining the string this summer and work her way into the herd as a Montana dude horse for the ranch. I know she’ll be one of our best in a short period of time!
April 20th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
For those of you who know me and my horses, I can’t stand to see a horse laying flat out in the pasture. Many a time I’ve been known to run out there with my cell phone in hand and ready to press the button to call my vet, only to find that the horse stands up seconds before I get there! Well, thanks to Horse & Rider Magazine, I now have second thoughts before I run out there to disturb them! Here’s an article I read from the March 2010 Issue:
HORSES ‘N ZZZZZZ’s
“While we need about eight hours of sleep a night to be at our best, our equine counterparts sleep just three to four hours a day in short bits at a time. Plus, they spend most of that sleep time standing up. How do they do this? With an internal “stay apparatus” of tendons and ligaments that allows them to lock their front legs while relaxing one hind leg and rotating their hips, so they can snooze without keeling over.
But to get that quality REM sleep, horses must lie down-either stretched out flat on the ground or partially upright with their legs tucked underneath them. And, believe it or not, many researchers report that horses do, in fact, dream. In REM sleep, their eyes move rapidly back and forth, and sometimes they grunt, twitch their ears, and even move their feet. Makes you wonder what dreams those may be, doesn’t it?”
So, next time I see them laying flat out on the ground, I’ll think twice before I rush to wake them out of a deep sleep. RIGHT……….
April 3rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto
Well, typical Montana Easter and Spring Time in the Rockies. JT and I headed up to Raspberry Butte today to feed the horses. First we spot a Golden Eagle on a telephone pole, then we see two Sandhill Cranes along the drive, and as we turn the corner to head up to the ranch we spot this herd of deer.
We head up the hill and can see that these guys (and gals) are just about out of hay. We feed them about once every three days now, as the pasture has been grazed down. Next step is to get the bale off the truck.
Not such an easy task. The horses are hungry and need to stay clear while JT puts the chain around the 1500 lb bale of grass/alfalfa mix and I drive the truck forward!
Now we’re talking!! First bale rolled out. Second one will be easier now that everybody is being fed!
Now that the feed line is out there, everybody is jockeying for position:
Now McCrae is saying “am I missing something????”
Now everybody is happy!!
And of course, now that the feeding is done, the storm starts to lift. Soon it will be blue sky again! Happy Easter to everyone,
debi and jt