Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Last Buck Ranch

This Easter was spent with my family at the Last Buck Ranch, an awesome hide-away in central California so named because my step-uncle, Lance, spent every last dollar he had to buy it nearly 2 decades ago. It was fantastic.

Kyle and I arrived at the ranch Saturday afternoon after spending a few hours with my Mom and my uncle, Danny, at my mom’s restaurant drinking beer, tasting local wine, and getting our fill of yummy pulled beef sandwiches. (Thanks Mom!!) When we got to the ranch, we dropped our stuff off in our room and I proceeded to give Kyle a tour of the amazing 4 bedroom house – chalk full of civil war memorabilia, antiques from the days of the wild west, and plenty of dead animals hung with pride on the walls. This place is a cowboy’s paradise set on rolling hills surrounded by acres of livestock and grape vineyards. Uncle Lance’s latest addition? An early 1900s (ish) Santa Fe Train Car – the Caboose to be specific – converted into a little guest house and decked out with all sorts of neat Santa Fe “stuff” that my uncle collected from e-bay and other various places over the years. My uncle, never the underachiever, even had tracks laid for the caboose to sit on and a train station built around the whole thing. It was impressive to say the least.

Between chatting with the fam and drinking wine, Kyle and I played horseshoes and, thanks to some creative score keeping, I totally won! Afterwards, we feasted on steak and chicken and pie and then everyone – my mom and step dad, Dallas, Uncle Danny (my mom’s brother), Uncle Lance and Aunt Nina, my step-cousins, Jessica and Keith, and the neighbors, Ruth and Roger, all gathered around a roaring fire to drink wine, talk, and laugh until way past our bedtimes.

The next morning, my sister and her boyfriend, Drew, arrived and we all sat down to a delicious Easter brunch – ham, quiche, fruit salad, and way too many chocolate Easter eggs. Stuffed to the brim, we decided we were in need of some physical activity. And what better way to burn calories that to shoot guns. No? We had an absolute blast (pun intended) shooting clay pigeons with shotguns and trying to hit a target with various pistols and hand guns. For the record, I am WAY better with a shotgun than I will ever be with a hand gun. I don’t think I could the broad side of a barn with a hand gun let alone a target, an animal, a bad guy trying to rob my house, or anything other than the ground 10 feet in front of me or the air 20 feet above whatever I’m aiming at.

After the guns, we played some bocce ball (and yes, the court was filled with real crushed oyster shells – no detail is overlooked at the Last Buck Ranch) and then took off on ATVs down to the barn where we saddled up 5 horses for a ride. Kyle, Caitlin, Drew, Jessica, and I rode for over an hour past cows and steers and row after row of wine grapes. At the top of one hill we could see for a zillion miles in all directions. It was absolutely breathtaking – definitely one of those moments that I will treasure forever.

A bit sunburned and parched we rode back to the house, gave the horses a quick bath, and then got cleaned up ourselves. We had packed just about all the fun we could have into one weekend and it was time to kiss the fam goodbye and head back to the real world. Kyle and I got home around 7 pm, tired yet refreshed and feeling truly blessed.

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