The smell of smoke in the air as we walked to the front porch sent everyone running. Joe jumped in the truck and drove to the top of the hill for a good view. Nancy got on the phone to neighbors. Lightning and its accompanying thunder had been teasing the ranch since the night before. The rain would be welcome, but a misplaced bolt of lightning could be disastrous in this dry summer. This time, it was nothing, but the threat was real… as was the glimpse of real life on a longhorn cattle ranch.

The Moore Longhorn Cattle Ranch south of Bucklin gives the visitor an opportunity to experience life on a ranch. It doesn’t disappoint.

The Moore family makes it clear theirs is NOT a “dude” ranch. It is a REAL working ranch. They have cattle, train horses, raise chickens and sheep and even keep bees near a fledgling orchard. When you go, you stay in a cabin, but work with them on the ranch and eat at their family table. They really have a way of making you feel like old friends and a welcome sight in their home.

Hospitality with a capital “H” greeted our family from the moment we arrived. One of the great things about THIS ranch experience is that the Moore family really tries to consider your needs. For instance, I am a beginner rider at best, but they found me a horse, named “Biscuit,” that made me feel very comfortable when we took off across the prairie. They had a small horse named “Lightning” for our six-year-old, and even a Shetland pony named “Matt Dillon” for our three-year-old to try out.

My husband called the whole experience “Awesome.” He also mentioned awe-inspiring. (That could have been the double rainbow we got to see.) For a man, who not-so-secretly wonders why God placed him in the city instead of somewhere out on the prairie with “…a hundred and sixty acres full of sunshine” (a nod to Marty Robbins there), he might even go as far as to call it a “dream come true.” We got to go out on a horseback ride, a real ride, not just some boring pre-fabricated trail that hundreds have gone down before. We went to check the bulls. Ten bulls. That’s a lot of bulls.

The Moore’s went out of their way to make this a good experience for our family. And without going into the gory details, I’ll just say Nancy REALLY went above and beyond while watching my 3-year-old so his mama could go out on a ride. The kids loved the horses, getting to feed them a special treat, helping with chores, and even chasing the sheep, which I’m really pretty sure they weren’t supposed to do. What impressed me most was how good the Moore’s were at helping us track our kids while we were all getting our horses saddled and ready to ride. It just seemed like every time I looked up to wonder where my child ran off to, Nancy was there to assure me he was fine. All you moms know how important little things like that can be.

The Moore family obviously enjoys having guests, and they are good hosts. Joe says he comes by it naturally explaining his dad “never met a stranger.” Their son, Laramie, and niece, Elizabeth, were both enthusiastic teachers when the kids helped with chores, like picking up the eggs from the chicken coop, bottle feeding a calf, or milking a not-so-willing new-mom cow so it would be easier for her baby to eat. If we had only been there one day earlier, we could have seen that calf born.

You can schedule your own ranch experience for a day, weekend or longer by giving the Moore family a call at 620-826-3649 or check out more details at Their season for guests runs from the spring cattle drive in April to the fall cattle drive in October. This year, they are also offering a six day drive into Medicine Lodge for the Peace Treaty Pageant in September. A private cabin (which my boys loved), meals and a LOT of horseback riding are all included. They also have space for up to ten guests on their cattle drives. Now THAT’S really living the life. Everyone should try it.

Karen Ridder is a freelance writer living in Topeka. A former News Producer for KSNW-TV in Wichita, her work can also been seen in print publications including: Topeka Magazine, TK Magazine and the Topeka Capital-Journal. She has written for several national blogs and was recently recognized as one of the 2011 winners in the Annual Kansas Factual Story Contest. Karen has lived in Kansas for 15 years and married a native Wichitan. Together they are raising two little sunflower boys and a dog named George.