Ten years before we bought La Bellota, Raul and I had worked in a partnership at another ranch, owned by Raul’s late uncle, Tio Kiki.
During those years, many of the people who visited the ranch became our friends. They not only watched our children grow up, they also watched Raul and I grow and develop as the guest ranch business became more than just a secondary income. It became a way of life that we truly grew to love.
Now, ten years later, these people continue to visit us at our own ranch, Rancho La Bellota, which we bought in 2005. When push came to shove and important decisions had to be made, they stuck by us and trusted our better judgement which motivated us even more, to fully pursue our dreams.
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.”
– John N. Mitchell-
I remember the first time I laid eyes on Mrs. B and Mrs. K. It was October, 2001 when we were at a promotional event called, Vaquero Days, in Descanso, California.
The morning was icy cold. I had been busy handing out brochures and talking to people when two lovely women approached our booth. They said a friend had told them about the ranch and they wanted to ask about reserving a date for the following Spring.
Thrilled about the possibility of new business, I quickly launched into my well rehearsed speech on costs, and the various trail rides we offered. I was sure I had covered all the important details, but the glazed expression in their eyes left me feeling uncertain. Had I said something wrong?
Mrs. B leaned in close, her blue eyes peering into mine, while she politely informed me they were both experienced riders. They wanted to RIDE, and did we have anything else more challenging?
It suddenly occurred to me, my lack of inexperience led me to assume, since Mrs. K was then in her early 70’s, they wanted easy rides. Mrs. B obviously wanted to clear up any misconceptions on my part about their riding abilities.
Even though I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment, I proceeded to tell them about our most challenging ride, a 30 miler from the coast to the ranch. Not even when I mentioned steep hillsides, narrow cow trails and rocky canyons did that derail Mrs. B and Mrs. K, in fact, it intrigued them more.
Mrs. K gently put her hand on my arm, smiled warmly, and reassured me they would love to do the ride from the coast. Mrs. B agreed, and said they would contact us soon to schedule a date.
As promised, a few weeks later Mrs. B reserved a date for the following April, and that was the beginning……………
You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.
— Michael Pritchard
Mrs. K and Mrs. B have come to the ranch with their friends and family for ten years. I’m always amazed at their energy and vitality for life. These special women were the first to give themselves a group name. They called themselves the Goddesses, and rightly so.
Many of us vision a Goddess in different ways. The definition of a Goddess might also depends on who you’re asking. When I think of a Goddess, I see a beautiful woman. A bright light shines from her eyes, radiating strength and wisdom. She is kind and gentle, but she is also fearless. When the occasion arises, she is strong like any brave warrior, and in her heart lies magical wisdom. I believe a Goddess lives inside the heart of every woman, and as I’ve seen with this group of women, the spirit of the Goddess resides in each one of them too.
The Goddesses and I have ridden together through cold, rain and fog. We have ridden down rocky hillsides in the dark, with only the light of the full moon and the stars to guide our way. We have ridden through places where the bushes and trees surrounding us, seem to come alive, as they rip and tear at our clothes, while our horses heavy bodies struggle past their claw like branches.
Ask a Goddess and she’ll tell you, this is all part of the thrill of adventure. The scenic mountains and manzanita scented trails invigorate her spirit, her sense of freedom, and her sheer joy of life.
Raul and I will never forget the time we were about an hour from the ranch, it was getting dark and everyone was hungry. I was lost in thought, thinking about what was for dinner that night, when suddenly, Mrs. K yelled out in an alarmed voice, “Raul, Raul! My pants are falling down!”
Raul, who was always there to help in any given situation, whirled his horse around and was at her side in an instant. He discovered that her pants, were her chaps, and they were definitely untied and falling down. Mrs. K kept a tight grip on the reins, steadying her horse while Raul fumbled with her chaps, pulling them up for her and tying the leather string back in place.
Later that night, as we sat around the table after dinner, Raul asked everyone in the group what had been the highlight of their day. When it was Mrs. K’s turn, a huge grin spread across her face and she said with a gleam in her eye, “My favorite part was when Raul pulled up my pants!” We all burst out laughing and agreed, it was our favorite part of the ride too.
The Goddesses are an amazing group of women who come from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, dental assistants, flight attendants, mothers and grandmothers. Every year we look forward to their visit and we have had the pleasure of meeting some new Goddesses along the way. One thing is for certain, their Goddess spirit always shines through and never ceases to touch our hearts.
I wanted to add here, at the risk of divulging too much, and in addition to my Goddess definition, let it be known that age is not an issue. The eldest Goddess, Mrs. K, is still riding horses and doing what she loves. Mrs. K and all the Goddesses are a true inspiration and I hope my Goddess traits will kick in soon, so I can follow in their footsteps.