Other Girl Scouts: 300
Days of rain: 3
I survived our Girl Scout weekend at Rocking Horse Ranch (RHR)! I had thought, prepared, and stressed about this weekend for more than a year. There was the initial decision, all the paperwork, lots of money, and then worries about it all being successful. I take being a leader seriously and feel very responsible for the girls in my troop. Thankfully, most of the moms were there so I had lots of help keeping track of girls. See, because they are almost 12 (some of them are already), we let them have a lot of freedom with only occasional checking in, as long as they had a buddy with them at all times. And it worked. There was only one drama episode (that I know of) and one tiny injury (a scrape on a water slide.) This is success, indeed. Plus, they loved it.
I'm hard pressed to remember what happened when. So, I'll summarize.
- Horses: Of course, we were at the ranch to ride. Each troop had two separate trail rides, on Saturday and Sunday each. But first we had a stable tour, learning about feeding and riding regimens. It's not easy to take care and keep track of 114 horses, including one that was 55 years old! Sis had so much fun wandering the stables, sniffing her favorite horse smells. She really was in her happy place all weekend. And she rode five times! Girls could ride standby if there was space on a trail ride, and so she and a few friends hopped on three extra times. She rode Outlaw, Bravo, Brady, and then Lil' Red twice. One of the wranglers was especially encouraging to her, liking her spirit. See, the riding was "Western," which is a different saddle and a completely different way of steering the horse. Sis has been riding "English"--and was wearing her usual riding gear, including her own helmet, boots, and stable jacket--but when the wrangler asked if she would be posting (a part of English riding), she said, "No, I'm riding Western!" He was tickled. And he thought she was doing really well for her first Western rides. She rode intermediate everytime (she can't go from standstill to canter immediately and so couldn't ride advanced, though she tried.) None of them cared that it rained during a few of the rides; the rides are only cancelled if there is thunder. All of the girls, and most of the moms (minus me and another couple), rode at least twice, even with the rain. A few of the girls even got to see the horses sent out to pasture at the end of the riding day. They close the roads and parking lot and escort the untacked horses out in groups. We lined the drive and petted the horses as they went by. It really was a beautiful sight. Sis loved it and would have loved to just live in the stables. I enjoyed being out at the stables and even had a discussion with the blacksmith (Gommie, I could hear your voice in my conversation with him!), who gave me a few used horseshoes, which I gave to the girls who got up early for the Sunday ride. Sis is going to hang hers up. (Side note: the only unpleasant bit all weekend--even including the drama bit with two of our girls--was a dishonest and unfair GS leader who tried to save 15 spaces for her troop in front of our girls at that early-morning standby. I had pointed out to her that it was unfair, but she insisted and wouldn't give way. I'm not great at confrontation and so recruited two of my other moms who were much more aggressive, even yelling. The dishonest woman changed her story several times--first her troop was just waking up and getting changed, then they were on their way, then they had been there before everyone but just playing in the puddles and not standing in line; also, at first they were leaving at two (then her daughter said, "Mom, you said we were leaving at 6!") and then at noon and would miss their ride--one of my moms called her on her lies. The head wrangler basically promised all a spot--and the leader still had her girls physically cut mine off (they were bigger.) It really was quite appalling. She knew she was wrong, but people who know they are in the wrong often dig in much harder than anyone else. And they don't give in to reason or sympathy. One of the moms was surprised that, being an out lesbian, I wasn't better at conflict. I told her that perhaps that was why--I have never seen a person's mind change via a quick conversation in a heated moment, especially not with yelling or any risk of embarrassment on the line. It takes time and willingness and courage to change your mind. And it is relatively rare. Thankfully, all's well that ended well. And it was a good teachable moment for Sis.)
- Western theme: I should have guessed that a so-called "ranch" would be western-themed, but I was a little taken aback by all the wagon wheels and horse shoes, faux Indian items (tipis, really?), and cowboy stuff. Sure, in Texas, we go overboard sometimes with the cowboy-and-Indian stuff, but this was amazing. It was like the Buc-ee's rest stops, but more so! There was country music piped in 24/7, even custom pool dividers made to look like TNT barrels, a singing cowboy in spurs, and a caricatured cowboy/miner at a theme lunch. And, perhaps as a Texan, I was a little bothered by how it was all just window dressing. I wouldn't quite call it cultural appropriation, but there was something slightly problematic about it all for me, just a vague sense that it was all overdone. But then, in Texas, I think it's often overdone as well--I know we romanticize the Old West--and that's historically dishonest.
- Besides horses, the girls swam, went mountain tubing (down a giant slide), bungee jumping on a trampoline, shot rifles and bows, played on a merry-go-round in a playground, went on paddle boats, participated in pie eating contests and trivia contests, sang karaoke, saw a magic show, went to a dance party. It really was a wonderful array of activities. And if it hadn't been raining, there would have been more time on the lake; as it was, our campfire was canceled.
- And then there were SWAPS! I love swaps, which I believe I've said in the past. And I had happily organized our crafts for RHR--we had a lasso, a bandana, a campfire, and I even made clothespin horses for the girls in our troop. Most of them had never been to a swap meet before and so I helped get them started with the only phrase you need, "Do you want to swap?" Of course, Girl Scouts can't say no--"be a sister to every Girl Scout"--and so you trade. But I do advise taking a lanyard or zipper bag for the trades and a separate baggie to keep the ones you don't want to trade away. Otherwise, you can trade swaps you don't want to keep or have duplicates of back and forth. There were so many great ones--sleeping bags, owls, bows and arrows, archery targets, beaches-in-a-bag, pet rocks, pet clouds, tic-tac-toe games in a bag, pies on bottle caps, s'mores, etc etc etc. I will admit to becoming overzealous; I probably should have left it to the girls, but I had fun swapping, too. Sis didn't tell me to move along, she said, because she could see how much fun I was having. And I really was.
- Food. Yep, lots of food. Think Cracker Barrel or Golden Corral. Standard Americana fare. Better than average. Copious amounts. Lots of choice. But, the moms in my group just couldn't stop talking about food and eating. It was tiresome--"Oh, this is good. Isn't this good? Aren't you surprised at how good this is? I love salad, I could eat just salad. I would be full for a whole day on this salad. I could be full for a whole day on this meal. I only need one meal a day. I never eat this much. I'm only eating because it's here. We'll have to exercise all of this off. It's a good thing we don't always eat like this. I'm giving myself an eating vacation. Look, unlimited soda. I never drink soda. This is good soda. I'll just drink this soda now. I usually only drink water. I don't drink anything with sugar. I don't usually eat beef. I only eat beef occasionally. This is good beef and I just thought I'd treat myself. I can't eat any more. I'm still full from yesterday. I'll just have one more ice cream. I won't need to eat again." STOP. Mercy, American women often have such complicated and unhealthy relationships with food. We barely spoke of anything else while we ate. It was unpleasant. But the girls loved it. Sis had french fries, fried chicken, hamburgers, and lots of hot chocolate. I doubt she had a vegetable all weekend! And that's fine. It was a vacation.
- In the end, it was just a marvelous weekend. The girls and moms had a delightful time. And even though I'm not much into games or sports and I do tend to worry and be a stickler for rules, I had a great time, too.
I can't seem to embed the photos in the text.