Dude Ranch or Guest Ranch?

Evander Berry Wall, a New York socialite, was dubbed “King of the Dudes.” He is pictured (1888) in the New York American newspaper at the time of the “battle of the Dudes”.

 

Last month I attended the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association meeting in Denver. This is always a great time for ranchers to get together and talk about what is new in the industry, how their past season was and what their upcoming season looks like, but mostly what is on their minds. This year we discussed staffing, marketing and what really is the difference between a Dude Ranch and a Guest Ranch.

Over the past month, I have continued to think about this. Is The Home Ranch classified as a dude ranch or guest ranch? Should we be classified as one or the other? What makes you one versus the other?  The other day, I was talking with our Marketing Director,  Erik Lunde, about this and he reminded me that we had talked about this a couple of years ago, did some research and put together a little blurb about it (okay well it’s not really that little, but it is entertaining.)  I thought that I would share it with you:

Are You A Guest Or Are You A Dude?
Thoughts on The Great Colorado Dude Ranch Brouhaha

“We’re pretty sure the number of people who know or even care about the great Guest Ranch vs. Dude Ranch controversy could be contained in the local post office of our little town of Clark, Colorado. But for those of us on the inner circle of this small semantical range war, it is apparent that a serious brouhaha is at hand, and we feel the need to speak to it outright. In so doing, we hope we don’t hurt any cowboy feelings or put off our more sophisticated patrons. We only want to speak plainly.

You see, it is “High Noon” between the trusty old moniker Dude Ranch and the new, gussied up phrase Guest Ranch. In fact, this Dude vs. Guest issue has become something of a serious marketing problem for at least fifteen to thirty-two cowboys, (depending upon whom is brave enough to admit it.) So we here at the Home Ranch feel the need to put in our two cents on this subject as we aren’t the kind to pussyfoot around a thing. But before we digress too far, a little back story on this lexicographical misfortune is in order.

Seems just the other day we were discussing the Dude Ranch Vs. Guest Ranch predicament when one of our customers, an incredibly smart dude from New York, said that he found the term Dude Ranch…well, corny. He said “it conjured up ham and beans, and people saying yee-haw and doing the chicken dance and so forth…” He painted lurid images of “aggressively clanging dinner bells” and “greenhorn impostors in over-sized cowboy hats.” The last thing he said he wanted on his vacation was what he called, “a sort of Disneyfied parody of the Western experience.” In essence, he was definitely not a Dude. And yet here he was. So we pressed him to find out how he ended up at, what to us, was indeed a Dude Ranch.

Seems he found us when he was searching Google for a Colorado ranch vacation. He was looking for a luxury guest ranch that would provide him with the things he liked about staying on a Colorado Guest Ranch, but none of the things he hated about the dread idea of a Dude Ranch. Well we are glad he found us as he enlightened us on many subjects during his stay, and he got us to thinking that we needed to speak directly to the problem, and state our position clearly.

You see, we aren’t ashamed to call the Home Ranch a Dude Ranch, even though it is obvious to us that some folks we speak to see this is a marketing problem. But we see this merely as a problem of education in the etymological origins of the word Dude. See, we here at the Home Ranch are proud of the term Dude Ranch – (and yet we are malleable enough to diversity to be called a Guest Ranch as well.) Either way, guests or dudes are welcome, whichever word they choose for themselves; the experience we offer them is the same either way, and a name is just a name. And though we understand our good friend from New York and his trouble with the “Disneyfied parody of the west” issue, we feel that the history of the Dude Ranch is something to be proud of, (even though we disassociate ourselves with the more troublesome aspects of dude ranching because frankly, we don’t care for the Chicken dance either.) And so in the interest of reclaiming the glory of the word, we will attempt to explain the origin of the word Dude. Because we rather like dudes, as most of us are dudes, and we want us dudes to understand ourselves.

But we’ll let you decide – do you want to be a dude or guest on our ranch?

Selina

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