How to Open a Ranch Gate

By Anna Mitchael

Opening and closing a ranch gate sounds simple enough. A toddler can open the gate on a playpen even before being potty trained. You have probably maneuvered a tricky fence or two to enter backyard barbecues, perhaps while carrying a cooler full of adult beverages.

You push through restrictive turnstiles at amusement parks.

You can shimmy through a window if you lose the keys to your front door. And I imagine, during your trips around the sun, you have had the good fortune of unlocking at least one person’s heart.

But there’s something you have to understand about ranch gates, and I’m going to deliver this slow and easy because it is a highly scientific, cutting-edge theory in the world of professional ranching: Ranch gates are like tacos.

Now, let’s just say we hate each other’s politics. And somebody else hates our religion. Actually, all religions. Except the religion that doth obsess over “Game Of Thrones.” One thing we all can agree on is that tacos make the world a better place. And ranch gates make the world a better place too. Without them, cows would wander everywhere. Away from ranches. Onto highways. Into volcanoes.

Like a taco, if a ranch gate looks loaded down with extras, there’s a good chance it’s too fancy for its own good. Like a taco, even if two ranch gates are made the exact same way, no two are identical in the end. Like a taco, when stars align and there is a simple yet flawless execution in opening and closing of a ranch gate, you will experience a brief moment of perfection. Even though it’s August, and the sun is shining on everyone, you will feel it is only shining on you. Your heart will sing. Or if your heart is too hard core to indulge in sappy celebration, it might simply say, “Olé!”

The first obstacle for beginners with ranch gates is underthinking. Let’s say a rancher invites you on a drive through the property. When you get to the first gate, it’s not time to notice the flowers or the chirping birds. The rancher is driving, and you are sitting shotgun so you have one job to do: Open that sucker up.

Once you exit the vehicle and walk up to the gate, overthinking becomes a concern. Remember there are many types of gates and sometimes the sheer size of the device can send a person into overdrive. I recommend you slow your breathing and break down the situation in front of you. If it’s not a wire gap, that’s great. Those can drive a man to rip a lip out with his bare hands, no Copenhagen required.

Is it a chain? Hook latch? Maybe as simple as a sliding bolt? Examine the hinges to see if the gate only opens in one direction. No matter how rusty the device or how many locks are lined up like ducklings in a row, take the process nice and slow. Once you have the riddle solved, push the gate and hold it open for the vehicle to pass. Then please remember to get on the right side of the gate before you close it. As a rule, ranchers don’t giggle. Unless someone shuts themselves on the wrong side of the gate.

If all goes well you will surely feel like celebrating, but remember, you’re tough. You’re on a Texas ranch, where jubilant emotions are reserved for rainstorms. It’s enough to note the sun beating exclusively on your back. And inside the pearl snap shirt worn just for this occasion, to hear your heart beat “Olé!”

Anna Mitchael is the author of Rattlesnake Stories, the new follow-up to the Kindle Single bestseller Rooster Stories. Both are available on