When Machu Picchu first revealed itself before Hiram Bingham in 1911 and Angkor Wat appeared before Henri Mouhot in 1860, did Bingham and Mouhot feel as I felt when the vernal lushness of Rankin Ranch’s meadow, peppered with radiant sunlight, came into view, leaving almost no trace of a lingering winter? Instead of antiquated ruins, a dual-purpose ranch noted for its western hospitality and pastoral tranquility greets its guests. For a lifelong city dweller who is used to driving on frenzied freeways (and who has dreamt of treading and living off the wild), stumbling onto Rankin Ranch, after meandering through nine miles of rustic, winding roads deep in the Tehachapi Mountains, is like stumbling onto Shangri-la. Rankin Ranch, which is located in the immense Walker Basin, is the place that six generations of the Rankin family have called home.
During my three-day stay at the ranch, frontier life and homesteading permeated my thoughts. Moreover, I had finished reading Willa Cather’s My Ántonia only a few months ago. Unlike in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford or Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, I do not recall characters in My Ántonia drinking tea at all, tea being such a commonplace beverage. But what about in Western movies? There, wandering cowboys seem to drink gallons of low-grade coffee from their well-worn tin cups. Did they ever drink tea? Dandelion tea maybe? Other teas prepared with herbs and weeds flourishing along the trails?
Though not an animal lover, I cherished the indescribable time spent with Wyatt, a 17-year-old American Quarter Horse (so called as the breed possesses the ability to outdistance other breeds, including thoroughbreds, in races of a quarter mile or less) who journeyed with me on trails and across meadows, even in squall and drizzle. Being older and wiser, and perhaps disenchanted (most possibly with the recurrent drudgery of interacting with complete strangers), Wyatt made a few attempts to overtake, or to swerve from, the paths he has traversed a thousand times, but when I very gently pulled the reins, he became motionless instantly. He detected my tentative nature, though we had only met!
Being on a horseback brought the song, Stewball (Peter, Paul & Mary’s rendition being my favorite), and the racehorse’s wine-drinking habit to mind. This made me wonder whether tea is harmful to animals due to its caffeine content. Several T Ching contributors have wondered the same, an example being Laura Logsdon’s post. As a consequence of seeing the bizarre photos of Japanese Namennayo! Cats at a very young age, I could only picture cats holding tea cups.
In addition to the invaluable experience of not having access to the Internet and my cell phone, Rankin Ranch poses a reminder that getaways do not always require plane rides and itineraries in faraway destinations. The next time I seek adventure, I will check the local listings first.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, neither Machu Picchu nor Angkor Wat is ever lost to mankind.
All photographs accompanying this post were taken by Ifang’s friend, Mary Jane.