The "Dude" Life
Rodeo Time, copyright
& Visitors Bureau
Bandera calls itself the "Cowboy Capital of the World." And for a good reason. It was once a staging area for cattle drives during the 19th century. When cattle raising fell on hard times in the 1930s, an enterprising rancher decided to take in "dudes" to help him through the Depression.
Today, there are 10 dude ranches in the area. Most are geared to beginner-level riders. And all specialize in introducing tenderfeet to the cowboy life -- without the saddle-sores.
While these Texas spreads are not working ranches in the true sense, they offer vacationers a taste of the "dude life": horses, campfire meals... maybe even a few cattle. But there are also swimming pools, supervised kid programs, tennis courts, good beds and professionally prepared meals. Rustic-style cabins sleep families with two or three kids. And some of the ranches don't have phones or computer hook-ups in the rooms.
A typical day begins with a hearty country breakfast, served family style, followed by a trip to the stables to pick out a horse for that morning's ride. After a picnic-style lunch, the kids can participate in the ranch's daily children's program of roping lessons, scavenger hunts, cap pistol shoot-outs, hayrides, or arts and crafts sessions.
At dinner, the family reunites for a third hearty meal followed by a campfire with marshmallows, where ranch hands tell stories and provide other entertainment.