I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, so all the new experiences my Dutch friends had when they visited me felt like just another average day to me.
Unfortunately, it has been a very dry summer, so there is very little grass -- and what is left is brown and brittle. I kept telling them, "Believe me, it often looks much more beautiful than this." But I don't think they heard me. They come from the Netherlands, where wide open spaces are filled with houses and people in Europe's most densely populated country. Out at the ranch, they could see for miles and miles, sometimes without even spotting a cow, let alone another person.
The first thing they wanted to do was shoot guns! They figured they'd never get a chance for that over there. So we hauled out a bucket and a handful of firearms: a 30.30, a .22, and a shotgun. They had a great time, and Bas put a big ol' hole in that bucket with the 30.30.
I insisted they go horseback riding, and Bas and Rik were eager to do so. Ruud had been dreading it since arriving in the States, but even he had a good time. Unfortunately, we only have one "safe" horse at the ranch nowadays, so we couldn't take them all out on a long ride across the prairie; instead, we settled for taking turns on our gentle horse Buddy in the corral. The guys still got the general idea of what it's all about.
We only had one short day at the ranch before we headed back to Rapid City, where we would base ourselves for the remainder of their time in South Dakota, but I couldn't let them leave without giving them a roping lesson. Bas took right to it and caught the roping head after a few tries. Ruud's lesson took much longer and was much more frustrating, for him and his teacher: me. He finally caught that thing, though.
Before they left, we made sure they tasted some good beef as well as some Rocky Mountain Oysters. We let the boys taste them before we explained exactly what they were, and a good thing -- they all enjoyed them and had a second helping, but admitted that if they had known what they were, they wouldn't have tried them.
It's fun to share my ranch home with my friends. Growing up, it wasn't always easy to appreciate -- such as on the days that started at 6am helping dad fix a fence, or when we bundled up in all the clothes we had in the middle of a snowstorm to watch the gate while dad fed the cows. Of course, now it's easy to see that growing up there was one of the richest experiences of my life -- and that is only re-enforced by experiencing it along with my friends as they experience it for the first time.