Ryan is a lovebug. Spontaneously affectionate, huggy, sweet. Morgan, although he adores me (of course, who wouldn’t?), is not spontaneously affectionate. When the boys are away, Ryan calls me to chat probably once a week, sometimes a few days in a row if there is something to share. Morgan would have to be away for at least three weeks before he would think about calling me. He’s just like that.

But three days at Rancho Mastatal, and Mo calls. "Wow," I thought, "he wants to chat!"

Not exactly: he wants to know if they are there as guests or volunteers? Uh oh. I told him they were volunteers, expected to work at least four hours a day. [As Tim explained, this is the only way the ranch can afford to have people come and stay there, use the resources, be fed three squares a day for $15/night. $10/night if you stay at least three weeks.] Mo said, ok, just checking. He seemed fine with that.

He knew this going in, I thought. The words "Rancho Mastatal" and "volunteer" were always used in the same sentence…

I asked if he were having fun. He said yeah, they went to a waterfall and he jumped off a 30′ ledge into the water. [Scareless, remember?] He loved that! I asked if there were girls there. "Plenty!" he said and you could hear the grin 50 miles away. He said he definitely wants to come back there, but as a guest. We both laughed. We chatted a few more minutes, I chatted with Jacob and Ryan, they seemed happy. We hung up.

Well, two days ago, Mo called again. He is NOT happy. He feels unloved, is lonely and doesn’t want to work all the time. See, the ranch is not a regular camp where they have counselors that keep the kids happy and occupied. You work in the morning (or all day if you go as an intern), then you hang out. Find something to do. Ryan and Jacob read all the time, there is a small library there, both boys took a bunch of books. So, when they weren’t working, they were reading.

Mo is not a reader. He reads at gunpoint. There was a book  series that he read avidly so all hope is not lost. But he’s read all those and we haven’t found another series. Mo has a few intense interests – guns, music, airplanes – that will occupy him for hours. But if an activity doesn’t catch his interest, he is not inclined to participate. To his great credit, he will try anything once.

So here he is at the ranch, working four hours a day doing things that are not interesting to him in the least: shoveling gravel to make wattle and daub, making wattle and daub, then building with that wattle and daub. He liked working in the kitchen but apparently those jobs were coveted so he didn’t always get to do that.

Mo also has no sense of "this too shall pass." If he doesn’t see the value in something, he will usually say so. Ad nauseum. This did not endear him to the other ranch workers. It doesn’t endear him to me. Fortunately, I already adore him.

So we brought them home: they rode the bus from Mastatal to Puriscal (for $3 each), then Hal picked them up in Puriscal. Jacob and Ryan would have been ok with staying, but just as happy to come home. It’s funny: I thought of all of them, Morgan would have liked the ranch the best. He did like the waterfall best, and cooking. These two items were just not enough to tide him over for 10 more days.

Tim and I talked about it a bit. Tim felt the boys didn’t really have a good sense of what the ranch was all about, that their expectations were not in line with reality. Ryan and Jacob jumped in, of course, agreeable, easy-going. Mo wants to debate everything. "Jumping in" is not his style, unless you are going to the range or want to try something incredibly dangerous.

But I agree with Tim on the whole. I think they didn’t really get it because I didn’t really get it. I certainly didn’t impart it to the boys. You have to go to the ranch prepared to learn and work. I thought it would be fun for the boys to be involved in a new environment, out in the woods with other young people (which I thought would mitigate shoveling gravel), so I emphasized that, however unconsciously. I did not emphasize the learning aspect, nor the work. I painted the picture from my glorified version of it, not taking into consideration how they might see it. My bad.

Next time, I’ll take My Fabulous Vacation Idea first, or at least with them. That’s only fair. So the boys are home, happy, no worse for the wear (I pray the same is true for the ranch!) All is not lost: I have some gravel-shoveling-like projects in mind for around here. The fun is not over yet.

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