By Barbara Rowley
EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – On July 15, Camp Big Sky campers visited Crail Ranch for a second time this summer, this time for an immersive lesson in Wild West history taught by true cowboys.

James Ramirez, a nationally ranked competitive rodeo champion; his brother Lucas, a state rodeo champion; and Jerry Pape, a seasoned Big Sky team roper introduced campers to a number of lasso techniques.

The three cowboys taught campers basic roping skills on stationary “stock” before demonstrating the practice on the real thing – the Ramirez’s four pet goats, which are well accustomed to being used for practice.

Camp Big Sky’s Best of Big Sky program operates five days a week under the Big Sky Community Corp., and out of the yurt in the Big Sky Community Park. Outings like this are part of the camp’s weekly schedule, says camp director Kristy Burt.

“The kids love the variety of the program, and the Crail Ranch is a great, nearby resource,” Burt said. “On the last trip, the kids learned about cooking and making coffee in the homestead. This time we were focused on understanding cattle operations, and learned about branding.”

The kids especially loved designing their own brands and having other campers “read” them, Burt added.

For its part, the team at Crail Ranch enjoys having the kids experience an afternoon learning about the history of the area. “Anne Marie Mistretta and her committee have worked so hard turning this into a real historical experience,” Burt said, referring to the chair of the Historic Crail Ranch Conservators. “It’s an amazing educational resource.”

The Best of Big Sky program operates daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with varied programming for campers entering first through fifth grades.

Camp Big Sky enrollment is limited and advanced enrollment is advised. Visit bsccmt.org/about/camp-big-sky for more information.