I recall my first family trip back in the 60s. I'm talking all three of us piled into the car, along with a tiny porta-potty for yours truly, and ventured Westward across this great country. I remember stopping for a Dairy Queen in Kansas, visiting the Bug Museum, Cave of the Winds, Santa's North Pole Workshop near Pike's Peak, Pike's Peak itself (via the nifty tramway), and eventually Disneyland. I was three years old and still have fond memories of that long-ago trip (even the part when I accidentally left my crayons on the back window and they melted there, decorating my Dad's car with dots of rainbow - and giving my Skipper doll's hair some unwanted highlights and lowlights). In fact, I recall these places in vivid sense memory. And that's really saying something, especially since many trips made in more recent years don't have that hold on my heart - and aforementioned senses.
But if you asked me to recall one place we visited most clearly, in small details of sound, smell and (Ooh Lordy!) taste, it would be the Flying W Ranch Chuckwagon Show and Dinner. The musical cowboys took the stage under an outdoor, open air structure. They played songs like "Happy Trails" and the eerie "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (evocative both back then and now of whispy, transparent-gray cowpokes and their phantom horses). We sat at a long, wooden table with throngs of other happy vacationers and were treated to a tasty cowboy supper of a BBQ beef brisket sandwich, baked beans (best ever, ever), buttery corn bread and tangy-sweet lemonade. I can still remember plunking down my empty tin cup after draining it of the lemonade, wiping my mouth clean with the back of my sleeve, satisfied and full. What more do you need while listening to cowboy crooners while a gentle, evening breeze licked up against your shins?
It's with the deepest sadness that I must report this wonderful tourist attraction is no more. I visited Santa's North Pole Workshop's Facebook page this morning and learned that Flying W Ranch fell vicitm to the tremendously savage fires that are menacing Colorado as I write this. I'm constructing this blog post in order to inform my readers to please pray for the families affected by this tragedy, and the business owners who've lost their beloved Ranch, which charmed folks for the past 60 years. And, in addition, I'm urging everyone to keep prayers of protection going for Santa's North Pole Workshop, for nearby towns like Manitou Springs, for the glorious forests, and Garden of the Gods.
While writing this, I can't keep my eyes from tearing up for those ghostriders, now a sweet, disntant memory ...