The Ranch This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Sitting inconspicuously in the heart of Montana, a state filled with plains and air without smog, is the ranch. From above it appears as a small suburban area of well-kept homes, but from within it transforms to the ecstasy of the teenage soul.

Once you pass the wooden gate that rests heavily at its side, the outside world disappears into a hazy memory and the paradise of the ranch envelops you. The disparity is clear and immediate, washing over you with the force of a tidal wave and the comfort of a hot tub; your eyes no longer flinch at gaudy signs screaming from every street corner; gone is the perpetual presence of waste and clutter that shrouds the outside world. In the world ahead, not a board or piece of metal is laid without careful consideration of Mother Nature.

Even more evident than the aesthetically pleasing layout of this small group of cabins is the human environment surrounding it; as you stumble uncertainly through this haven, people stop and wave, call you over to chat, and help you on your way. Everyone exudes an authentic feeling of community and companionship, instantly making you feel at home.

A week at the ranch is a tantalizing taste of heaven. With two gargantuan dogs, horses, a crystal lake, hot chocolate machine and a blanket of stars, it offers everything a mind could wish for. I spend my days sitting next to the lake reading, playing cards, riding the slightly unpredictable horses, and rushing off on activities ranging from chess to sports and back again. The spectrum is unlimited and flexible. The rules of life bend and snap with the surreal setting, allowing for countless hours of bliss.

Perhaps my most enjoyable moments are those mingling with others my age. My mother once offered to bring a friend with us, but I quickly objected. When my mother asked if I still liked my friend, I laughed and gave my brother a knowing look. What my mother didn’t understand, and my brother and I did, was that part of the excitement and enjoyment of the ranch was shedding your identity. I could be anything and anyone, unfettered by my long-established reputation.

The ranch gave me the chance to experiment with new ideas, examine others’ personalities, find faults with my own, and, most importantly, it imbued me with a sense of freedom as pure as sunlight. I was no longer categorized, my reactions and actions were mine and not an unchanging image I held at home. Who was I? I was Evan the adventurous, Evan the funny, Evan the contemplative. It didn’t matter, for, to everyone at the ranch, I was just Evan.

As the week winds to a close, people turn from convivial and excited to contemplative. Good-byes are said and emails exchanged, but I never contact my friends electronically for technology and perfection do not mix. I consider the ranch to be not where I aged, but where I grew up, a haven where I learned how perfection brings out the best in people, and allowed it to bring it out in me. It acts like a second home not built of wood and mortar but of personalities and memories. And, as you pass the sign at the gate and return to the outside world, your soul wrenches inside you, your emotions rise, and you realize: the body leaves but the heart remains.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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