What a Month! Part 1: CityKids Storm the Ranch!

Whew. And you wonder why I haven’t posted more. (Or maybe not.) And I wonder why I still haven’t finished my book. Here’s the answer. It starts with a rodeo.

Rodeo bull rider

August 4: Yup, when I landed back here in Californee we went straight to the rodeo in Santa Barbara. I love me a rodeo for five reasons:

1. cowboys
2. all the cool stuff the cowboys (and cowgirls) do
3. hot dogs
4. cold beer
5. mutton busting

Rodeo - mutton busting

Mutton busting is when brave but terrified 5-year-olds hang on for dear life to terrified sheep running for dear life. Here it is on YouTube.

Me I was happy at that age in Tarboro with Miss Bobbi’s tap dancing classes.

Rancho La Zaca’s own cowboy, all-rounder and moral compass Wyatt Cromer rode in the Wild Cow Milking and nearly hot his’self kilt by a very ornery giant cow.

Brahman cow, photo by Jim Kelly. That fence she's standing beside is 6 feet tall. I'm telling you no good can come of tangling with this cow.

And anyway why would you want to milk a wild cow when there is milk right there in the refrigerator?

Keeping us company at the rodeo and a few days at the ranch were eight fantastic young’uns and their fearless leaders, Leon and Letitia McNeil, who stopped to see us on their way home from their annual “City Kids Adventure.” This year they traveled to Alaska, Alaska, in an RV, an RV, from San Antonio, Texas, a distance roughly equivalent from Earth to the moon. With 14-year-olds.

San Antonio CityKids at the rodeo

Leon and Letitia are two of those amazing people you meet once in a great while who change people’s lives. We met Leon quail hunting on friends’ ranch in Texas, where he works weekends as a dog handler.

Dog handler, teacher and mentor Leon McNeil in the field

During the week he and his wife teach in San Antonio and work with an extraordinary group of young people who work very hard and often under very challenging circumstances to earn the privilege of being part of the group, and if they’re lucky, going on the summer adventure.

CityKids cook with Chef Stephanie Valentine

Find out more about City Kids here, or email City Kids Adventures at cka@idworld.net.

Yours truly gave a mini-workshop on etiquette and table manners, which everyone practiced beautifully.

We did just about everything there is to do around the ranch–rode, shot, swam, sketched, puzzled, made pizza, toured a winery and a brewery, visited area colleges, slept in tents, and ate every morsel of food in Santa Barbara County. There is not one breadcrumb left.

We had a drawing class and a clothesline exhibition over the mantle.
Viticulture and winemaking talk by our Oak Savanna Vineyard Manager Felipe Hernandez

We had a ball. They had a ball. His Grace and I felt blessed to have them. I try not to say mushy stuff like that but it is the truth.

Meanwhile, book deadline looms …

Panic, via photobucket.com

August 7: HG and I went to see friends and to visit the fantabulous Lotusland, which I did manage to scribble about here.

So what about you? Have you been able to relax, catch up on your reading, do a little gardening… or have you been as frantic as I have? Not that it isn’t all good fun stuff, but wtf?

Week 2… To be continued…



    1. Thank you Smiling Water 🙂 And yes, the children slept in the tents, but grown ups sleep in them too. They are pretty snazzy with proper twin beds and running water!

  1. Frances, Love your blog and have been a longtime reader. Imagine my surprise when I read about Leon! He and Leticia are remarkable people and love what he is doing with CityKids adventures. They are truly making a difference in the lives of many young people! Thanks for this post!!!

    1. Well thank you, Elizabeth, and thanks for the shout-out to Leon and Leticia. They are remarkable indeed. In the interest of brevity I kept the info short, but it is notable that the McNeils receive no monetary compensation for their City Kids work and that it is funded entirely by themselves and by private donors. Pretty darn impressive.

  2. I loved this post. So heartwarming and inspirational!Double blessings! Book deadline? Which book deadline? What are you up to? I’ll keep a good thought that you beat it. (-:

    1. Thank you, Leslie, so happy to hear from you. The book is “Just Bee,” about Bee Cottage, which you, Missy, encouraged me to write. xox Frances

  3. It’s not that frequently that I laugh out loud when, each night, I catch up on email, etc., but Frances, you are a hoot!
    A wonderful story as well. So glad you posted today!

  4. A new subscriber here – a NC transplant now living in the shadow of the Great Smokey Mountains here in TN.
    I always love reading of people who generously give of themselves. Thank you for a lovely post today.

    1. And I happen to know, Miss Renee, that it’s nothing you wouldn’t have done, or don’t already do, but thank you. 🙂

  5. Loved, loved, loved this post, fun and heartwarming. That is one BIG cow, goodness gracious! I know the kids had a great time at the rodeo and the ranch. My hat is off to Leon and Letitia, the world needs more people like them. An RV trip to Alaska with 14-year olds, they are HEROES. Speaking of book deadlines, how is the Atlanta At Table project coming along? So looking forward to it AND to “Just Bee.”

  6. Well Lawsey, If you & His Lucky-to-Have-Snagged-You aren’t the the kindest, most generous of folks. This is such a funtastic post! Leon & Latitia are the dang bomb! I am gonna’ run right over to that link & find out all the scoop! And as for you The Divine Ms Schultz who is now a Mrs. ` Your Mama raised you right! It’s obvious you were paying close attention during the “to whom much is given, much is expected lessons!” Thx for sharing!

    1. Thank you Paige – I don’t know ’bout all that, but I am so glad you are going to read more about CKA! xox!

  7. Oh how odd is this – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Letitia McNeel. ( She was named after President John Tyler’s first wife – Letitia Christian – her great, great grandmother.)

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