The One Who Stayed

Another Day at the Ourada Ranch

Story and Photos by Amy Story Larson

Return visits, when you feel welcomed enough at a place to go back, are the best.

My SUV rolled past Dry Creek Cemetery and through the Cartwright Road hills, turning up a now-familiar entrance to Ourada Ranch, southwest of Stack Rock in the Boise National Forest. Awash with new snow, the scene differed from my first visit for “No Cow Day” in early October, when the ranch teemed with friends and family. Caravanning to the 840-acre site, I’d felt elation in bringing my adult children to such a place. On that day, the home Earl Ourada shares with his social, vibrant partner, Pat Larson, had been filled with activity, the most successful house party I’d ever witnessed. Outdoors, people sat with brimming plates at picnic tables. Inside was wall-to-wall humanity: talk and laughter, countertops laden with food.

In the early winter quiet of this latest visit, I stopped at the crest of a hill, boots crunching on the frosty road as I took pictures of the interlocking, peace-evoking hills below. How many others had done the same, seeking that rare apartness vital to collecting one’s thoughts?

I played soothing radio music and sighed as Ourada Ranch reappeared before me, tucked into a hillside twelve miles north of Boise at four thousand feet—a bit hidden, otherworldly.

I’d briefly met Earl Ourada in October, and got the feeling amid so many people that he was more of a one-to-one person—and sometimes maybe not even that, which I understood. Most personality tests split me right down the middle of introvert/extrovert.

“He’d make a very fine hermit,” Pat told me with a smile.

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