It Truly Is A Small Word

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who lives a life that is unique and hard to manage. As some of you know I live spring and summer in Belgium, {my husband's home country} and fall and winter in Colorado to be with family along with stops in the Chicago area where I was born. This type of lifestyle is hard to manage when you have a photography business because I am always on the move. It does create great opportunities, but managing paperwork, computers, second residence, communication with family and friends and language and cultural differences can be quiet a challenge. Many times my I feel I am the only one who lives such a lifestyle and I am on my own when dealing with all the challenges.  But a recent trip to a small town in Shell, Wyoming made me realize just what a small world this truly is.

A group of fellow equine photographers ventured to a fabulous guest ranch to create winter images of horses and western lifestyle images. We stayed the week at The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch located in Shell, Wyoming with a population of 63. This ranch is set just below the beautiful Big Horn Mountains. It took my breath away with the beautiful log cabin lodge and quaint cabins set in fresh snow with views of the mountains everywhere you looked. It brought back my memories of living in Montana.

After settling in to our quaint log cabin room we all met for the get acquainted dinner in the lodge. That is when I discovered that this beautiful guest ranch was managed by a couple from Belgium. I could not believe that I would hearing that lovely Belgian accent so familiar to me in such a remote place. Peter De Cabooter and his wife Marijn Werquin (just to clarify in Belgium women do not take the family name of their husbands which I think is great} manage this lovely lodge and guest ranch and also live a similar lifestyle as myself. Who would have thought I would find a couple from Belgian in such a remote location?

We had a chance to talk about Belgium, living in the two countries and how we both handle the travel of back and forth and all that goes with living in to different cultures.  Having met them made me feel a bit more content with my very different lifestyle. I realized that there must be many who live this multi-cultural life and deal with all the excitement and challenges that comes with this.

Having worked with my husband on several guest ranches while living in Montana for 10 years, I quickly recognized how Peter and Marijn bring the best of Belgium to this small western community. The ranch offers nothing shy of quality from the beautiful log lodge and quaint cabins to an accomplished chef Sheena cooking meals you would only expect in high level restaurants. All the staff was professional, friendly and very qualified for the position they were hired to do. Peter told me during one of our conversations during cocktail hour that he understands that if he hires the best employees he know he has to offer them a long-term career so they can keep the high level of employees that they have. Unlike the ranches we worked on that after three months you were scrambling to find another job for the rest of the year which most likely not make if possible to return to the guest ranch the following season leaving the owners to continually trying  find new employees. Which in return leaves regular guests wondering what to expect the following year.

In Belgium you can not just hang out your sign and run a business, you must be trained, schooled and certificate for the professional position in most cases. I see that at the HIdeout ranch Peter and Marijn have brought this quality to the ranch. I also experienced the friendliness and creativity of the employees that is so prevalent in our culture. Like Tom Bercher the head wrangler with his patience for us demanding photographers to Rebecca his wife who is the office manager and keeps everything running smooth.There were the two twin c cowboys  Greg and Mark Prows entertaining us all with their cowboy stories. So with the best of two cultures they have created a very unique and pleasant experience. This was the first time I experienced both of my worlds coming together in this lovely week.

I hope in the future I can bring my husband back to The HIdeout Lodge and Guest ranch so he too experience what it is like when you blend these two cultures together and how a quality ranch guest ranch can be run.

If you have a dream of experiencing the western lifestyle and want to ride a horse in the beautiful wide open spaces of Wyoming I highly recommend The HIdeout Ranch as a place for your destination. I guarantee you will not be disappointed and will you will have a once in a life time experience at this very unique and traditional western ranch.

Here are some of the photographs I took during the week. The interior image  are were created by the talented fellow photographer Rebbeca Neff.

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Tom Bercher our vary patient and wonderful host.

Tom Bercher our vary patient and wonderful host.

Rebecca taking a day out of the office

Rebecca taking a day out of the office

Double Trouble Mark & Greg Prows

Double Trouble Mark & Greg Prows

Augustus son of Rebecca and Tom Bercher

Augustus son of Rebecca and Tom Bercher

Peter & Marijn

Peter & Marijn

Marijn with her faithful border collie

Marijn with her faithful border collie

The whole crew of riders

The whole crew of riders

Where Do You Come From?

I have never had a conventional life. From a very early age my family seem to move quite often. I can remember as a young child my mother saying that when she was first married they moved 9 times and never got off the block. My dad's family had two rentals on their property. As we grew older we still moved often. Mostly within the same town but from one house to another. When I  got married at a very young age this moving situation continued. We had a small apartment, then a small starter house, then a suburban home for our family of 4 kids under 5. Then I got the country bug and we moved to a mini-farm in the country and lived in a very old farm-house.The kids loved the country life where we raised every farm animal under the sun. We heated with wood in the winters and I had a huge garden and canned all our food. I loved this life until my husband got transferred so we had to  move back to where we came from and rented a small 2 bedroom house in town. We were cramped with four kids and two dogs and two horses boarded out but we managed. Finally we bought 5 acres and built a nice two-story home where things seem to settle down and we lived there for 15 years.

After the kids were raised as happens I got a divorce and moved to an apartment of my own. All of these moves were in the same state of Illinois. But when I took a job as a ranch cook in Montana life got really interesting. I met a cowboy from Belgium (yes they have them there, not many but I found one) After the season ended he flew back to Belgium and I moved to Wyoming where I was cooking at a lodge and about starved to death until a good friend offered me  a great job  in Florida to manage a horse farm. My Belgian cowboy came across the pond and we got married, shortly after that we moved to Montana where we so wanted to live and build our life. This was the state where we met the mountains were calling us home.

We worked on several ranches there and part of your pay is a home to live in. But guess what, when the job doesn't work out you lose your home also.  Needles to say finding the right job for both of us was difficult and we ended up moving 9 times in the 10 years we lived in Montana. So not to sound to crazy we did build our dream home, a nice cabin on a mountain side where we lived for 5 years. So the first 5 years were the crazy ones.

When the economy started to fall and things got tight, we knew we could not eat the mountains nor would they supply us with any security for the future as we were approaching the fall of our life. My husband thought it was best to go back to Belgium and secure his government pension along with cheap health care. All this seem to make sense since we were not getting any younger. So we sold our dream home and moved across the ocean and built a nice cottage home in the country.

Every time I moved to a different area the local people, you know the ones that have lived in the same house in the same town all their lives would always ask "So where are you from? How on earth do I answer that? I have tried to say I was born and raised in Illinois, but that is only part of my story of where I come from. I have tried to explain to them all the places I have lived but then they get a strange glossed over look in their eyes that says I think this girl is crazy. So usually I just say "Oh lot's of places" and leave it go at that.

Now that I have been living in Belgium for the last 5 years, I have been struggling with the language, culture, and making friends but mostly missing my 4 grown children and my 7 beautiful grandchildren. My husband knows all to well what it is like not to live where you feel you do not belong. He had the same feeling when he lived in the USA for 10 years.

We both agreed that it would be best if I split my time between Belgium and Colorado. So come Oct 13th I head to the beautiful state of Colorado to spend the winter months and then back to Belgium for the summers. I told you I do not have a conventional life.

So now I will be once more  be faced with the question "Where do you come from?" I have given this some thought and I think I will answer  "it is not so important where I come from as long as I know where I am going."

What do you think? Good answer?