The Dude-ranch Cowboy – The Dude Ranch Car

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When I was a kid there were dude-ranches in Canada and the US…and they did a pretty good business. They were the brainchild of ranchers who found raising cattle or horses or sheep or gophers did not pay enough – they needed extra income. As they had large ranch buildings that could accommodate far more cowboys than they needed, they were in a position to cash in on the glamour and legend of western life. All they needed to do was get fresh Mexican blankets for the furniture and find a cook who could make edible food and they could open a dude-ranch.

They advertised for local rubes who could teach eastern city slickers enough riding to get them up on a horse at the start of the day and down off it at the end. They advertised for eastern city slickers who imagined that it would be fun. The cowboy movies and pictures of Dale Evans helped a lot – business boomed. It may still be booming, for all I know.

I am not sure if it ever did so here in Australia. Dude-stations might have some appeal but some of the locales in the bush are pretty primitive and some of the locals even more so. Even bush pubs can be a trial for the nerves and digestion…fun is only delivered at specified times of the year and if you are not there then you miss out.

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Likewise, the business of the vehicle for the dude ranch. In North America they might have been wooden-sided passenger cars or quasi -working variations on standard items, but when they were designed it looked as though neither the manufacturers or the buyers really had any confidence in what they were buying. The Ford Ranchero and the Chevy El Camino were real, but no-one thought of them in the same way as they thought of pickup trucks. As a result, far fewer of them were really seen out on the prairies – their appearance in restoration and rodding shows notwithstanding.

Here in Australia it was the other way about. The ute was the bush variant of the passenger sedan and the country took to the idea immediately – far more utes circulate than ever do pickups. I suspect that Australians have more confidence in the ability of the ute to actually haul stuff in rough conditions than do their North American cousins. Maybe Australian utes are just built tougher – a step between the ranch wagon and the pickup.

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All to introduce the subject of this post – this fine example of a Jeep ute/truck/4wd/show pony seen at the Rods ‘n Rust show. It is dedicated to a horse riding firm and this would seem to be absolutely right for the shape and condition. I love the chrome bolts and in this context they are perfect bling. I did not see the driver on the day, but I was hoping they would have an Akubra, if not a Stetson, and I would even have been willing to accept a cowboy shirt and bolo tie…

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