Tuesday, March 27, 2012


This is going to be a hard one.

On March 3rd I found out that the ranch camp, Bates Bar J, I have been attending since I was 8, and working at since I was 16 - first as a camp counsellor, then as a riding leader, was up for sale. I don't begrudge anyone the burden of owning a place like that - completely privately owned and operated, it's the only camp in Alberta that isn't subsidized or helped by a government or outside organization. It's a second generation owned ranch, with a fourth generation now living and growing up there. It's hectic, and I am sure, hard to manage at times. Not only that, but people walk away from businesses all the time, for a plethora of reasons... it's just hard that this particular business is grounded and built on emotion. Yesterday, an official email was sent out to parents of campers - young, and old. My mom received the email, which is so strange because at one point she was such a big part of my camp process, and now I disappear there every summer on my own accord.

Obviously this blog post has been brewing for a long time, and it is probably the first of many, but I wanted to make sure that I knew what I was saying, that I wasn't going to emotionally spew out things that I would later regret. Also, I wanted everyone to find out on their own accord, and process it themselves.

It's hard to explain in words what Bates Bar J means to me... BBJ encompasses my entire soul. Not only is it where I discovered my love for horses, i've made lifelong friends there, and for a greater part of my existence on earth it has been the one anchor in the turbulence that is life. It is pure, beautiful and wonderful. Essentially, in the summer months, it is home. More so, in my heart.. it is always home.

The day after I discovered that camp as we know it will forever be changed as of fall, I wrote down all my feelings. I'll share some of that here...

Where is my mind right now?
I guess i'm in a bit of a mixed up place. I know certain things that I need to do in case of the unforeseeable - the ranch falling to someone who doesn't value the camp's virtues and traditions, or just plainly doesn't want the camp.

- I need to be out there for the entirety of the summer. I need to soak in every single moment of BBJ, and live in every second. I need to walk across the bridge every morning being thankful for what this place has provided me. I need to understand how blessed the land is, and how blessed I am for having experienced it. I just need to breathe it all in, because I love it so.

- I need to buy Jingle. It's funny because in my gut I knew that by September I would have him, but now it's definite. I need to find somewhere safe for him, and somewhere that makes him happy. This is so worrisome, I know that he's my "forever horse", that no matter how many horses I own, or how expensive some of them may be, I will have to keep him, maintain him and love him.
This is a gigantic leap.

I don't want the ranch to change hands, I just want it to stay forever the same. Forever my childhood, forever my adolescence, forever what it is. I want my kids to attend Bates Bar J, my grandkids... it's not even a camp to me, it is so eternally my home, the place where I have found the most happiness year after year

... to think what life would have been like without this place.

All the comments "when are you going to grow up?" etc. all along I knew that none of that mattered, that this place was where I belonged, more than any other place in this world.

& what if i'm to wake up and it's all gone?
i'll be so lost.

I want to treasure the shed, I want to remember the grease river front, the far lookout, all these places where i've left so much of my heart.

Bates Bar J... is my home, my life, my soul and spirit. It is where I leave behind so much of myself and it seems ridiculous because it's only 2 months out of 12... but all of a sudden I find myself realizing more and more that no matter what lofty goals, no matter how high my aspirations are, I always want to return to that place. I always want it to remain whole. Physically, not just in my mind.

I feel as if someone is tearing me apart.

Where will I call home if not beneath this big, blue sky?

Re-typing that I expected to cry, I expected the raw flood of emotions to reappear. To be rocking back and forth just sobbing.. but I didn't. Some days, are better than others, I think. I akin this experience, that of my spiritual home being sold, first to a breakup. When I first found the news I felt like the love of my life had suddenly got up and walked out the front door, leaving me alone and confused. It has now morphed into the process of watching something die, I feel as if I am nurturing every moment, picking carefully through my memories, reliving moments... because, it might all be gone as of September. That is an exceptionally morbid statement, but, I hold it true to myself.

I am trying to stay positive, but, it is hard. Even optimism is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.

So for now, I am very contemplative about the whole situation, but it has encompassed my entire heart and brain as of late. I feel very disconnected, and at times alone in my thoughts... thinking about a future without the place I love so much. I suppose I just wanted to be able to walk away from it myself, as so many people seemingly have. Those people seem happy, and functioning in their older lives, and I'm sure I will be as well. Yet, there is always just that thought in the back of my mind... what would have been?

I'm not sure if any of you reading this, aside from those fellow BBJers that read this blog, will understand this feeling, as I know it is a very particular and hard to place one. It is as if someone has shut a door on my childhood, is slowly shutting a door on my future and is telling me, "just stand there, just breathe, don't move." It's suffocating.

Anyways... that is where I am right now.

If we are lost, then we are lost together. Bates Bar J forever.


  1. Everything ends, I don't think it should be so heart-breaking. Maybe these are other issues about your childhood coming out via the "BBJ ends" channel. After all, you must have always known this was going to happen in the back of your mind.

    I just want to know if it's still going to be a camp but with different owners. And if not, that's a pretty sweet opportunity that just opened up for someone who loves the idea of running a horse-riding camp...

    1. I question why someone who come on to a blog anonymously, and then state that my emotional issues with saying goodbye to something stem from "childhood issues" - thank you for your "concern", random stranger on the internet. I also question just how random you are..

      No, I did not know this would happen, I knew that perhaps one day I would have to make my own personal decision and say goodbye to working at the ranch, but I also saw a future for myself there, as well as for my potential children attending the camp. The fact that you see Bates as a "Sweet opportunity" and disregard my feelings for the place means that you obviously have no comprehension of what that "place" meant for so many of us over the years. (who, by the way, had all of the same emotions I was having, so perhaps they all have childhood issues as well?)

      Putting aside your total lack of comprehension and utter lack and disregard for sympathy, the ranch is run down, and anyone trying to recreate a "horse camp" will find it a dark deep money pit, and will struggle from the get go - even if they are backed by private or religious organizations, which every camp in Alberta is now backed by since Bates was the last privately owned and operated kids camp. Running a kids camp is a labor of love, sweat and tears, but is most definitely hard, and at times can be a struggle to see where the reward is.

  2. BBJ was a part of all of us in a way we have to hold on and in a way we have to let go. But we will never forget BBJ and how it shaped us to who we are now, every year when we go home we have shaped a new side to us. The kindness that was spread there was no normal love, it was a feeling that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Bates created a family out of complete strangers and my memories will never ever be forgotten.
    thanks for being my riding leader louisa!
    the Burrows kid D.B