Annie Tucker was ready for a something different; she just didn’t know what that “something” was. Upon hearing about friends heading to an official “cowboy” camp out west—far from the drama and craziness of the city—Annie convinced her mother that this is what she should do for the summer. After an initial phone call to Elk Creek Ranch, Annie anxiously waited to hear if there were any remaining openings at the ranch and vividly remembers receiving the letter that let her know she would be making the journey to Wyoming in July 1972.
Filled with an equal mix of sheer excitement and apprehension, Annie left Boston aboard a plane heading to Wyoming. Not sure what to expect, she was greeted by a member of the family that owned the ranch, Chip Ridgway. The ride from the airport in Cody, WY to the ranch is seared into Annie’s mind, as is her first sight of the ranch. It was beautiful and in the middle of nowhere—far away from any insecurities or teen issues she was facing back in Boston
Upon stepping out of the car, she was taken aback by the vast sky filled with stars and as she and the other new campers unloaded their gear, it began to lightly snow. It was a physical manifestation of what the 15-year-old Annie was feeling: She was letting go of Boston, her concerns about this new experience and starting fresh... much like the new fallen snow. It was pure exhilaration.
Annie spent two summers at Elk Creek Ranch as a camper and later returned as a counselor for nearly 10 years. What Annie learned from her time at the ranch was far more applicable to her life and the real world than she would have imagined when she first decided playing cowboy for the summer might be fun.
Like many that have had the opportunity to visit the ranch, she names the work projects as a real eye opening experience. It’s not the physical skills she learned that had an impact, but the idea of truly being self-sufficient and that each person has something important to contribute, a reoccurring theme echoed by many past ranchers.
Regardless of how much teens may think they are self-sufficient, they really always have their parents to fall back on for support. At Elk Creek Ranch, teens are encouraged to find themselves though their experiences. There is an excellent support staff of counselors, but it is likely the first time most campers have really been asked to truly participate in a meaningful way. On the work projects each job is a building block for the next. So, if Annie didn’t complete her portion, the rest of the group was left having to pick up the slack. Each job or project was just as important as the next. As a counselor, Annie recalls that moment of recognition when campers realized that they needed to “pony up” and how much they appreciated being a meaningful participant.
Annie remembers her time at Elk Creek Ranch fondly. In fact, her daughter will attend the camp for the first time in Summer 2012. In her free time, Annie spends time with close friends she met at the ranch 30 years ago.