REMEMBERING THE PONDEROSA
I wish I could turn back time and visit the Ponderosa again. Yes, the Ponderosa that was the stage set for the television series “Bonanza,” in the town of Incline Village along the shores of Lake Tahoe. We went there in 2000. Sure glad we did that, because it was sold to a condo developer in 2003.
In the morning we boarded a hay wagon hitched to the back of a tractor to make the 2,000-foot climb from the shore of the lake to the ranch. On the way up, they staged a wagon “robbery” and the female bandit “shot” one of our Scouts. It was good for a laugh!
At the top, overlooking the cobalt-blue lake far below, an all-you-can-eat breakfast was served. The cowboy cooking the pancakes had a 30-foot griddle on which he made hundreds of pancakes per minute!
After breakfast, we roamed the “town” (false fronts) of the actual Virginia City from the show. I remember there was a hilarious comedy play out front (I specifically remember one of the not-too-bright bank robbers tried to hide in a privy that blew up. They constantly called the Liberty Bank “Library Bank,” and made many comic references to the greenhorns of California, which is 2 miles away). A world lasso champion dubbed “Coyboy Cal” demonstrated lasso and whip tricks the likes of which I’ve not seen before or since. He could cut a newspaper in half with a whip—right down the fold—while you held it inches in front of your face!
There were farm animals to be petted, and gold to be panned. They had one of those gravity-defying mystery mines. We paid fifteen bucks to have the photo above taken in a photo souvenir place. It was printed while we waited.
On top of all of this, you could take all kinds of photos of yourselves in the actual Cartwright house from the show. I always get a special tingle when I see some place I’ve been in a movie or on TV.
All of this cost us each about twenty dollars. I’m glad I got to share the experience with some of my Scouts!
Some sage advice: while your troop is jetting here and there to do some high-adventure program, you’re missing the best stuff! Take the byway instead and explore some down-home America. It’s not gonna wait around forever.