The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
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Dude Ranch Trip II
July 1993
"Three Days in Intensive Care"

After our first dude ranch experience, we swore we would never go back, but as the old saying goes, “Never say never.” When a group at work started talking about going, we were right in the thick of it. We got a recommendation this time, from a Delta pilot who had been going to the same dude ranch every year for the past kazillion years and swore it was wonderful. We flew, with four friends, into Jackson Hole, and headed for CM Ranch near Dubois, Wyoming. Dubois is pronounced “Due Boys” for you city slickers who might be tempted to say “Due Bwa”.

After checking in at the main house, we were shown to our cabins. Tony and I won the cabin lottery because we got a cabin that had a kitchen, living room, bedroom, full bath and central heat (which did not seem like a big deal until we found out how COLD it gets at night in July in Wyoming). Our friends, Bobby & Wendy and Kathy & Billy, had nice little cabins overlooking the creek (where the mosquitoes live) with just a bedroom and a bath and a little wood stove. We enjoyed the family style dinner with the forty or so other guests in the dining hall. The staff were mostly college students who cheerfully brought bowl after bowl of hearty food.

The next morning, we ate far too much breakfast and then headed for the barn where we met our horses for the week. Tony’s horse was Duke and mine was Badger.

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By the time we returned to the ranch for lunch, most of us were already walking bow-legged.  After lunch, we took another walking ride up the side of the mountain.

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About an hour into the ride, the skies began to darken and the thunder began to roll. The wrangler got out his raincoat and the wind whipped it around with such force that it spooked the horses, so the rest of us just left our raincoats in our saddlebags, deciding it is better to be wet than dead. 

The next day, we limped to the barn for the morning ride, convinced that we were ready to take the beginner loping ride.

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We loped over into the badlands where we saw mountain goats and eagles. Most of us found loping to be very painful since the horse moves forward and back while we bounce up and down. Fortunately the horses just follow each other and need no direction from the riders because we were all busy holding the saddlehorns to keep them from bruising us.

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After we had started back to the ranch, the wrangler asked if we wanted to lope again. “No, no!”, came the response from the back of the pack. “Go, go!”, came the response from Kathy, our experienced rider who was up front near the wrangler. So, off we loped.

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I was at the back of the pack when I heard Billy shout, “He’s down!”. I opened my eyes (which were always closed when we were loping because the dust would get behind my contacts and hurt like HELL!) and saw Tony lying on the ground in a heap. Blood was streaming from a gash in the back of his head.

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Tomo, the wrangler and paramedic, took charge.  He sent Kathy back to the ranch for help. Kathy took off with Bobby close behind. Tomo shouted, “Just one of you go.” Bobby shouted back, “I can’t stop this horse.” Meanwhile, Tony, now conscious, rather adamantly wanted his sunglasses. Tomo told me to apply pressure to Tony’s head wound on while he got the bandage ready. After the bandage was applied, I located Tony’s now bent sunglasses.

Help arrived in the form of another wrangler, Sam, who took us in his truck into Dubois to the clinic to get Tony’s head sewn up. While we waited for the physician’s assistant (they don’t have a doctor in Dubois), Tony had a grand mal seizure. Sam and I tried to hold Tony on the table while someone went to get the ambulance. There was a Barbecue going on across the street from the clinic and most of the town’s paramedics were in attendance so nine of them came to the clinic to help. Someone brought in a stretcher and they tried to put Tony on it. He was very combative. After about ten minutes of struggling and kicking, someone finally thought to take his cowboy boots off. They tried to put a collar on him to stabilize his neck, but he tore it off. The head wound started to bleed again and blood was everywhere. When they finally got him into the ambulance, he was still seizing. Four paramedics rode in the back of the ambulance. I rode up front with Sam (the wrangler and paramedic).

We started the 70 mile drive to the nearest hospital in Riverton. We could not use the siren because it was making Tony’s blood pressure rise and we couldn’t run the air conditioner because we wouldn’t be able to go fast enough. Tony continued to have seizures for about 40 more minutes. It took about an hour and a half to get to Riverton Memorial Hospital where we were greeted by a doctor wearing cowboy boots and a kerchief around his neck. I felt more like we were at the veterinarian’s than at a hospital. But Tony was conscious now and knew who I was, so I was starting to feel better until, while Tony was in x-ray, someone explained the organ donor program to me. Finally I got the report that Tony had a broken scapula and some blood spots on his brain.

When he got back to the Emergency Room, the nurse was busy so the doctor asked me to assist him while he sewed up Tony’s head.

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He was admitted to intensive care where I spent 3 days sitting in a chair next to his bed while he slept.

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We were able to go back to the ranch for the end of our vacation but Tony didn’t feel like participating in any of the activities. Despite our bad experiences, we would still recommend a dude ranch as a fun family vacation, and they do offer a discount for people like Tony who chooses not to ride horses ever again.

Tony and BJ