1. Riding Eastwood
2. Making new friends
3. The food
Cooper was assigned gentle Eastwood for the week. Jane, one of the ranch bosses and head of the horse program with her husband, told Cooper that Eastwood is old enough to not do anything stupid.
Eastwood and Cooper got along very well. Coop had never ridden a horse before, but he looked like a natural riding. More than one person commented that Cooper truly looked like a cowboy (partly because he went almost nowhere without his hat, boots and bandana).
We joined the Jones family for a river ride Saturday morning. Cooper was a champ, guiding Eastwood up and down narrow, steep trails; dodging branches; and crossing the Canejos River. He didn't escape without a wound, though.
Before we reached the river, we were all single file on the horses, navigating through trees and brush. Coop was a little too close to a tree with multiple branches, and one branch cut his neck. I was just in front of him on Hickory and turned my head to see a five-inch gash under his chin.
In that narrow space I wasn't adept enought to turn Hickory around to take a closer look, so I asked our wrangler Jacob for help. He navigated back to Cooper and verified that it was just a surface wound. Cooper applied pressure to the cut with his trusty Texas flag bandana (a birthday gift from the Jones family) and carried on.
Cooper and friends playing cards in the lodge
There were 20 guests at the ranch last week, including seven children and teens. The kids are divided into groups according to age but also get a chance to mingle with everyone.
Cooper and Billy from suburban Chicago hit it off right away. They share many interests -- books, mythology, science. (And they both have moms who are journalists.) Cooper already has plans for sending a Christmas package to Billy and his family.
The food at the ranch was plentiful and delicious and included dessert at every lunch and dinner. Dining room meals are served family style, perfect for always-growing, always-hungry Cooper, who had ready access to seconds.
Some of his favorite meals included grilled burgers by the pool for lunch, ribs on the picnic grounds for dinner and cinnamon rolls bigger than my hand for breakfast. He also enjoyed 24-hour access to hot chocolate and marshmallows.
Cooper and Rich during Friday's poolside lunch