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USA Radio
April 11, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Texas Guest Ranch

We start each day on the ranch about 7 a.m. when the seven wranglers (or cowboys) catch the 30 horses in the corral, tie them up, brush and groom them, then saddle them up for the day.

Then all the animals have breakfast. We have two miniature donkeys, 15 pygmy goats, geese and squirrels. They all get fed, even the squirrels.

Our human guests enjoy breakfast ‘til about 8:30 a.m., then we head out on the first trail ride. We’ve got 300 acres here at Silver Spur and we offer four rides, two before lunch and two after lunch. Sometimes we’ll offer a fifth ride, if guests are interested.

The best thing about being out here is the horseback riding. This is the Hill Country, so there’s not a lot of pastures – it’s up and down the hills on trails. The horses will break into a trot sometimes, but they are the gentlest horses I’ve ever been around.

When we get back at about 4 p.m., we load up the hay wagon and everyone goes out to see the longhorns. There’s some interesting history about the cattle – how the longhorns came to Texas – and guests are interested in that. Out here in the Hill Country, we sometimes see deer, wild pigs, turkeys, armadillos and even a porcupine every now and then.

Our guests have dinner about 6 p.m., followed by a campfire with s’mores and a lot of relaxing. The swimming pool stays busy in the summertime because it gets pretty hot around this part of the country. We’ve also got Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournaments, a pool table, and foosball and ping-pong for the kids. We even have dummy calves – you know, metal replicas of calves -- to show guests how to rope. And it’s nice just to sit around the campfire.

Many times, our guests who have watched TV or movies about Texas express surprise that, when they fly into Houston or San Antonio, they’re in big cities. But then they come out here and look around, this is what they expected. There are cowboys and longhorns and donkeys and goats. This is the Texas experience they expected. We get a lot of people from other countries who may be in the oil business in Houston. We see a lot of Europeans and people from Australia and New Zealand, people from Asia.

If our guests want, we’ll go into town. There are dancehalls and saloons where visitors can learn to Two-Step and go honky-tonkin’ – a real country music experience. In Bandera, they’ll see lots of horses saddled up and riding through town, tying up at hitching posts out front of the saloons. They’ll go in and have a couple of beers and get the feel of the place, then get back on their horses and ride to the next saloon.

 It’s so much fun out here. There’s no part of Texas like this: The Hill Country is addictive.

Jay Calkins

Jay Calkins is the ranch manager at Silver Spur Guest Ranch in Bandera, Texas. Prior to moving to the Texas countryside, Jay was a city dweller and businessman. He doesn’t miss it a bit.

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