I am nervous about Black Mountain Ranch.

I admit it. I am nervous.

I have never been on a ranch before. I have absolutely never been on a Dude ranch before. When I was in 2nd grade, we moved from the city to the country, right next to a 5 acre ranchlet that would get 2 or 3 baby cows each summer. I told my dad I was amazed at the size of the dogs in our new neighborhood. They must have had a different ranch for the adult cows, because after the first summer, we wouldn’t see them anymore. I think the big cows must have picked on the little ones, so this was cow pre-school.

Horses are different. I know all about them. I’ve been watching the Preakness since I was little. I’m from Maryland, you know. Can’t wait to see the jockeys in their bright outfits. BTW, no matter how many times you type it, Preakness never looks right. Anyway, horses are second nature to me. Jousting is the state sport in Maryland (although Lacrosse is the state TEAM sport, which was a pretty brilliant move, too). They no longer joust by knocking opponents off of their flying ostrich, but by riding a horse and putting a stick through a tiny suspended ring. Whoever the marketing team was that sold that package must have gotten a HUGE bonus. Amazing.

I am still nervous. I’m not sure what will happen at this dude ranch. I’ve seen City Slickers, but will I really be able to hack it? I’d love to just get put in a field and chop wood all day. That would be fun. I’m a good wood chopper. My favorite weapon is a battle axe, and if they don’t mind me drawing little orcs on the ends off all the wood, I’ll be happy as a Level 34 forester.

We’re going to Black Mountain Ranch. (@blackmtnranch) It’s a family run ranch near Vail and Steamboat Springs. They say our trip includes “unlimited horseback riding, an overnight pack trip, a longhorn cattle drive, whitewater rafting, fly and spin fishing, rifle and trap shooting, a trip to a local rodeo and so much more.” Cowboys had the life, for sure. Watching cows is great for the first month or so, but after that, they get to do all that other stuff. I’m sort of hoping the “more” part is some sleep after all that and the wood chopping. I’d love to be able to bring all my friends from around the country, meet up for a cattle drive, and then go home with a baby cow as a pet. Just kidding! That sounds like a script from some goofy movie with Ray Romano riding a motorcycle or something. Does sound fun though. Not the cow as a pet part. Those things are MESSY.

When I was growing up, my dad had a huge garden next to where the ranchlet cows lived, and every morning towards the middle of summer, he would go to the garden, pull out some weeds or plants that had already fruited, and give them to the cows. By the end of the summer and into harvest season (also known as child slave labor season), he would have tons of stuff for those pudgy moos, and every morning as soon as the sun would start to peak out from the horizon, those cows would be mooing like crazy at the fence, waiting for Dad to bring them some treats. Tomatoes, Brussels sprouts stalks, corn, cabbage, peas, whatever we had too much of. We had too much of a lot of stuff. The first year, Dad planted 52 tomato plants. 52. Do you know how many tomatoes comes off one tomato plant? We had 52. There are only 5 people in my family, and at the time, only 3 of them liked tomatoes. Mom learned how to can that first year, and 12 years later when we moved, we still had tomatoes from that first year in our larder. Dad gave tomatoes to everyone we knew every day. People would hide from him to avoid having to take more tomatoes.

“Hey Bob! Want some tomatoes?”

“Um…thanks, Carroll. I’ve got enough for a while. That last batch was so um…robust.”

“That’s what’s so great about fresh garden tomatoes. Robust flavor. Does your wife can?”

After a few years he got a handle on the whole quantity thing, but we still had more than enough to keep the cows coming back day after day. By the time fall came around, Dad would walk out into the yard and moo, and they would come running like Disney puppies to a milk bowl, except over 1,000 lbs each with rough sticky tongues. It was like being the son of Dr. Moolittle. Other kids could brag about their dads, but my dad was the hero of the biggest animals in our world. You should have seen the way they swooned at him with their big brown eyes and inch long eyelashes. Pure love. Sure it was love of the food he gave them, but love is love, wherever you find it. He loved those cows, for sure.

Maybe I’ve got the blood of a cowboy in me, after all. Hopefully my dad will look down on me, take pity on my sorry city ass, and guide me through the John Wayne plains of doubt into the Jack Palance palace of wisdom. No matter what, I’m looking forward to this trip like no other. All the above has been about me, my dad, and those cows, but this trip will be about being with Aimee and our son. Our urban son with his Nintendo 3DS and iPhone apps. Us with our Apple umbilical cords. And cows.

If he ever looks at me like I looked at my dad, at least for one day, I’ll be able to say “I am a cowboy.”