In times gone by, "dude" was something of a pejorative term for people who wanted to come and slum it on the western frontier, to see how the other half lived before heading back east to comfort and civilisation. So a perfect description of us, really. We started with a horse ride ("boring," Pete declared, refusing to sit in a saddle for the rest of the weekend), enjoyed petting animals from longhorn cattle to kittens, watched a trick roper hop around with a lasso, and hungrily stuffed ourselves on home-cooked food in the chow hall.
I think Charity found it somewhat overwhelming, especially the fact that wifi was only available in the main lodge and went down for a few hours one night! But she didn't shy away from the ranch lifestyle, even volunteering to get whipped by the cowboy entertainment one evening, and spoke to far more people than we did. It's that Geordie friendliness, and Durham on a Friday night is pretty much the Wild West, so it makes sense.
We drove home thoroughly exhausted from playing at ranchers for a weekend. Even that journey - a four hour drive, from what is basically the next town along from Houston - reminded me that things here are somewhat different from the rural Somerset of my youth, where whips and lassos aren't usually required to farm apples and cheese. I think we'll stick to oil.
Only one person has fitted boots that did not come from a thrift store (hint: the one who earns a salary).
One day, Goddaughter, all this will be yours. If you marry a cowboy.
Ready for the glue factory. The horse, not Hannah - she's still got a few seasons left in her.
The first night's entertainment.
For her troubles, Charity got a signed photo of cowboy Will. Hmm.
Hannah demonstrates why she chose business school over ranching.
A Texan morning.
Back in the saddle.
The view from my steed.
That moment in a western when the saloon door opens and the shadow of the meanest outlaw in the state is cast across the floor.
Something that will not be traveling back to Britain with Charity.
Give a 5-yr-old a bullwhip. What could go wrong?
Our California baby is now full Texan.
Another farm resident.
Rocking on the porch after a hard day's farming.
Moon over Texas.