Bubbas Dud Ranch by Gary Benton
“I got me one of them ideas Mule,” Bubba said as he sipped his hot coffee at the kitchen table in his mobile home.
He had a far away look to his eyes as he spoke to me and I got a feeling of butterflies in my stomach. See, when Bubba gets an idea it’s time to get scared. You never know what he will come up with in an attempt to make or save a buck. Once, for example, he decided to make his own houseboat. He made the boat out of fifty-gallon gas drums, plywood, and a used mobile home—it promptly sunk at the lake.
“I thinks I am a-gonna start me one of them dud ranches I heerd about on the television last night.”
“Now what zactly is a dud ranch?”
“Ya know, one of them places where rich city folks can come and ree-lax in the country. I mighten even add some horse or mule ridin’ to the program. What do ya think about that?”
“Where would ya keep ‘em over night? Ya ain’t got no hotel or even tents fer a group of people. It just won’t work.” I asked, knowing that Bubba had not every remotely considered that aspect. I was interested in his answer.
“Well, I reckon they could rough it. They can camp outside and I could get some tarps fer real nasty weather. I hain’t really concerned much ‘bout that part cause they’ll all be Yankees.”
“Ya mean ya don’t care if a Yankee gets cold or wet while stayin’ with ya?” I was confused once again, because this did not sound like Bubba. While dumb, he was usually caring about folks.
“No, I didn’t say that a-tall. I figger if a rich Yankee gets too cold or wet he has enough money to go into town and get a hotel room. I mean, ya have to have money to pay fer a dud ranch visit, right?”
“Oh, I see yer logic Bubba. Nice thankin’.” I said with an inward groan. See; in Bubba’s mind this all made sense.
I forgot about Bubba’s plans over the next few weeks. Then one day I went into town to get a few things. There, taped to the front door of Wilson’s General Store and Wedding Gowns, was a flyer. I looked at the paper and began to read, ‘Y’all come to Bubba’s Dud Ranch fer a nice reelaxin’ time. We gots us some mules fer ya to ride, some catfishin’ in the pond behind the house, rough campin’ fer real outdoors men and women, and we even let ya do yer own cookin’. Come visit Bubba’s and be a REAL mountain man or woman. For more infermashun call….’
As soon as I got home, I gave Bubba a call. I was impressed when he answered the phone, “Bubba’s Dud Ranch and remote campin’ site. Bubba a-speakin’ to ya.”
“Bubba, this is Mule. How’s business?” I could hardly wait to hear his disappointed comments.
“Real good. I got me a big group a-comin’ tomorrow mornin’.”
“Good fer ya. How many of ‘em?”
“Twenty-five and I need some hep. You hep me and I will grease yer palm fer ‘bout fifty dollars. How does that sound ole buddy?”
“Sounds good. What time do you want me to show up?” I wasn’t interested in the job so much as to see what would happen.
“Be heah ‘bout the time the rooster crows. OK?”
“I wouldn’t miss this Bubba, really. Gotta go, but I’ll see ya in the mornin’.”
I knew that Bubba wanted me there before sunrise. I also knew this was going to be something to see. Bubba knew nothing about a dude ranch and little about a business. Additionally, he knew very little about Yankees or any other folks really. Well, maybe a little about business since he ran his own auto repair shop in his barn. But, this would be fun. I spent the rest of the night thinking about how things could go wrong.
At five in the morning, I was at Bubba’s. I had to wake him up and laughed as he made coffee. I could see he had no idea how much trouble a group of people this size would be. I was really looking forward to this day, for sure. We spent the first two hours drinking coffee, talking about coon hunting, and looking over Bubba’s fishing lure collection. At seven, a bus pulled up into Bubba’s driveway. It was full of men and women.
Bubba was wearing his camouflage military fatigues and floppy hat. He strutted off like a drill instructor as he went to meet the bus. I stood in the background hardly controlling myself. Here is when the fun would really start.
“I want y’all to belly up to the line heah and let me do a herd count!” Bubba yelled just like my old drill instructor used to.
Of course no one moved, well, at least not toward Bubba’s line anyway. The guests kept meandering around the bus and the barnyard, looking and talking about his place. Either they were all very hard of hearing or not giving Bubba much attention. I watched, filled with an inner joy, as Bubba yelled and yelled to no avail. Finally he stomped off to his mobile home. I gave a little laugh as his front door slammed shut behind him. I should not have laughed. I suspected he had gone to get a beer, but soon learned that was not it at all.
A few seconds later and his front door swung open and there stood Bubba, with his shotgun in his hands. Oh my Goodness, I thought, he has finally flipped. Before I could say a word or even move, the gun went off. Everyone turned toward Bubba to see what had happened.
“Now that I got y’all’s attention. Get yer butts over to the line so I can count y’all.”
Surprisingly, everyone moved to the line and there was very little talk. I guess it’s easier to comply to orders when the fool yelling has a loaded gun in his hands. In a few minutes Bubba had his count and asked if there were any questions.
“Sir, could you be so kind as to tell me where the ladies room is?” Asked a middle-aged woman with white hair and thick glasses.
“I shore can tell ya. Better than that, I’ll show ya.” Bubba’s right arm raised and he turned in a complete circle. He stopped, looked at the woman and continued, “See all them trees out there? Well, just take yer pick.”
“What do you mean sir?”
“Ms Turnapple, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir, it is.”
“Well, this is a rough camping area. There are no latrines heah. Iffen ya gotta go, go behind a tree. Oh, and cover it up when yer done.”
“You mean to use the wild, like a…a…common cat?”
“Nope, not at all, it’s more like a bear,” Bubba said with a grin on his face.
“I certainly will not!” Ms Turnapple shouted.
“Ms Turnapple, were ya not in-formed that this was a rough campin’ area? Primative campin’ is how my flyer stated it.”
“Yes, but all camping areas have bathrooms and showers.”
“Well, this one heah ain’t. Notta.”
“I refuse to use the trees Mr Bubba.”
“It’s just plain Bubba, not Mister. And, ya’ll use the trees when ya have to go bad enough.”
The little old woman shook her head, turned, and walked away…right toward the trees. Guess things were just a might too primitive for her liking. I looked back at Bubba as he picked up a handful of tarps.
“Folks, it looks like rain so I want ya to all put up a tarp tent.”
I noticed a dumb look on many of the faces. I suspected that many had never slept in a tent before, much less made a tarp tent. Heck, I would have been surprised if any of them had ever spent a night in the woods.
I could hear comments like; what is a tarp tent? Where are the directions? Where are the tent poles and those little sharp things that hold it down? And, Are you joking?
Bubba smiled and said, “Mule and I’ll be a-heppin’ all of ya put them tents up. They hain’t hard to do and only take a few minutes to get up. Ladies and gentlemen’s, please, follow me to the designated campin’ area.”
To make a long story short, we spent the next few hours making tents and establishing a camping area. Bubba explained fire safety, weather, first aid, and many other subjects that afternoon. At about five, we distributed the evening meal, beans with a chunk of hog jowl, cornbread, and collard greens with fatback. We’d already cooked it because Bubba suspected it might rain. I have never, I mean never, in my life seen such an unhappy bunch of people. You know, in my military career I had to eat snakes, bugs, and other things…but that group was an unhappy bunch of campers. Most of them had no idea how to eat southern cooking.
Of course, many of the ladies could cook, but I suspect not on an open fire. And, I’m sure none of them had ever cooked what Bubba served. Looking around, I saw fires of all sizes being used and knew most of the wood would be burned way before the night was over. I was right It was about two hours after dinner that Willy Eugene showed up in his flatbed hay truck. He got out, placed some large white bags and a sign made from a cardboard box on the bed of his truck. I walked over to see what the sign said. As I looked closely I could see the words, burgers $5, fries $3, and cola’s $2. I turned toward a noise behind me and moved out of the way quickly as twenty-five people with money in-hand rushed to the truck. I suspect Willy made a killing that evening.
At five in the morning, Bubba and I made our way to the campsite. People were asleep all over the field. It looked like one of those old photos of a Civil War battlefield. Bodies were everywhere you turned. Bubba, who had taken to packing his shotgun, raised it and fired once. Heads were raised and one old man cursed.
“Mornin’ y’all. Hope ya had a great night in the great outdoors. But, now it’s time to do a little mule ridin’. We leave in twenty minutes.”
One younger man with a baldhead raised is right arm high into the air. I saw Bubba shake his head, totally surprised obviously.
“Sir, this hain’t no school house and I ain’t no school marm, but, do ya have a question?”
“Yes. When is breakfast?”
“Ya hungry again? Ya just had beans and hog meat last night.”
“Well, I think I speak for all of us when I request a morning meal.”
Bubba gave a grin, shook his head, and said, “I will serve y’all breakfast in front of the mobile office in ten minutes. Bring yer mess kits.” He turned and walked off. Of course, I followed him.
In exactly ten minutes, all of his campers were in line with their mess kits. Bubba, with a smile on his face, picked up the large spoon and reached into the big pot on the porch. I watched a look of total disgust fill the first persons face as a large spoonful of grits hit his mess kit.
“Next!” Bubba yelled as he reached back into the pot.
“What in the world is this?” Asked the first man looking down at his food.
“Son, them is grits, Southern breakfast food at its very finest.”
“Well, what are grits? They don’t look very good.”
“Grits is grits. Grits is a manly food that all Southerners deeply love. Just eat ‘em and enjoy.”
Well, from that point on Bubba’s Dud ranch was on its way down hill. I hate to say it, but most Yankees don’t like grits. And, nobody likes Bubba’s grits. I mean nobody. He always under cooks them and they’re hard. Now, many people don’t like grits when they are cooked properly, so I guess you have the idea. People will tolerate many things, but poor food is usually not one of them. That French general, Napoleon, had it right when he said an army travels on its stomach. Well, so do people at a dude ranch.
“Look her Mister Bubba,” Ms Turnapple was standing in Bubba’s face and she was mad.
“What can I do for you?”
“I have had enough of this nonsense. I demand my money back, because I’m leaving.”
Well, soon the whole group was demanding their money back and finally Bubba had to give in.
“Folks, y’all paid fer three nights. You spent one night and had breakfast served. Plus, one third of it is non-refundable, per our a-greement. I will refund one third of y’all’s money. I thank that would be fair, right?”
In less than thirty minutes, the whole group was gone and they were all walking toward town. I guess they expect to find an airport or bus station there. Well, this was their week for surprises, because we had neither. Bubba, on the other hand, was sitting on the porch to his mobile home with a smile on his face.
“I am sorry things didn’t turn out right Bubba. I told you in the beginning it would be difficult and most likely wouldn’t work out.” I took a seat beside him.
“Not work out? Why Mule I’m surprised at you. I still made five thousand dollars, not to mention other profits yet to be decided.”
“How do you figure to make more money off of those folks Bubba? I mean, well, they’ve already left.” I was dumbfounded to say the least.
Bubba stood, stretched, and scratched where it itched. He smiled, looked at me, and said, “Willy Eugene, Jimmy Lee, Jim Bob, and Gary Dean are taking them folks to the big city. There will be a small transportation fee of course. Half of which belongs to Bubba’s Dud Ranch.”
I could see it all in my minds eye. See, all of those men owned flatbed hay trucks. Bubba had done it again.
“Mule?” Bubba was facing me and had a very serious look in his eyes once again. “I been a-thinkin’ some. What do ya know ‘bout ‘puter repairs? Cain’t be no harder than a truck engine, right?”
Without a word, I turned and walked away.