Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Buffalo Horn Ranch - V

Buffalo Horn Ranch Diaries

A New York Chef at Home on the "Range"

These letters were written to my friends in NYC in the Fall of 2000, when I worked as Head Chef at a hunting lodge in Meeker, Colorado.

Hey friends,

Hope you all had a mischievous Halloween! Since many of you have asked, I'll begin by telling you all about our Halloween adventure on the ranch: Last Saturday night, we all went to a shin-dig over at Sleepy Cat Ranch about 40 miles from here. Everyone had their costumes well in advance (except for me) because this party was a much-anticipated escape from the doldrums around here and folks were talking about it for weeks before hand.

But I just couldn't come up with a costume. I had found an alien mask that glows in the dark--very cool!--but I couldn't keep it on for more than 5 minutes 'cause I couldn't breathe. So on Friday afternoon, with only 45 minutes in town before I had to get back and make dinner, I was frantically searching the two possible stores in town for something, anything to wear. Finally in the thrift store I found a bag of bows and some green felt. "I'll be a Christmas tree!" So on Friday night, with a glue gun and some thread, I made my costume in about an hour. Quite proud of myself. It even had popcorn strung around and tinsel and a star on top of my pointy hat.

Chrissie was a cave girl, Luke and his girlfriend Faye (who came down from MT) went as Cowboys (gee...original...) Shane was a chef, Shiloh was a pirate and Jim and Gayle (the folks who run the ranch...more about them later) went as a preacher (Jim) and the Devil (Gayle). None of us could figure out why Gayle decided to go as herself.

An-y-way...things on the ranch have taken a "Lord-of-the-flies" turn. Not that things aren't still fun, but when you've got 12 people out in the middle of nowhere for months on end, and with burn-out setting in for most of us, things can get a bit dramatic to say the least. Actually we have a GREAT crew (even when on edge) and i know I've promised to describe them for you. Let me a nutshell:

Gene--a 45-year-old cowboy who looks like a 75-year-old string-bean. He's got the classic bow legs, probably a 20 inch waist and handlebar mustache. Gene has the greatest dog, Bear-Bear--a sheep dog that rides in the back of Gene's pick-up and bites at trucks that go by. When I went to the drive through bank in town with Gene one day, they put a dog bone instead of a lollipop in the tube for Bear-Bear. Gene is the sweetest person, and a hard worker, but unfortunately serves as Jim's doormat and is always complaining about “gettin' chewed-out.” He'd quit, but needs the insurance because of his Diabetes and stomach problems relating to rodeo accidents.

Luke & Tedi--they can be described together, because they're inseparable. He's about 23, manager of the Bird hunting on the ranch, and has a bad attitude. I don't think he's said more than 3 words to anybody except Tedi without being spoken to. I've been told that he used to be a lot of fun...back at the beginning of the season...before he burned out. But I haven't seen his good side. Tedi, the office manager, is his sidekick. The two of them make snyde remarks and talk unkindly about others behind their backs. She's been here 4 years and has to work directly with Jim and Gayle everyday in the office. I guess that explains her bitter attitude. But hey, can't we all just get along?

Shiloh and Shane--brothers from Texas. Shiloh is 21, the younger brother, but people always think he's older, 'cause he's always telling people what to do. He's been given the title of "Horse Manager" and is in charge of all the wranglers (who are ALL older than he is). He's quite cocky (as bull-riders are, according to Gene) and hasn't quite learned how to manage people. So he gets on the older guys nerves and kisses up to Jim (as the other guys say...if Jim stopped too quick, Shiloh'd go right up his ass...) but he's a good kid and the common phrase around here in regard to him is "he's young...he'll learn." Shane, the quiet older brother, just turned 25 and is quite a moody guy but very funny when he wants to be. He's great with impersonations and voices and has a great memory for movie lines. Back in Texas, he trains bucking-bulls. He told me that he was driving a car by the time he was in kindergarten with a 2x4 strapped to his foot. His dad made him drive down the ranch road to meet the school bus in the mornings.

Jake-- As I've mentioned before, Jake is full of stories from Nebraska. Jump-roping competitions, a game called "butt darts" (go figure), and how all card games end in fist fights. He's real tall and trustworthy and quiet...until he starts in on everything he's done and everything he knows. I'm pretty sure half of what he knows are tall tales, and sometimes he goes a little to far convincing you he knows something, when it's kinda clear that he doesn't...but a good guy overall. He's the only cowboy who doesn't eat bacon and eggs & coffee for breakfast...He's got his own box of Grapenuts back in the kitchen that he eats with yogurt. Must be why he has the whitest teeth any of us have ever seen.

I've told you a lot about Chrissie I think...she's our bubbly waitress from Georgia who at times drinks a little too much and believes stories about jackalopes and snow snakes. Some folks talk about her behind her back as being an airhead, but she's been a great friend to me...and she and I have had the only intellectually stimulating conversation I've found around here. And thank God for her energy. She keeps me going! Unfortunately Gayle picks on her quite a bit...but then, Gayle picks on everybody.

Jim & Gayle--Our Alcoholic Hosts. J&G start drinking Maker's Mark at around 9:30 am. Jim keeps mini Jack Daniels in his pick-up to add to his Coca Cola. In short, the perfect models of dysfunction. And these are the folks calling the shots around here. As you can imagine, with these types running the place, things are often confusing. You're told to do one thing in the morning, and then catching hell in the afternoon because you did it. I could go on and on, but in short, they don't have the respect of anyone around here...including the folks in town...and we've heard through the grapevine from the office of the owner (in Florida) that there are going to be some changes around here.

Jim asked me to dance at the Halloween party and when he found out that I had a full Bud Light in my hand, he took it from me and chucked it--full speed--over his head into the dancing crowd. LUCKILY it hit the wall above the door--and not a person. It could have killed someone! When I scolded him for almost killing someone he only replied "Well, I always have to act professional...but not tonight!" I have YET to see him be professional... Gayle is probably on pain killers in addition to alcohol. She broke her neck once in a rodeo accident. She's a space cadet with a superiority complex and is always finding fault or asking us to do something that has clearly already been done. She just likes to give orders. She doesn't check first to see if the thing has been done.

Well, enough about that. I was fortunate enough to get away from the characters here for a few days in Aspen. I rented a brand new SUV for $40/day...CD player and everything! They guys at the dealership just left the keys above the viser for me so I could pick it up after they closed. I didn't sign anything. They didn't even ask to see my driver's license!! Don't you just LOVE small towns? It's truly great to say hello to people you pass on the street and to be trusted, even as a complete stranger.

I hope you're all super-well! I've got a few slow days here before a mad dash for the finish--2 1/2 weeks of solid work! But that should be fun. We need some guests around here to stir things up a bit. Take care!

xoxox SB

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