The warmth and hospitality I found at the Mayan Dude Ranch was on par with the delightful charm everyone enthuses in Bandera in Texas Hill Country.
I woke up on my first morning at the ranch, one of several area dude ranches where you can stay, to hear peacocks making a fuss outside of my cabin, strutting around as though they owned the place. Despite the peacocks’ air of authority, the Hicks family has owned and run the ranch since 1951 in Bandera, which calls itself the Cowboy Capital of the World.
Taking a Hayride Wagon to Breakfast
Even meals in Bandera can come with a Western theme. Rather than saddle up one of the horses available to guests at the ranch, I opted to hop a hayride to breakfast.
Awaiting us at the end of the trail was a hearty cowboy breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes and delectable dumpling-like biscuits. Afterward, while listening to live country music, I held my breath as Kevin Fitzpatrick, champion trick-roper, lowered a spinning lasso over my head. Thankfully, he’d done it before!
Traditional chuck wagon breakfast at a Bandera dude ranch
Fascinating Facts at the Frontier Times Museum
My first stop was the Frontier Times Museum, which is home to a curious collection of items. From the wonderful to sometimes weird, and from educational to simply interesting, the museum hosts an eclectic selection of artifacts from times gone by. The museum was opened in 1933 by J Marvin Hunter Sr., who believed that if an artifact was important to the donor, it should be important to everyone. No item was turned away.
Outside the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, Texas
Western Entertainment in Bandera
In search of other fun activities, I was not disappointed to encounter a gunfight reenactment staged at Flying L Hill Country Resort’s ghost town. There also are weekly gunfight re-enactments year-round in downtown Bandera. All of the men who participate are volunteers. Compensation comes in the form of an ice cream or two from the General Store after they’ve finished gamboling and dropping dead for the audience that gathers. Those who arrive on horseback for the entertainment, which I saw on more than one occasion, are welcome to use hitching posts along the street.
After a quick bullwhip lesson, I was introduced to Casino, a rather handsome-looking male weighing in at 2,400 pounds. I was assigned to ride this Texas longhorn steer by myself! We headed out to take a tour of the town. A horse-drawn wagon full of locals led the way. An hour later, slightly disheveled but invigorated, I dismounted Casino and headed into the bar for an ice-cold Texas Shiner beer, accompanied by homemade chili.
The perfect end to my day was dancing a Texas two-step on the sawdust-covered floor with all the folks I met during the day. I felt like one of the family and was already making plans for my next Bandera-bound holiday.
Cowboy swinging a lasso in Bandera, Texas