Real Life Ranch Wife

Thanksgiving Tips for Ranchers

A number of guidelines can improve your Turkey Day experience, but be certain to pay close attention to these tips if celebrating with ranchers.

Thanksgiving in ranch country is just like Thanksgiving anywhere else, except not all cowboys like to eat turkey and a few have never seen cranberry sauce. Also, the roads are rough and there’s not much cell phone service, so you should learn to give (and follow) driving directions really well. 

Okay, so Thanksgiving celebrations on a ranch might be a little different than what most Americans experience each November. Here are a few tips for a successful Thanksgiving Day celebration in remote ranch country:

Make sure the gravy is pourable. 

If this point seems obvious, that’s because it is. But if you’ve ever been a newlywed ranch wife hosting her first Thanksgiving dinner and accidentally added way too much flour to the turkey drippings like I did eight years ago, you’ll understand. Many thanks to the cowboys who politely sliced their gravy with a butter knife and didn’t say a word. 

If you get invited to Rolly and Becky Lisle’s house at the Rancho Grande in northern Nevada, definitely say yes.

You will not regret this decision, even if you have to no-show your grandma and abandon your children in order to make it to the Grande on Turkey Day. Actually, go ahead and bring Granny and the kids, because there will be enough food for all of them plus all the single guys in the bunkhouse. My husband, Jim, and I were lucky enough to attend Thanksgiving at the Lisles’ one year, and we still reminisce about that feast. We ate golden brown turkey, green beans and bacon bits, homemade cranberry sauce with hints of orange flavor, three kinds of fruit pie, roast duck, and pourable gravy. 

Remember to plan more than three items for the menu. 

Two root vegetables and a chunk of tough beef do not make a complete holiday meal. But they do make an inventive way to see how far you can push your in-laws into lying through their teeth and saying “Mmmm-mmmm, this is delicious!” Don’t worry about it – if they want to see their grandkids bad enough, they’ll come back. 

If there is a rough railroad crossing on the way to your house, make sure to warn guests to slow down to at least 15 mph. 

Or don’t say a word and laugh until you cry in your green bean casserole when you hear the story about their ‘85 Plymouth sedan catching air over the tracks. However you want to handle it, be sure and send a rescue party with a big roll of duct tape to repair the oil pan that fell off on impact. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of non-pourable gravy to slice and chew by yourself.  

Instead of roasting a turkey, talk your husband into grilling steaks. 

Seriously. We adopted this tradition last year, and it’s a game-changer. Just think – instead of basting a giant bird with its own melted fat every fifteen minutes for five hours, only to watch three kids fight over two drumsticks and discover that no one likes white meat, you could drink iced tea and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV while your spouse prepares the main entree. And he gets to play with fire and eat beef, so he’ll be happier, too. 

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