Mitchell Ranch
Each year Mrs. Weaver's fifth grade class takes the trip to Mitchell Ranch near Cresson, Texas.
One of the highlights is always to meet Sonny on his horse. He's one of the last "real cowboys" in Texas!
Our friend Nol Ward drives the kids around the 2700-acre spread in a wagon attached to his tractor...
but of course the real point is to let them out of the wagon, so the brave ones can go and pet Sonny's horse.
Like all real cowboys, Sonny is a taciturn fellow. But we hear the kids' visits are one of the things he likes best about his job.
Nol Ward's approach to cattle raising is uniquely sensitive to maintaining the balances of nature.
Much of the land is too rocky to plow, and has never been stripped and replanted with cultivars...
...which means that it's as near to unspoiled prairie as you can find on private land.
Careful range management and a commitment to using native plants means that plenty of life can be found here besides the cattle.
The ranch provides a rich environment for the kids to use their skills of observation and to exercise their natural curiosity.
Watching videos and films might be educational in a certain sense, but they don't give the opportunity to interact with nature right up close.
Fresh air, freedom to roam, and so many things to explore - what better classroom could a child hope for?
And when questions arise, there are always some knowledgeable adults around, who communicate not just information but a love of the land.
A lesson in how much butterflies like wildflowers and native grasses...
...and a lesson in how Nature can so often build a far more beautiful landscape than man.
Space to be on your own, with your own wonder, as well as to share it with others.
And a delight shared is perhaps the best ingredient in a great recipe for learning and friendship.
A possibility to imagine... what would you like to be when you grow up?
Packing up and getting ready to go back home...
...with a day full of memories in your pocket...
...and an imagination full of possible futures to ponder.

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