Cowkids learn golden rule

Driving along Highway 43 east of U.S. 280, you’ve probably noticed a wide clearing in the forest. Through the trees there is a sparkling lake and fenced rolling pasture spreading down to a winding creek at the base of Penitentiary Mountain.

That’s Hidden Creek Ranch, the oldest western–only ranch in the area, owned by Leslie and Ky Vinsant. It’s been in Ky’s family for 40 years.

One sunny morning I met him at the gate near the barn.

“Over there is a schoolhouse built 187 years ago, back when Creek Indians lived in this valley,” Ky said.

His cell phone rang. I waited.

The Vinsants have been teaching traditional Western–style riding since the1970s, and in 2001 expanded their programs, after inspiration from a girl named Hope.

“Through Hope, I discovered we could make a difference in children’s lives,” he said. “Some of the children are troubled, or had bad experiences with horses. Many grow self esteem while learning riding skills.”

Vinsant told me how he and wife Leslie, the “Straw Boss” of the outfit, teach children old–fashioned values. They learn to say please and thank you, and address people as sir or ma’am.

“We want to be a shining light in the world and leave the young folks with a sense of going back in time,” he said. “We teach them to “ride for the brand,” meaning when they leave here, they’re representing the ranch by living what we’ve taught. Also, they learn they’re riding for the brand of the Cross, showing Christian values, like kindness toward others.”

The Bible says in Matthew 28:19–20, “Go and make disciples … teaching them to observe all things I have commanded.”

Clearly, love for your brother — a command the world needs most — is taught at Hidden Creek. Oh, to be a child again!

The ranch hosts trail rides, bull riding, birthday parties, riding lessons and cowboy school. Kids learn to herd and rope cattle. There’s a Dusty Bottoms kid’s rodeo, with folks coming in from other states.

Throughout this summer there are Buffalo Bill Western Adventure Camps for ages 4 through 9. Three¬–day camps will be held July 14–16 and July 28–30. One–day camps remaining are July 22 and Aug. 5. Camps include riding instruction, horse safety, western adventures, water fun, crafts, fishing, campouts, wagon rides, cookouts and bull riding demonstrations. Kids will leave practicing cowboy ethics.

For more information call 672-2701 or visit Hiddencreekranch.info.