On this quiet, chilly, but snowless afternoon I started thinking about a part of this ranch’s life that I don’t often write about. Houseguests. We have frequently had houseguests here, and they have done a little bit of almost everything there is to do at the ranch. Our houseguests generally have been: family, friends, business acquaintances (including writers, musicians, photographers, environmentalists, botanists, customer/clients, occasional vacationers, and a hunter or two). Some visitors have just come by, out of interest and curiosity, to see the buffalo, the ranch, and what we do. We try, as much as we can, to show them as much of the ranch workings as they have wanted to see. And we can almost always provide a beer or a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a bottle of water to accompany a tour.
Those guests, who have perhaps spent a weekend or even longer, more often than not, have had the opportunity to see a large portion of the ranch. They might have taken a sightseeing tour on horseback. On occasion they have wanted to help with some of the ranch work (and we certainly are not above some friendly Tom Sawyerism regarding the fences, the waterworks, or even with moving the herds)-for which they are often treated to a buffalo meal prepared and presented by our own, in my opinion, four-star, catering, prairie mistress of the kitchen, Jill Maguire, la premiere cuisiniere.
A meal that Jill offers might be anything from a soup and sandwich lunch served buffet style on the deck or exquisitely prepared grouse, quail, or pheasant, to a four or five course dinner of grilled top sirloin buffalo steaks with vegetables, and one or more of her specially created sauces. All of this comes, of course, after hors d’oeuvres and followed by an elegant dessert. There are carefully selected wine(s) to accompany the meal along with conversation, story telling, laughter, and music.
I am not very good at describing the food with exacting culinary details and precision. My palate just doesn’t let me know these things very well. I only know what I like, and from Jill’s hot, spicy, chunky tomato soup or salmon bisque, to her appetizers and buffalo roast right down to her simplest salad, I’ve never had anything but admiration and praise for her creations, preparations, and presentations.
Guaranteed! Often these guests and always Jill’s cooking are perks that this middle-aged, somewhat rough out retiree never had anticipated when he took the job. But taken together they make the difficulties easier, the sometimes long hours shorter, and life out here mostly wonderful – even without snow.