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A City Boy, a Horse, and Montana

Emmit Beal and his friend Belt. Pine Butte Guest Ranch is the perfect place for kids of all age.

I want to share with you a story about Pine Butte Guest Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property in Montana on the Rocky Mountain Front, where the mountains meet the plains.

I became enamored with this property when I accompanied a group of Legacy Club donors here in 2009. But this story is not about me, it’s about my only child Emmit. Emmit was six months old when I joined the Conservancy staff in 2000. I looked upon that little boy as a future soldier in our peaceful army whose mission is to save the earth. Through the years he has seen many Conservancy places. but as he’s grown he has felt the allure of technology. Emmit wants all the other handheld computer devices his friends have and, where my husband and I are voracious readers, Emmit has been a reluctant one. So last summer, we said “Sorry, dude, no iPod this year — we’re going to Montana." That summer we drove from Minneapolis to Montana and were awe-struck by the beauty along the way — fields of sunflowers full of blackbirds, the badlands of North Dakota and eastern Montana.

When we arrived at Pine Butte, we discovered that few kids Emmit’s age would be there. We were a bit concerned since our extroverted child relies on a steady diet of play dates. But, much to our pleasure, Emmit quickly forgot his old habits and had a week of firsts at Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

He saw the mountains, a moose, an elk and the tracks of a bear. He went a whole week without watching television or using a computer. He regularly dined with strangers and didn’t feel compelled to sit with his parents. And he fell in love. The object of his affection was significantly older at 26, much taller and a horse named “Belt.” Emmit couldn’t wait to roll out of bed in the morning to see Belt. He raced through meals and would have slept with Belt if he could. The boy had it bad!

Naturally Emmit was very sad when it was time to pack up and head home to the Twin Cities. He had to have his photo taken with the cute girl wranglers, his special friends Ron, Georgia and Mike (all 60+), and his horse pal Belt. He asked the wranglers permission to take Belt an apple as a good-bye present.

Remember I told you how Emmit wasn’t much of a reader (or writer) earlier? On the way home he picked up the first book of Harry Potter and read it almost all throughout the entire 18-hour trip. When he began 6th grade that fall and had to write an essay, he chose riding in the mountains of Montana with Belt as his topic. And he earned his first “A” in English!

Pine Butte Guest Ranch is the perfect place for kids of all ages to explore their inner cowboy (or cowgirl), to fall in love with nature (and horses) and to discover what life can be like untethered from a computer or television screen — even if it’s just for a week. 

Click here to learn more about Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

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