Short History of American Dude Ranches and the Joya Real
The "Dude Ranch" began popping up in American culture in the late 19th century, because of the rise in romanticism in the American West.
Everyone secretly wanted to be a cowboy like the one they saw up on the big screen and read about in dime novels. The lure of the cattle drive, fighting wild Indians, and riding a pony into a beautiful sunset was cemented in the minds of adults as wells as kids in post-WWI America. Industrious landowners in Texas, Arizona, and other western states beckoned Eastern tourists to guest ranches to enjoy the amenities, breath in the fresh country air, but more importantly to get a chance to play the role of the "cowboy" they had always dreamed of.
Some of the larger dude ranches were almost like small towns. Taxidermy shops, saloons, tiny grocery stores, and cabins lined a main road and guests usually fished, rode horses, hiked, or hunted before meeting up at mealtimes in the kitchen cabin to eat family style with everyone staying at the ranch. As the ranches grew in popularity, they became less primal and more of an escape for the wealthiest of Americans with lavish guesthouses and coursed out meals.
My grandparents used to manage a guest ranch near New Braunfels, Texas called Joya Real. (pronounced HOY-ya rÃ¨-AL) We'd stay the summers with them with the only rule being to stay out of the way of guests. We would swim, collect feathers from their grounds-roaming peacocks (hello Freebird Collection!), ride horses, and play shuffleboard. We could go into their big industrial kitchen and get whatever we wanted to eat or drink. It was like our own little summers of paradise.
Odell McMullen, our paternal grandfather, tending one of his colts at the Joya Real Ranch.