Wish I Was There: Lauren Holmes on the Rubber Rose Ranch

This month’s blog theme is ‘Wish You Were Here’ – we’re jetting around the literary world to explore the concept of travel in fiction. We’ve asked some of our authors to tell us about their ideal literary holidays: here’s Lauren Holmes on a liberating retreat rife with free love, narcotic experimentation, body odour and yams…

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‘I think I’ll take my literary vacation at the Rubber Rose Ranch. The ranch exists in Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and it’s the “largest all-girl ranch in the West” and boasts “the finest outhouse in the Dakotas.” The phone rarely works, and there are no alarm clocks (instead, the forewoman walks through the halls, cracking her whip). There are “mighty big and mighty blue” skies, and prairies full of “asters, yellow-eyed and purple-petaled, like daisies wine-stained after an orgy of the gods.” There are buttes and canyons. There’s Lake Siwash, which shimmers “like a blob of invisible ink” and later, “like a pool of cowgirl tears.” There, the last flock of whooping cranes stops twice a year, “a flock of birds so grand and giant and elegant that your [heart squeezes] out eternity’s toothpaste.”

The ranch is named after the Rubber Rose douche bag, one of “the world’s most popular feminine hygiene products,” “invented and manufactured” by the Countess (a gay man). The Countess owns the ranch, which offers a range of beauty treatments and specializes in “intimate reconditioning.” There’s also a 900 calorie diet that doesn’t sound the best, with meals like “decaffeinated coffee with saccharine, fresh grapefruit without sugar and a piece of Melba toast,” or a “low-cal barbecue.”

I’d plan to show up after the revolution that ends those beauty treatments and that diet. The revolution starts slowly—the cowgirls shoot all the cows, and then they hijack a sexual reconditioning lecture. One cowgirl “[slings] [a can of Dew spray mist] in the air” and another “[draws] her six-gun and [tries] to blast it before it [hits] the floor,” and then they teach the guests to use their own juices as perfume, and demonstrate how.

Finally, the cowgirls demand the ranch from the Countess, saying he owes it to them “as payment for [his] disgusting exploitations.” They take off their “jeans and underpants” and chase him away, “pelvises pumping, laying down what the trembling Countess believed to be a devastating barrage of musk.” Then they burn down the sexual reconditioning building.

So come to think of it, I’d like to schedule my vacation for during the coup d’état, and I’d stay until the whooping cranes come back the following spring. The cowgirls spend the winter fixing the ranch back up and taking care of the goats that replace the cows. When the cranes return to Lake Siwash, the cowgirls try to entice them to stay by feeding them a mixture of brown rice, fishmeal, and peyote. It works, and the cranes build nests and hatch chicks. So I’d want to be there for that.’

Lauren Holmes’s debut short story collection ‘Barbara the Slut and Other People’ will be published on August 13th.

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