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Summer In The Saddle

The last day, instead of trail rides in the afternoon, there's a family gymkhana. We all sit on hay bales, drinking lemonade and eating ice cream, while the cowboys show off in the ring, trying to catch and mount horses bareback. Then the rest of us, young and old, play games; one consists of maneuvering a steed around barrels, then dismounting to bob for apples, and continuing on horseback to the finish line. There's slow-motion pole bending (riding around poles), and rider relay-races. It's all very entertaining, and nostalgic, too—the ultimate apple-pie Americana fun. Sensing an opportunity to try a genuine horse, I mount Jazz to race Ellen around an obstacle course. We take off, with all the children and guests and wranglers cheering. "Keep your horses to a trot!" shouts Toby. For the first time in the week, I find myself pulling on the reins instead of kicking. It's startling. Meanwhile, Ellen is charging gleefully ahead.

The week's only disappointment comes that night, when Ellen and I break away for our two-girls-without-children evening on the town. We were excited to discover that of the 1,492 people in Dubois, about 1,200 are single men. I have single girlfriends across the globe. Now, I thought, I'll know where to send them. While the kids scream bloody murder at being abandoned with a baby-sitter, Ellen gets out her fancy portable DVD player—how foolish I was to laugh at her for bringing it along!—and pops in a Japanese movie called Catnapped! Immediately they become calm, and completely uninterested in us. We head out to the weekly square dance at the billiard hall.

The Rustic Pine is full of men, just full of them. But now I understand why the town has these last remaining 1,200 single heterosexual men. They all look like the cowboy in the Village People pop group, circa 1978. But that cowboy was in a lot better shape. The bar scene is an authentic glimpse of the Old West, one that I'm sure will be here next year (these guys aren't going anywhere) when I return, definitely with Tim and, maybe, a group of friends. I'm not going to ask for Jazz—I'm happy on a slow mount, thank you very much—but I will bring a crib sheet with the lyrics to "Don't Fence Me In" for the next singalong.

CM Ranch, Dubois, Wyo.; 800/455-0721 or 307/455-2331; www.cmranch.com; cabins $1,100 per adult, children $945, per week, meals and riding included.

Tama Janowitz's latest books are A Certain Age: A Novel (Doubleday/Anchor) and, for children, Hear That?(North-South/SeaStar Books).

Also: Eleven More Ranches to Know About

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