"Romance the spouse"

Liberty Chamberlain prepares to dip into the raffle hat. Photo by: Steve Davis
K Diamond K's Steve Konz at the ranch's booth.
Lilly Cullen, whose dad is in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photo by: Steve Davis
"We went expecting an army. We got one. An army of strollers."
Steve Konz
K Diamond K

It looked like a cute baby convention‚ and in some measure it was. In fact, it was the ‚"Romancing the Spouse" event in DuPont, Wash., outside Tacoma and neighboring the Ft. Lewis military base. "We went expecting an army. We got one. An army of strollers," said Steve Konz, who purchased the 1,300-acre spread in 1961 that today is the K Diamond K dude ranch in rural northeastern Washington.

K Diamond K was among the 50 or so enterprises that set up booths last Thursday in a firehouse and tents on the city hall grounds in DuPont. These promoters offered facials and makeovers, pet boarding, stress relief, spa stays, kitchenware, deals on cars and homes, and, yes, truck-driving training. There was even an apparent bit of quackery from a fellow who told browsers that under his spell pain and stress, phobias and frustration would leave their body through his left hand if they fixed a gaze on the swinging pendant in his right. The message throughout this daylong event targeted at military spouses (almost all of them women): 18,000 soldiers will be returning to Ft. Lewis over the summer on leave or for discharge, and we can help you prepare to party or to plan the next phase of your life. (Or to get back to our friend mentioned above, overcome your fear of snakes.) The commercial nature of the event was a bit of a turnoff to me, but I was clearly in the minority (perhaps even a minority of one, it seemed). Hundreds of women streamed through, almost all of them with a baby‚ and sometimes two very young ones. Several women said they'd definitely consider visiting K Diamond K, the ranch where our News21 team is staying. The animals were a huge pull for the kids, whose squeals of  "horses" pretty much became a kind of white noise for the day.

At the K Diamond K booth, the tireless 83-year-old Steve Konz, ranch wrangler Shelby Carradine and Steve's friend Jerry Woodard triple-teamed passersby. Their multimedia show included brochures, a constantly looping photo show on an iMac, cowboy hats and boots, pens embossed with the ranch name, and a saddle. The painfully cute Liberty Chamberlain, 3, pulled a name from a cowboy hat for one of the afternoon's hourly raffles, where the prizes were free nights at the ranch. Her dad will be finishing his second tour in Iraq this September. The father of Lilly and Logan Cullen is in Kandahar, Afghanistan, site of a lot of action recently; his wife said he's due home for good in a few days. "I love horses and my daughter loves horses," mom Rhawnie said. Jenny Tyler and her daughter Nicole, 3, loved the ranch idea, but they'd already planned their homecoming for Disneyland, "Mickey's house" as Nicole declared. Most everyone did seem to leave the event with a bounce in their step, no pendant or laying on of hands required.

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