I have no idea what to expect as my family and I mosey across the lawn to the dining hall on our first night at CM Ranch. This historic guest operation, outside Dubois and up Jakey’s Draw in north-central Wyoming, has been in continuous operation for nearly a century.
We enter the rustic dining room, a one-room, log-cabin affair with giant moose and elk heads staring at each other across the room. We learn that we are the only non-repeat family, here for our first time, yet everybody swarms to make sure we feel welcome. It is a warm, loud, cozy dinner, with the chef carving up his prime rib and the salad, beans, and potatoes served family-style.
Repeat guests are a good sign in any business, but especially in tourism, and especially at a medium-sized ranch like the CM, where capacity is about 50 guests, and returns make up about 75 percent of their business.
I ask the ranch matriarch, Barbara Shoemaker, 71, whose family bought the ranch in 1952 (when she was 10!), why they get so many returns. She says, “Everything in the world changes except the CM Ranch.”
Everything, that is, except the sign at the dining hall entrance which reads, “Leave hats, guns, and cell phones outside.” That was probably altered since Charlie Moore’s day, but not much else. Even the meal bells and riding schedule are the same as the one set out by old Charlie in the 1920s.