Imaginary adventure machines

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    Entertainment is a big industry, expected by many to soon be the largest in America. In a nation of dwindling jobs, offshore investments, and growing dependence on foreign suppliers there is an equally dwindling work ethic.

    I’m not one of those who sees the next generation as a pariah, but the constant barrage of mind-numbing distractions has crippled young people and it will only get worse.


    There isn’t much to watch on television these days. With 800 channels the offerings pale in comparison with the 1960s and 70s when ABC, NBC, and CBS were your only options. It’s a classic case of more is less at the end of that remote in your hand.

    Aside from sports, I don’t watch much TV. Maybe a few from old westerns, or the handful of “new” westerns like Longmire and Yellowstone and one engaging series on the History Channel called Modern Marvels.

    As I waited early Sunday morning for the coffee pot to deliver my morning dose of caffeine, I switched on the TV. That’s not exactly the procedure. I turned on the Visio screen, switched inputs to Fire TV, scrolled to the Sling app, clicked down the (yes, 800) channels to the History Channel, and selected a Modern Marvels episode titled “Adventure Machines.”

    They were featuring a theme park in New Jersey where people could pay to operate heavy equipment. They had youngsters and senior citizens happily digging away with backhoes, track hoes, skid steers, and bulldozers in carefully segregated “working” areas inside the park. There were even rides on the end of large excavators where operators swung around gondolas filled with screaming kids and families.


    I made the connection with dude ranches, an industry that remains viable in the west, but one that has been hampered heavily by lawsuits brought from the same people who travel to Yellowstone to hug grizzly bear cubs and grab bison by the horns.

    A construction dude ranch? It is the same idea you find with people paying to ride horses, stack hay, drive farm trucks, and irrigate. It’s not quite the same as working in construction or ranching or anything else that sells itself as a theme park, but it provides just a taste of the action.

    It occurred to me that many of us have these adventures daily, adventures that the pilgrims from the coasts are willing to pay to experience.


    The “Adventure Machine” episode moved to a company that offers off-road vehicle rides to customers somewhere along the Appalachian Mountains. They get geared up with helmets, gloves, knee pads, glossy “adventure” suits, and hop into a Kawasaki, Honda, or Can-Am and tear off down the roads.

    Maybe next summer I’ll advertise and let tourists ride in my Kawasaki Mule as I tear off to great adventures moving dam canvases to irrigate my hay fields.

    The draw to these types of vacations is similar to the hunters and fishermen who spend thousands of dollars equipping themselves for the great outdoors, then thousands more in licenses, travel costs, lodging fees, and guide fees to experience what we can do in an afternoon.


    I enjoy operating a backhoe, a mini-excavator and I’ve run large excavators as well. People pay to drive bucket loaders, but as a kid, the Louisiana Pacific Corporation paid me to load them with scrap lumber and take them to the incinerator. I can’t “comb your hair” with a backhoe like my friends Tad McMillan and Ron Rogers can, but I can dig a straight line at an even, consistent depth to bury a line or excavate a footing for a house. I wonder what the construction theme park would charge for that adventure?

    As a college kid, many of my friends came to Laramie from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Pennsylvania to experience the West. They quickly learned to adapt to the way of life out here rather than trying to force their experience on us. It was a wise move on their part.

    They came for an education, but our weekends and afternoons were spent either at Vedauwoo climbing rocks and fishing for brook trout or on the Laramie River, Twin Buttes Reservoir, Lake Hattie, or up on the slopes of the Snowy Range.

    Andy, Gino, Frank, Scott, and I made the most of what Albany County had to offer for young, strong, clueless 20-somethings to experience.

    That experience, though it was entirely on our own since we were taught by our fathers how to fish and hunt as kids, is what many people long for, and why tourism, at least the outdoor style, remains a viable part of the Wyoming economy.

    Many people ask me about the Paramount series “Yellowstone.” When I’m back in Pennsylvania and they find out I’m from Wyoming. “Is it real? Are there ranches like that? Do people carry guns?” they’ll ask.

    The answer is yes, and no. No, it’s not real. I’m not aware of any ranches even remotely resembling the Dutton Ranch, but yes, people carry guns, almost everyone does.

    The Yellowstone Ranch would be the ideal place to work as a cowboy. All they do is ride horses, chase cows, drink beer, and fight. Occasionally you’ll see a center pivot spraying water in the background, but the ranch hands never irrigate, never build fence, never cut, bale, and stack hay and the only guys who have to feed livestock are the teenagers. Not quite the ranch life we experience in reality, is it?

    Have you ever seen it snow on Yellowstone? It’s perpetually summer on the ranch as well. That’s quite a trick to pull off in a valley set in the Montana mountains.

    It’s the image that sells, not the reality. That’s why our politicians are a joke. What they offer isn’t real, it’s a stylized image created by handlers to get us to vote for the lesser of two evils during every election cycle.

    Image is why people pay to ride 4-wheelers, operate backhoes, hire fishing guides, and bounce down the trail on old sway-backed mares thinking all the while that they are true cowboys.

    Who cares? As long as they bring their credit cards, and a wad of Ben Franklins and Andy Jackson’s in their wallets to share with us.

    Adventure is where you find it. There isn’t much glamor in feeding a string of hungry cattle from the back of a truck on a 20 below zero morning, but someone will pay to experience it if you can find them. It’s all in the marketing.


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?