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Texas Ranch Life: Livin’ Like a Cowboy

Texas Ranch Life horse rideRidin’ the wide open spaces, ropin’ little doggies just like in a John Wayne movie… Who hasn’t wanted to live the ranch life?

At Texas Ranch Life, a unique guest ranch in the Texas hill country about an hour north of Houston, you can set your inner cowboy free and experience what it’s like to be real Texas cowboy.

Texas Ranch Life isn’t just some gussied up dude ranch. It’s an authentic, 1,800-acre working cattle ranch where cowboys like Robert, a tall, 26-year-old drink-a-water who rides bulls in his off-time, and Craig, a craggy professional cowpoke who spins a rope like a magician, work the Texas scrubland every day. And you can join them for leisurely rides atop prime quarter horses, help them gather Longhorns, or even participate in a round up where you brand, vaccinate, and castrate the herd. Guests can also arrange to participate in roping, skeet shooting, tomahawk throwing, or go fishing in one of the ranch’s many lakes.

Texas Foods, Historic Houses
Then you’ll dine on mountains of iconic Texas dishes like corn casserole, broccoli and bacon salad, and smoked brisket and local sausages. At night, you’ll return to one of eight historic homes, many built in the 1800s and authentically restored, to sleep under antique quilts in the deep velvet quiet of a rural Texas night.

Guests can arrange for sumptuous meals like this one at Texas Ranch Life.

Guests can arrange for sumptuous meals like this one at Texas Ranch Life.

Longtime owners John and Taunia Elkie bill Texas Ranch Life as a guest ranch, conference center, and corporate retreat. Both practicing lawyers, John loves the horses and cattle and Taunia has a passion for restoring old homes. Lonesome Pine Ranch, one of three ranches they own, enables them to combine their passions. John oversees the day-to-day management of 400-600 cattle and Taunia handles acquiring, relocating and restoring and decorating historic homes that would otherwise be slated for the wrecking ball.

One of the co-owner's passions is restoring old homes like this 1869 clapboard home.

One of the co-owner’s passions is restoring old homes like this 1869 clapboard home.

Texas Ranch Life currently features eight historic homes, each unique. Some are situated close in, near the barn-conference area. Others are “out of town,” nestled under oaks or beside a creek or lake, several minutes walk from the barn and covered horse arena. I stayed in the 1869 house, a quaint home surrounded by a white picket fence and a wide covered front porch with wicker chairs, perfect for enjoying the sunset with a glass of wine.

Inside the house features wide plank wooden floors and lush Oriental rugs. There is a spacious parlor with a flat screen TV and antique furnishings, including a large writing desk and a sleigh-style daybed. There are two bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath (one with a jetted tub; the other with a clawfoot tub-shower combo). The front bedroom is decorated in country Victorian with a tall bed piled high with quilts and an antique armoire. The back bedroom, its walls covered in old barn wood paneling, is outfitted with rustic ranch décor including an iron bedstead and armoire with ranch scenes, leather easy chair and cowboy artwork.

The porch of my 1869 house was perfect for enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

The porch of my 1869 house was perfect for enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

The kitchen of the 1869 house has been converted into a small area with a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and microwave. The kitchenette is stocked with bottled water, milk, juice, yogurt, cereals, fruit, and coffee and tea for a make-it-yourself continental breakfast.
The 1869 house is more than 140 years old, so the old windows in my bedroom didn’t open. Instead there was a powerful ceiling fan and both central heat and AC to keep the temperatures just right.

Texas sunsets are free at Ranch Life.

Texas sunsets are free at Ranch Life.

Besides riding the ranch’s fine horses, for me, the best part about staying at Texas Ranch Life was staying in a genuine part of history. There was something special about waking early and stepping onto the broad porch of my lovely old house, coffee cup in hand, to watch the sun come up in the deep silence that embraces this place. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

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Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at