Christopher Lash, 18, is the son of Darren and Gloria Quaintance of Ranck Rd. in Morgantown. He grew up in Morgantown surrounded by his family, nature and the word of God. He was educated for years at High Point Baptist School in Geigertown, and graduated with a state certified diploma from Buxmont Christian Educational Institute in Telford, PA, this past June.
Once he had graduated, Lash was told by his father “Every young man has a calling to go west.”
It was a family tradition. Darren had begun the tradition after his own graduation and a month long trip with Outward Bound, in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Christopher’s older brother Justin also would ‘go west’ to work at a Colorado Ranch the summer after his own graduation. Now it was Chris’ turn.
“I Googled ‘Christian Ranches’ and found Wind River Ranch,” said Lash.
Wind River, located in Estes Park between Longs Peak and the Twin Sisters Mountain Range, names itself as “Colorado’s Premier Christian Family Dude Ranch”.
“We want to be the safest, best run and most respected horse operation in the country,” states Wind River’s website, www.windriverranch.com. “It is not a job for everyone... …if you don’t mind a challenge and would like to be a part of a high-quality horse program, then we definitely want you to be on our team. We believe that being on staff at Wind River Ranch could be the most incredible, exhausting, growth-inducing, challenging, and fun experience of your life!”
Lash continued, “Wow, this was what I wanted, I talked to a staff member and was encouraged to apply for a Wrangler position because of my horse shoeing experience, horsemanship, and faith journey.”
Lash was accepted along with about 50 others, and was the youngest member of the crew. He headed out in mid-May to help get the camp ready, came home in June to graduate from Buxmont, and returned to Wind River just a few days later.
His mother, father, and two younger brothers Caleb and Joshua joined him for a week at the ranch to help with fence fixing, plantings, cleaning, horse work and other chores to ready the camp.
When he returned to his family on October 1 for a respite, he was filled with a new zest for life.
“This was the most awesome summer of my life,” he beamed, “I am so grateful. I had so many new experiences and lived in the most beautiful environment. We were in a valley in Estes Park, with the Rocky Mountains soaring around us. (It is) truly God’s country.”
The Ranch draws people from the entire United States from all ages and demographics. It is a family environment with no TVs, video games, or other electronics. It is the perfect place to quiet the soul and get in touch with creation and the Creator.
Lash was there during wildfire season, sometimes seeing and smelling the smoke. With a no burn law in effect for the whole of Colorado, the Wind River team made due with no campfires.
“The altitude presents a different experience. It makes you feel like you can’t breathe. Some people experience headaches, you have to get acclimated to it,” he said. “The secret is to drink lots and lots of water. Your blood will pull the oxygen out of the water and help with the thin oxygen that you breathe in at these altitudes. The temperature was around 80 degrees, but when you are working in the open it feels much hotter since you are closer to the sun.”
Lash described a typical day on the ranch, “We get up at 6:00 a.m. and saddled up the horses for the day. We then have morning devotions with the staff. People take turns giving their testimonies. It is a time to share gratitude and special experiences and blessings.”
Following their morning devotions they would go for breakfast, helping with serving the food while socializing with the staff and guests. The Wrangler knows that it is service and work for others that shows Christ-like behavior.
The different days offered different events throughout his stay, such as Horse Orientations.
“We (had) Horse Orientation to get the guests familiar with the horses. We take them on trail rides around the property loop which is about a 45 minute ride. Horses are big, majestic creatures and your horsemanship and patience help the guests to get comfortable on the trails. Six years old is the youngest we allow to ride, up to folks in their 70s,” he explained.
There was also a Kids Rodeo, started with one Wrangler circling the arena carrying the United States Flag followed by another carrying the Wind River Ranch Flag. The kids all look up to the Wranglers and are excited with the roping, racing, egg tosses, and many other events that take place.
Lunch is served in the dining hall which can seat anywhere form 65-80 people, with the staff once again mingling with the guests. Most people come in as families and then bond into the larger Wind River family.
Lash said that the different Wranglers came with many different skill sets. One was college graduate in horsemanship, another a skilled craftsman in leather work (who helped Lash make his own custom saddle), and Lash complimented the talent pool with his horse shoeing experience.
While the guests enjoyed free time, the Wranglers performed ranch tasks such as barn mucking stalls, spreading manure with a spreader, and operating tractors, skid loaders and back hoes.
Once the work was done they would clean up and join the group for dinner. After dinner they would enjoy singing and square dancing.
As peace settled over the valley they would turn out the horses for the night, follow with bible study or prayer time, with 10:30 being ‘lights out’.
Once per week a speaker would come and, though many people were already Christians, several people ‘Got Saved’. Sunday and Tuesday evenings were Bible study with staff and guests. Indeed this was holy ground.
“I was happy I was doing the Lord’s work. I have made friends from all over the country among the guests and staff. This was an experience that challenged me physically and spiritually. I am going back in a few weeks. I was asked if I could return until the end of December to get the ranch ready for the winter. Then I will come home and continue working with my dad and see where the Lord leads me.” Lash reflected.