July 18, 2012

Flying W Ranch Tribute

Wildfires have been a part of the eternal cycle of nature since time began. Whether by lightning strikes, extreme heat, or careless visitors to the "wild" acreage, the cleansing that takes place is a natural part of restoring the growth, clearing out the dead brush, and making way for new growth to appear. Cattle and horses grazing on that land find new land where they can graze. Wildlife seek out new dwellings, and the earth begins the process of restoration once more.

Unfortunately, wildfires can also start dangerously close to "home" for some people. My home town was recently threatened by a wildfire that jumped a ridge and came barreling down the mountainside toward residents and businesses. Concern was high with the semi-arid climate, the recent lack of rain, the record-high temperatures, and the high winds. When the winds shifted, they carried embers over a half mile from the core of the wildfire, dropping them on residential dwellings. Click here to view photos.

When all was said and done, 346 homes were burned to the ground with hundreds more suffering smoke or fire damage. Only 2 lives were lost, praise God, and the firefighters fought long and hard to save what they could in the process of pushing the fire back into containment.

Sadly, one of our town's icons, The Flying W Ranch, was a casualty in this outbreak. This year they were about to celebrate 60 years of chuckwagon memories and had been the go-to place here in Colorado Springs for weddings, parties, authentic western town, bunkhouse lodging, and source for the 2nd oldest cowboy band in the world.

The Flying W Ranch was a working mountain cattle ranch, and since 1953 a tourism venue in the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado. From May to October, the ranch featured outdoor chuckwagon suppers typical of those served on cattle drives, and western style living history areas.

Beginning the first weekend in October, meals and entertainment moved indoors to the Winter Steakhouse, through the third weekend in December and again from early March through mid May. The Picketwire Bar, named for the Purgatoire River was built in the 1880s and moved to its present location in 1969.

Meals were followed by the cowboy singing by the Flying W Wranglers. The Flying W Wranglers were a part of the ranch's traditional entertainment from 1953 to 2012, making them the world's second oldest western singing group. Made up of working cowboys on the Flying W Ranch, the members participated in branding each fall as well as all other duties of farm-and-ranch life. There was an on-site recording studio where the Flying W Wranglers preserved their music.

The Flying W Chuckwagon (with the Flying W Wranglers) was part of the Chuckwagon Association of the West, that consisted of five other member chuck-wagons located in Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, Missouri, and Colorado, all of which featured traditional chuck-wagon cooking, followed by professional-quality after-supper entertainment of comedy and western songs.

Despite this tragedy and great loss to a world-famous site, the owners have committed to rebuilding it. If you'd like to learn more about the ranch and keep up with progress reports or news about the ranch, visit their web site. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible contribution toward helping them rebuild, visit the Flying W Foundation web site.

Ranches have been the bread and butter for the beef industry for centuries. Farms provide the produce and dairy, but ranches provide the meat....and the cowboys. :) And who doesn't love a good cowboy? Especially one who also sings (even if he's out of tune).

So, have you ever been to a working ranch, a dude ranch, or even a re-created ranch for the purpose of tourism and education? If so, where? If not, would you ever consider visiting one?

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an award-winning author, speaker, and virtual assistant, who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have one girl and one boy, and two Australian Shepherds, Roxie and Bronco. She has sold eleven books and one novella to Barbour Publishing with more on the horizon. Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.


Janet Chester Bly said...

Tiffany: So sorry to read more about those recent fires and the loss of that Flying W ranch! Steve & I went to a dude ranch years ago near Enterprise, Oregon. Could only get there by horseback over razor edge cliffside or by 4-seater plane. We did the horse ride going in and flew out! Such an adventure! Thanks for reminding me of it.

Mrs. S said...

I live on a working ranch. We raise feed for the livestock and have a cow/calf operation. Thanks for the notice that ranchers and farmers do something positive! We cowboy mostly on 4wheelers but it can get exciting! We often head to our Rapid City chuckwagon entertainment spot. Hope that the owners can rebound from the fire and once again offer a wonderful source of entertainment to the CO Springs area.