Duuuuude! …Ranch that is. When I think of a backyard barbeque I think of the time that I was a guest at my girlfriend’s ranch when the hands threw a BBQ feast that would knock you right out of the saddle. I was the only dude; everybody else was the real deal. Weeeeee doggies! I loved when I got to stay the weekends with her. Her life was so much different from mine. I was a city girl – well, if you want to call the thriving metropolis of Edgerton, Wyoming a “city” (population 150). Wilma, on the other hand, was a country girl through and through who lived on a ranch clear out in the middle of nowhere, where the deer and the antelope roam. She had two older brothers and her dad was as close to John Wayne as you could get without cloning. He sat tall in the saddle on his giant horse, Keno. Keno was a plow horse with a shiny black coat and giant hooves. Looking back, he was probably a clydesdale or something kin to it. Wilma’s mom was the craftiest lady I knew. She was always dressed so nice in her country western flare. She made all sorts of grub from milk products and her summertime garden and all that a working ranch has to offer. Her house was immaculate and decorated with stretched animal skins backed by layered, pinking-sheared felt, and Indian blankets hanging on the walls.
She also made jewelry out of porcupine quills. Porcupine quills? Well, here’s the story that I got. Wilma’s brothers were coming home kind of late one night and hit a fat and waddling porcupine in the road. When they saw her in their headlights they swerved left and right, dust flying everywhere, but they couldn’t get the old Ford shut down in time. Thump! They bailed out to see if she was okay and saw that she was dead. She was so big that they knew she was pregnant, so they did a prairie style emergency cesarean section on her and brought the little dickens home to mom to see if she could keep it alive. Mom nursed the little critter with a tiny baby bottle, and not only did the tiny beast live, it became a family pet. She plucked its quills to make her jewelry. She made beautiful things from those quills.
Wilma had a bedroom in the ranch house, but her brothers all slept in the bunkhouse with the other ranch hands (probably why the house was always so clean). We never saw much of them. Our days were spent riding her horse bareback all around the ranch, and sometimes following her dad on his rounds. Sometimes we’d pack up her record player and her Tanya Tucker, Dolly Pardon, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn records (…yes records – I know, this dates me. If you don’t know what records are, ask your mom…) and we’d haul them up to the attic of the barn. We’d push the hay bales around to make a stage, and then we’d string an extension cord, plug the record player in, and take turns pretending to be Country Western stars at the Grand Ole Opry. “Stand by yer man…doot doo dooo…” She knew all the words to all the songs, I just lip-sinked and pretended until I learned them. See the thing about that kind of music is nobody listened to twangy Country Western in my house in the city. But by the third sleep-over with Wilma I could cut loose at the top of my lungs with the best of them. That’s also the beauty of living in the boondocks – nobody can hear you. You know, I can still smell the barn in my memories. Wood, leather tack, and hay —aaahhhchoooo— God bless me!
I always got a kick out of the phone thing too. At Wilma’s house the phone was on a “party line,” and they had a special ring to let them know when the call was for them. If you picked up the phone to make a call you might hear people talking, and if you lacked manners you’d listen in to see what they were saying – but everyone in Wilma’s house was polite not to, at least when I was there anyways. And at night after we cleared away the supper dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, Wilma, her mom, and I, we’d gather around the CB and listen to the trucker’s conversations as they cruised by on the nearby highway. Wilma’s mom even let me make up a “handle” so I could hold that microphone and push the button and say, “Breaker, breaker, one-nine,” and hopefully snag a passerby into a mini-chat. What was my handle? It was pretty corny – Capricorny! The conversations were never too intelligent either.
Okay, so getting back to where I started…there was one weekend that I stayed over when the whole ranch had a barbeque planned. My gosh it was a big to-do. Wilma’s mom had made several salads and a big pot of ranch style baked beans, and several desserts. There were a bunch of bow-legged cowboys hootin’ and hollerin’ in the back yard, some standing around the cook, others trying out their rope tricks on a saw-horse bull’s head, and another gang tossing horseshoes – clank! The BBQ stove was made from a big barrel cut in half lengthwise with welded-on hinges and a vent pipe sticking out the top. It was filled to capacity with ashen charcoals. It was also big enough to cook a couple dozen steaks at a time, and you could feel the heat of it from three bunkhouses away. The smoke from that iron trench rose to the heavens and made a big old cloud in the back yard. It smelled sooooo good, as only charring, perfectly seasoned, aged bovine can smell.
They asked me how I liked my steak and I said, “Well done, please!” In just three shakes of a lamb’s tale (that’s a nano-second to you and me) here it came. I looked at it like a beginner climber might look at Mount Everest. It wasn’t like any steak I’d ever seen before – it was a ROAST, that could have fed my whole family. I weighed in at about a buck o-five, this steak was just under that. It took up my whole plate at an inch and a half thick. The crimson juices ran all over the plate until they were spilling over the sides. When I stuck my fork in, it wiggled a little and let out a moo. I asked, sheepishly, if my side-of-beef could smolder just a smidgen longer on the hot coals until it was dead, dead, dead. They gave me heck and teased me for a stretch, but obliged me. When I got’er back I worked on that thing most of the night trying to git’er done, but it was mission impossible. I rolled around in bed that night with a belly full of cow that would last me the rest of my life. Okay, maybe not that long. Yeehaw! I am a Wyoming girl after all.
So, for my backyard BBQ I’m gon’na play on my memories of this grand little shindig and add a little dude to it, ’cause I really don’t know no better (and yes, I know that was not proper English).
Here’s what I’m thinking for my City Slicker Cowboy BBQ party:
Set up several bench type picnic tables in the backyard. Cover them with red and white check tablecloths. Set up a CD player with my favorite Country Western tunes, or set it on a good Country Western radio station – Sirius Satellite if you have it.
In the invitation ask guests to dress up in western apparel: cowboy boots, cowboy hats, button up shirts with tight Levis and big belt buckles, or women’s shirts and skirts with Cadillac Cowgirl accessories.
Come ‘n Get It MENU
Marinated and grilled Tri-tip
Corn on the cob
Boston Baked Beans
By the way, isn’t this a cute idea for napkin holders? I found a motherlode of bluejeans pockets at my local antique mall a while back and this is how I decided to put them to good use:
MARINATED AND GRILLED TRI-TIP (Serves approximately 8)
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup soybean oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup black pepper
1/2 cup garlic salt (recommended: Lawry’s)
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped dried onions
2 (4-pound) tri-tips, trimmed
To make the marinade, mix all of the ingredients except for the beef in a large mixing bowl. Place the trimmed tri-tips in a plastic container and pour the marinade over. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
Heat grill to medium temperature.
Place tri-tips on grill at a 45 degree angle to establish grill marks and cook about 35 minutes, or until cooked to desired doneness. Remove the tri-tips from the grill and let rest about 2 to 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with your favorite side dishes.
CORN ON THE COB
As many ears of sweet corn on the cob as number of guests
Butter (lots and lots of it)
Cajun Seasoned Salt, like Slap Ya’ Mama (or another favorite of mine is the wonderful Hatch Chili seasoning from Urban Accents that I got at Central Market in San Antonio, TX)
Leave the corn in the husks and grill on the grill, about five to eight minutes per side until all sides are burned. Remove from grill and keep warm in oven on low (170 degree) heat. When ready to serve cut the stem ends off completely about 1/4″ up the cob. Let your guests peel the husks off by loosening the husks from the corn where the cob was cut. Grab the silks end firmly and pull the husk off the cob. The silks should slide out with the husks and you should be left with a nice clean cob of corn.
Now I have some dandy little plastic corn cups that fit a cob of corn perfectly. Place a couple pats of butter in each dish and then about a teaspoon of seasoning sprinkled all down the length of it. Lay the hot cobs of corn on top and roll them around until they are covered with seasoning and melted butter. Offer little cob forks to make them easier to hold onto.
POTATO SALAD (serves approximately 20)
12 large red potatoes cooked until tender and cubed, skins on or off as preferred
6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
1 large red onion diced
6 stalks of celery chopped
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1 small sprig of dill weed, chopped
1 bunch of green onions chopped
1 or 2 large jalapenos, seeds and stems removed, diced
2 ½ cups Mayonnaise (more or less, as you like it)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 tsp Iodized Sea Salt
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp pepper
Put first eight ingredients in a very large bowl. Mix up sauce ingredients and pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add 2 Tablespoons of mustard to finished potato salad.
Add a half-cup of blue cheese crumbles and a quarter cup of crispy crumbled bacon as a garnish on top of potato salad.
BOSTON BAKED BEANS (serves approximately 8)
1 large package dried navy beans (or 6 cups)
2 bay leaves
1 large white onion, peeled
1 cup molasses
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons iodized sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 cups boiling water
1 lb of salt pork
Rinse the beans and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans again. Put in a large kettle and cover with fresh water to about ½ inch above the beans. Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 2 hours. Drain. Place into a casserole dish.
Poke the cloves into the onion and add it to the beans. Mix together the molasses, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the boiling water and stir to blend thoroughly. Pour over the beans, adding more water if needed to almost cover the beans with liquid.
Push the piece of salt pork down into the beans until it disappears. Cover beans and bake in a 275 degree oven for about 4 ½ hours. Uncover and continue to bake another half hour. Take the pork rind out and chop up into bite-sized pieces and return to casserole. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. May also be served cold by allowing to cool and refrigerating overnight.
1 head of green cabbage, shredded (approx. 8 cups)
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 cup grated celery
2 Fuji apples peeled, cored, and chopped
½ of a small white onion finely sliced
1 green bell pepper thinly sliced
3/4 cup of white raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Optional: caraway seed, ground (’cause that’s how my grandma made it)
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
¼ cup lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Place the first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together sauce ingredients and pour over veggies. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until chilled and ready to serve. Just before serving sprinkle with slivered almonds and ground caraway seeds. Serve within 2 hours for a crispier salad. The salad will become more wilted the longer it marinates.
2 boxes Krusteaz Honey Cornbread mix
1 1/3 cup of milk
1 (16 oz) can of creamed corn
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 Tablespoons diced jalapenos
2 green onions chopped finely
Prepare 1 large 9 x 16-inch baking pan by lightly greasing with shortening or cooking spray.
In a large bowl blend all the batter ingredients until just moistened. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden on top and springs back when touched.
PEACH COBBLER (serves approx. 6)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon ground mace
½ cup brown sugar
4 cups sliced peaches (fresh or frozen)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon butter
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons Baking powder
¼ cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
sugar cinnamon mixture
Put first 6 ingredients in a saucepan and cook until thickened. Add another Tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 3 Tablespoons water if needed for thickening. Fresh and frozen peaches produce moisture. If using canned peaches, drained, you won’t need any extra cornstarch.
Pour peach mixture into an oblong glass dish 8 x 12-inch that has been lightly greased with butter.
Place all topping ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Dough should be very much like biscuit dough.
Topping can be added to the peach mixture one of two ways. Some like a peach cobbler with a topping that looks a lot like drop biscuits. Others like a cobbler with a lattice topping like pie. If you like the drop biscuit type then just take small spoonfuls of the batter and slide them off onto the peaches with your finger or a knife, dropping a small pile about ½-inch apart all over the top until all the batter is used up.
If you like the lattice top, sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and pat out the dough with your hands, flipping to coat with flour. With a floured rolling pin roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice the dough into strips. Lay one set of strips horizontally across the top of the peaches about an inch apart. Pull every other strip back and lay in a vertical strip. Lay the pulled back strips over it and pull back every other of the other strips. Lay another strip in and lay the pulled back strips over it. Repeat until you have a lattice pattern over the peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes for drop biscuit topping, less for latice top, or until the crust is just golden and the filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
I’ve heard that in the olden days the cowboys would dump the grounds in with the water and set the pot on the fire to cook. When the coffee was made they’d break an egg into the pot to round up the grounds. Let’s be honest… that’s got’ta be the nastiest cuppa-joe on the planet. We’re not doing that. We’re just gon’na brew it in the old Mr. Coffee machine (or Keurig). And since we’re sissy city slickers anyway let’s splurge and have some creamer – flavored creamer if you are one of those. Serve it in little tin cups for looks.
I personally like the frozen Minute Maid concentrates the best. I mix them up with twice as water as directed and then slice up several lemons and float the slices in the lemonade. It will probably need some more sugar (try 1 cup to start). I like the pink lemonade with pulp. And when I’m feeling really fancy, I add a bag of frozen strawberries (or raspberries, blackberries, even blue berries) to the pitcher.
If you are feeling really really fancy you can make Fruity Lemonade: Fill a glass with a chunk or two each of the following fruits: Watermelon slice, pineapple chunk, frozen strawberry, maraschino cherry, orange slice, lemon slice, lime slice, raspberries and a mint leaf. Mingle the fruits with ice cubes and pour the lemonade over the top. Serve with a striped straw. When you are done drinking you have a nice little fruit salad to munch on.
For another change of pace I make Limeade from frozen concentrate, use club soda for the liquid – a little more than called for, add some sliced limes, just like I do for the lemonade. Plus, I add a jar or two of drained maraschino cherries to the pitcher. Lip smackin’ good!
1 gallon of fresh tap water
1 Family Size tea bag
sugar or other sweetener
I brew my tea in the sunshine. I fill my freshly scoured sun tea jar with cold tap water and hang a Family-size Lipton teabag in it (folding the corner over the lip of the jar and holding it in place with the lid), screwing that lid on snuggly. Then I set the whole business out on the back patio until the sun brews it a nice dark golden brown all the way to the bottom. I hurry and bring it in and pull that teabag out, and since I like mine sort of sweet I add about a cup of sugar and stir it in while the tea is hot. Ten I set the jar in the refrigerator to get cold. I like my tea over a tall glass heaping with ice cubes. Mmmm… mmmm…. mmmm, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Unless of course it’s…
MRS. H’S TEA
Not me, Mrs. H., but by BFF Treva’s mom, Mrs. H. — Mrs. Hendrickson. She was bar-Nunn the best cook of the prairie. Treva’s mom had a gallon container of this concoction in the fridge at all times when we were kids. It was the number one requested beverage of all gatherings of kids in our school for all time. It was always the first beverage to run out, and believe you me the party was over when that happened.
In a one-gallon pitcher add:
1 small can (6-oz) frozen lemonade concentrate (or spoon out half of a large can)
1 envelope Orange flavored Kool-aid, non-sweetened
5 Tablespoons Instant tea
1 ½ cups sugar
Add fresh cold water to the gallon mark
Stir until mixed. Mrs. H. always poured hers into a clean gallon-sized plastic container like what distilled water and drinking water comes in, so she could cap it and store it in the fridge. I always use a gallon size bottle of drinking water to make my tea, so I will have the container to make my tea – just like Treva’s mom had. This tea just goes with everything. You’re gon’na love it.
Now, what to do after grub time…
Set up a “stage” using bales of hay, and after dinner let your guests have a go at some Country Western Karaoke.
Ask your guests to do a little research before the party and round up some cowboy poetry. Perhaps your guests are poets-and-didn’t-know-its and would care to take a dare and write some lines of rhymes on their own times and bring ’em. Gather everyone around the fire pit or bonfire and let him or her take turns sharing the funniest and cleverest. Roast marshmallows and invite your guitar-playing buddy to lead the gang in some prairie tunes, like Home, Home on the Range. It will be a little like camping. 🙂
Cowboy Poetry, by Hal Cannon
Cowboy Poetry Classics, by Various Artists (Audio CD – Sep 13, 2005)
Coyote Cowboy Poetry, by Baxter Black (Hardcover – Oct 1, 1986)
Elko! A Cowboy’s Gathering, by Various Artists (Audio CD – Jan 25, 2005)
Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, by Baxter F. Black (Paperback – Oct 1, 1998)
Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion, by Charlie Seemann and Virginia Bennett (Paperback – Jan 20, 2004)
(And there are tons of others. Type “Cowboy Poetry” into the search box at Amazon.com)
Also, try this website: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/yours.htm#Classic
We are lucky in our family that we have Harold. He’s my cousin-in-law who dabbles a bit in cowboy poetry, among his many other talents. He wrote a poem once about MUSTANGS that I just love. It’s actually best when he tells it, live and sitting around a campfire. I’ve lost my copy that Sonya sent one Christmas and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. We got together for a family reunion a couple summers ago and he told of few of his poems while we were all sitting around after dinner. Darn-it, where’s a video camera when you need one?
MUSTANGS by Harold Anderson
Horseshoes & Steer Roping
Definitely set up a horseshoe pit (see Family Reunion chapter for how to set up a horseshoe pit), and even a sawhorse mounted steer head for some roping practice.
Target Practice and Knife Throwing
Set up a target strapped to a tree for knife throwing competitions, or line the fence with pop cans for some target practice. If you live in the city use rubber band guns or a Red Ryder BB gun. It will be a hoot, I promise!
Rubber Band Gun vendors:
http://www.firewheel.com.au/fw/index.aspx (really cool gun!)
Be sure and pick up some gunnysacks for races at your local farm and ranch store (like Murdocks), and maybe even a small horse trough filled with water and a half a box of apples, so the kids can bob for apples.
Needle in a Haystack
Make a big haystack and hide some treasures in it for the kids to find.
Make sure you have some lassos so your guests can learn some rope tricks. Here’s how to do them: http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/spin_rope/index.htm
This is a team relay race so divide your group into however many teams of equal number and be prepared with a stopwatch to time them. At the starting line is a giant stick horse, a cowboy hat, and a neckerchief. At the whistle the first person on the team has to put on the gear and ride the stick horse through the rodeo arena. First they’ll zigzag through the pole bending, at the end of the poles are the barrels, which they must circle each one without knocking ’em over. They’ll ride from the last barrel to the waiting rider, hopping and kicking like they’re on a bucking bronc to the finish line. The next rider has to put on the gear and repeat the process (in reverse) to the waiting team member at the other end. Whichever team finishes in the quickest time wins.
Square Dancing or Line Dancing
Remember when we all had to learn to square dance in P.E. class at school when we were kids? You always wondered where in the world you would ever use that in life – well…right here, at your Cowboy BBQ, that’s where. Clear an area for the Square Dance and see how much you remember. Get a Square Dance CD to refresh your memory if it has faded over the years from lack of use. Or, if you’d rather, learn a couple of line dances and teach them to your guests. There is a wonderful line dance video out there that you can use to teach yourself and your guests.
Square Dance Fun for Everyone (2 CDs and Booklet) – Kimbo; Audio CD
Let’s All Square Dance – Various Artists; Audio CD
A Quick Start Guide to Line Dancing (Shawn Trautman’s Learn to Dance Series) – Shawn Trautman; DVD
Give each guest a harmonica and give everyone time to pick out a tune… then have a contest and pick the winner of the best tune.
Play Harmonica in One Hour, Featuring Bobby Joe Holman by Bobby Joe Holman (DVD – Nov 29, 2005)
After dinner, how about a nice outdoor movie under the stars? Drag the TV outside on the patio. Gather all the lawn chairs around it. Wrap everybody up in a saddle blanket or sleeping bag, and let’s watch an old western. Pick a movie, any movie:
The Shootist Tombstone Silverado Quigley Down Under
The Cowboys Tom Horn Open Range The Quick and the Dead
True Grit Bite the Bullet Wyatt Earp The Sons of Katie Elder
Pale Rider El Dorado Nevada Smith Long Riders
Paint Your Wagon Outlaw Josey Wales Once Upon a Time in the West
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Young Guns The Magnificent Seven
Maverick Urban Cowboy 8 Seconds Unforgiven
Pure Country Lonesome Dove (ummm… that’s a little bit long to watch in a night)
And when we’re done with that, how about sitting around a campfire and telling stories, roasting marshmallows, or singing to the guitar until everyone is snoring?
Stories for Around the Campfire, by Ray Harriot (Paperback – Dec 1986)
More Stories for Around the Campfire, by Ray Harriot (Paperback – Dec 1986)
The Kids Campfire Book: Official Book of Campfire Fun (Family Fun), by Jane Drake, Ann Love, and Heather Collins (Paperback – Jun 12, 2001)
I personally love Patrick McManus
Here is the short list of some “Cowboy” themed board and card games if you’d like to give them a try. Look for them online at Board Game Revolution and Amazon.com.
Cowboys: The Way of the Gun
Wyatt Earp (card game)
Snorta! New Edition from MATTEL (I hear this one is hysterically fun)
The Farming Game by Weekend Farmer
Racing ‘N Rodeo Board Game, by Weekend Farmer
Late for the Sky Rodeo-Opoly, by Late for the Sky
Life on the Farm, by WeRfun.com
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Well, partner, I reckon I better run off now and git something done with myself. Been sittin’ here at this dern computer most of the morning. Can’t wait to get this party started with you. Happy Trails!!!
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