Monday, July 20, 2020

Dudes, City Slickers, and Guest Ranches

My current work in progress is set on the Broken J Dude Ranch in Wyoming. This fictitious ranch is where my first series was born and has been given a new lease on life by a descendent of The Cattleman's Daughters.  I knew from book three of that original series that this would be the final outcome for the ranch and had a wonderful time recreating the old, run-down ranch into a Dude Ranch on the plains of Wyoming when Whispers in Wyoming was born.

Wild mare and foal, Roosevelt National Park
I don't know about you, but I have always thought it would a real adventure to visit a Dude Ranch, but where did they get their start?  Surprisingly enough, Dude Ranches actually started in the 1880s. Yep, all the way back there folks from the East were fascinated with ranch life. The first recorded Dude Ranch was established in the Badlands of North Dakota and caught the attention of Teddy Roosevelt when he read a published letter in the newspaper. Howard Eaton and his brothers established the Custer Trail Ranch and opened it up for friends and family to visit. Roosevelt was drawn to the ranch where he set about riding, hunting, and fishing.  (This ranch is now part of the Roosevelt National Park.)

Originally this ranch was funded only by its cattle production, but as more and more people visited to enjoy the adventure, the Eatons found it harder to provide that sought after cowboy hospitality. It was actually one of the visiting guests who suggested paying for room and board at the ranch and soon the high quality of guest care was up to ten dollars a week and soon this was their livelihood.

Trail ride with friends, Florida
The harsh winter of 1886 prompted other ranches in Montana and Wyoming to also try their hand at Dude Ranching. As Yellowstone National Park drew more visitors and the railroad continued to expand ranchers found that more people were interested in visiting a working cattle ranch. Soon these ranches partnered with the railroads as guest stops along the way, both benefiting from increased rail travel and visits.

In 1926 The Dude Rancher's Association was established. After  lengthy discussions, the association set forth these five objectives:
  1. Establish cooperation among ranchers and railroad officials
  2. Discuss the transportation and proper care of guests
  3. Create advertising and publicity for the association
  4. Standardize practices
  5. Create an efficient sales organization                       

 Soon they had added a sixth: "Having agreed to all five objectives, the ranchers added a sixth - the organized protection of fish and game."

 Modern-day Dude ranches still pride themselves on hospitality, fun activities, and the great outdoors experience. Although the modern era offers a wider range of activities, and even great comfort, the spirit of the Dude Ranch continues to be all about home on the range.

Coming Soon! 

The Cattleman's Daughters


1 comment:

Julie Lence said...

Interesting blog and great information. I have always wanted to go to a dude ranch. Maybe, one day.