To add to their bottom line, many western working ranches are now hosting dudes on trail drives and roundups. It seems no ranch is complete now days without having a gunsel, or two, for breakfast every morning. One such gunsel, a fellow writer who lives in Boston, called me with a few questions because he was going to fulfill a lifelong dream and come out west to a dude ranch where he'd ride with real cowboys. Like the cowboys no doubt would, I decided to have a little fun with him.

"I was wondering what to pack in my suitcase," asked Ballpoint (his pen name).Ê

"First of all, Ballpoint,Ê you better lose the suitcase. If you show up with one of those hard sided, roller jobs the cowboys will laugh you right out of the bunkhouse."

"Well then, how do I carry all my personal belongings?"

"You carry it all in your dream sack. Your flea trap. Your Missouri feather bed. It's your bedroll, made out of a waterproofed tarp. In it you'll need two blankets and two heavy soogans, what women call quilts. The tarp will keep you dry when it rains or snows, and it will also act as your dressing room. When you come out of your sack in the morning you better be ready to have a bear for breakfast."

"How about a pillow?"

"Absolutely not. You'll lay your head on your warbag like all the other cowboys."

"What's a warbag?" asked Ballpoint.

"It's your sack of personal belongings."

"Like my rechargers, cell phone, I pod and earphones?"

"You gotta be kidding. You want to lay your head down at night on a cell phone charger? Leave them behind along with your razor, deodorant, slippers, alarm clock, sleeping mask and necktie. Don't bring anything that plugs in because where your going pardner, there won't be cell service, or electricity. And how are you gonna hear the real cowboys demean, insult and laugh at you if you have headphones on? No, your warbag is for things like whang leather, extra tobacco and cigarette papers."

"But I don't smoke," said Ballpoint.

"Well then you better learn. In your warbag you'll also need some leather balm for your butt and horse liniment for the muscles you last worked when you were married to that exotic dancer. You'll also need a rattlesnake bite kit, a deck of cards and lots of cash you better plan on losing to the cowboys when you play cards."

"Oh, I'm very good at poker. I play with my buddies once a week."

"You're not listening. I said you better plan on losing. It's not a good idea to take money from cowboys who pack pistols and rifles. That reminds me, there's lots of government sponsored wolves and bears out here so you better pack a Winchester, a Colt and a sharp skinning knife in your bedroll too."

"But how will I get them through security at Logan Airport?"

"You didn't say you were flying. I figured you'd take the bus like a real cowboy."

"How about my art supplies, can I bring them? I'd like to get in some painting."

"Who the heck do you think you are, Charlie Russell? May I remind you this is a working vacation and that's what you'll do! Just bring your spurs, chinks, extra pair of shorts, and your cowboy hat. You'll need it to put over the tops of your boots at night so the snakes and scorpions can't crawl in your boots. Pack a plastic bag in your warbag too."

"What's it for?" asked Ballpoint with trepidation.

"It's for keeping your thumb clean after you cut it off trying to take a dally. The cowboys might be able to sew it back on in the bunkhouse with some baler twine."

After all the good advice I gave Ballpoint the last I heard he had canceled his dude vacation, forfeited his deposit and took a Caribbean cruise instead.

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