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Saddling up for a Texas Hill Country trail drive

I probably write too much about the importance of getting away from the daily grind, but I believe it’s very important and I don’t think enough people do it. Many, if not most, of the happiest, most balanced people I know take time periodically to rest and refresh themselves. They re-evaluate priorities and use the time for personal introspection.

I took one of those breaks recently, and along with wife Debra, went on a most unusual and relaxing vacation. In late October we went on our long anticipated Texas trail drive. We donned our boots and hats and off to the Y O Ranch we went. This was no small undertaking since it’s 700 miles from Jackson to the ranch, which is not really close to anywhere, but lies in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country near Kerrville.

I had expected some really old horses and tame cows who had practiced this routine over and over and would know just what to do with little guidance from us. I was wrong. This was a real cattle drive with some horses that I suspect were retired rodeo bucking stock and authentic Texas longhorns, which had to be driven, or they would amble off on their own and we’d get in trouble with the trail boss. Finding a lost steer on a 44,000-acre ranch could take awhile.

And drive them we did. Drove them through the live oaks, around the cedar trees, down the ravines and up the roads. We traversed rocky trails where you had to give the horse free rein and just trust him to get you through. None of the horses stumbled but one rider did fall off when the saddle came loose. One of the wranglers was an EMT so we were prepared for little mishaps.

Why did we take such an unusual vacation? Frankly, I’m not sure why we chose to go on a trail drive. However we did thoroughly enjoy ourselves. No cell phones, TV, e-mail or convenience stores. Just us and the horses, steers, cowboys, rocks, dust and blue sky up above.

We met some really interesting folk on our adventure. A school teacher, a husband-and-wife geologist team, a 77-year old grandmother with 12-year old grandchild in tow and a physical therapist who came from New Jersey (though she was originally from Texas). It was natural and easy to bond with this group since we were all looking for the same escape from our day-to-day routine. The ranch has trail rides each May and October and some of the participants make the drive every year.

I couldn’t help thinking about how the ride gave us release from some control in our lives. Many of us struggle to control our schedules, our surroundings and the people around us. It’s nice to be dependent for a change and just trust your horse. If he falls down, you fall down. Life is really like that anyway but we like to fantasize that we’ve got things under control.

Real cowboys are cut from a different bolt of cloth. They don’t talk much but they’re always around to help out when needed. And they’re tough as leather. It’s pretty easy to tell the city slickers from the pros as soon as the riding begins.

We had breakfast by the campfire each morning before daylight. And, on Sunday morning, a cowboy delivered a brief, but very meaningful, sermon. We sat on bales of hay and watched shooting stars cross the heavens while drinking the strongest coffee I’ve ever tasted in my life — and I was in the Army. It’s hard to see shooting stars when you live amongst streetlights and city skylines. We weren’t distracted by either.

Will we do it again? Is there any doubt? In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we go every year that our old bodies can handle the strain. I’m still not sure what there is about it that would attract but we sure did hate to leave. And, isn’t that the mark of a real enjoyable vacation?

Thought for the Moment

Undertake something that is difficult: it will do you good. Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
— cleric Ronald E. Osborn

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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