KYLE, Sask. — Saddle up partner, it’s time for a taste of cowboy life Saskatchewan-style.
Nestled in the Saskatchewan River valley, along the shores of Lake Diefenbaker, is the La Reata ranch, where city folk can trade in their suits and cars for a cowboy hat and a horse.
“It’s everybody’s dream to be a cowboy or play a cowboy for a time,” says George Gaber, who bought the cattle ranch in 1996 and opened it up to visitors from around the world.
A typical day at the ranch starts with breakfast, “a really hearty meal,” at about 9 a.m., then it’s time to saddle up the horses and hit the trails. It’s about 13 kilometres up and down the hills of the river valley to reach the cattle west of the guest ranch, says Gaber.
“It’s quite a ways to go,” says Gaber. “We’re out there almost for six, seven hours, depends on the riders.” “We find the cattle. We have to check them, sometimes we have to rope them and treat them.”
There are times when fences need to be repaired or posts need to pounded back into the ground. In June, the cattle is rounded up on horseback for branding. Gaber says everyone has the chance to learn how to rope and wrestle the calves.
On Oct. 10, Gaber says the fall roundup will start. That’s when the cattle are rounded up on horseback and brought from the summer pastures to the main ranch. It’s the true cowboy way of life, says Gaber, and if you don’t know how to ride, he’ll teach you.
“It doesn’t take very long and you’re going to love it,” he says.
If you think it sounds a bit like the 1991 Billy Crystal movie City Slickers, where three friends spend their holiday driving cattle from New Mexico to Colorado, you’d be right.
In fact, the movie was an inspiration for Gaber, who was born and raised on a farm in Germany.
“I was looking myself into this kind of holiday, after I watched the movie City Slickers, that’s how everything got started,” he recalls. “That how I actually ended up here in Saskatchewan.”
It was 1995 when he visited Canada and fell in love with the country, “especially with the southwest, with the Prairie and wide open space.”
A year later, Gaber bought the ranch. It’s just over 1,780 hectares, with more than 14 kilometres of waterfront along Lake Diefenbaker and about 100 pairs in a cow-calf operation.
In addition to riding the range, there’s swimming, boating, canoeing and fishing. The largest rainbow trout in the world, weighing in at 19.78 kilograms, was caught in Lake Diefenbaker in 2007, although that could fall to another rainbow caught in Diefenbaker earlier this month. The latest weighs in at a hefty 21.77 kilograms and is waiting to be certified as the record.
The evenings end with a campfire under the stars. If roasting marshmallows isn’t your thing, there’s also a saloon on the ranch.
Gaber says there’s no set program. “You’re on holiday, you’re supposed to relax and supposed to get out of this day-to-day hectic life,” he says.
“People get all excited to come here and they ask ‘What’s now, what’s going on next, what do we do now.’ Second day they slow down and third day . . . they’re really relaxed. After three or four days you have to wake them up in the morning or they’re not going to be there in time for breakfast,” he laughs.
On the Net:
www.lareata.com or www.greatexcursions