The adage is “everything in Texas is big.” The hats, the boots, the serving sizes, and anything else where size matters. Ahem.
But nudge-nudge/wink-wink double entendres were shot out of the sky when I sat down with my morning coffee and took in the wide, wide, WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE open panoramas of chaparral and mesquite waiting for me at the Wildcatter Ranch.
Way more than Dallas, Ft. Worth is the gateway to the rustic romance of America’s Old West. The funny thing is, it really isn’t all that “old;” the Wildcatter Ranch may be a five-star resort in the middle of the Texan prairie, but it is very much a working cattle ranch where cowboys, cattle runs, and, amazingly, cattle rustling, are still very much alive and kicking.
Go west from Ft. Worth and you get, literally, nowhere fast. Cities, towns, and whistle-stops all fall away and the ranches take over. But those properties are so huge (the Wildcatter is 1,500 acres alone) and the associated buildings so far apart from one another that I may as well have been on another planet. I could not even see the cattle pens from my cabin. I wanted to get away from it all, and boy, did I nail that this time around.
Just to the side of the log-hewn lodge and stone-hewn infinity pool, each of the 16 cabins of the Wildcatter is a time-warp into an O. Henry tale with a dash of Georgia O’Keefe thrown in for color. I doubt the real Old West was quite this luxurious (and idealized), but you would certainly think so after a stay. The rich, muscular decor is surprisingly pampering, revolving around iconic images of drovers, conquistadors, and Native Americans, right down to the lampshades and scent of cedar wood. A few of the cabins even have teepee daybeds. I may have been swaddled up in five-star comfort, but I felt really butch about it.
But the Wildcatter Ranch, named after prospectors drilling exploratory oil wells, is very much a working cattle ranch, and you can get up close and personal with the livestock — should you wish. For the most part, however, the day is taken up by tours on horseback of the vast ranch lands, skeet shooting, and lots and lots of other activities that make Clint Eastwood look like a whiney 5-year-old. And after taking on a few clay pigeons, I can honestly say I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn…
I consoled myself later than night by proving that I can hold my liquor with the best of ’em and still walk a straight line to my cabin (and not off the cliff behind my cabin). Somewhere between the shots there had to have been some food. I took pictures of it, so I must have eaten it…
Ranch chow is its own creature, not influenced by surrounding cuisines like Tex-Mex. It evolved, after all, from the food available to ranchers who had to make due with what was available and affordable. A meal at the Wildcatter is clearly a protean leap from biscuits and beans, but you can see the evolutionary process from hither to thither.
Nothing too fancy, though; the most exotic the Wildcatter gets is jumbo shrimp. This is all very much ranch-to-table. And that means that for all of you out there who love a good steak, behold! I have found your Nirvana. Beef in all its carnivore-y goodness is all over that menu. As is chicken, quail, bacon…
By the time I was packing, I realized this was one of those places I didn’t want to leave. I really had a great time at the Wildcatter. To be sure, one does not come to the Wildcatter for the club scene — this is a realm where time passes by seasons, not seconds. But as a place to recharge, relax, and get your ranchero on, this place ROCKS.
I will definitely return.