At Cibolo Creek Ranch in far west Texas, I had a stupid song on the brain: "Rollin', rollin', rollin'...keep them doggies rollin'...Rawhide!" Nothing would kill it, not the wide-screen vistas of the Chinati Mountains nor a golden eagle soaring over the agaves and mesquites. This was, after all, the place that spawned the lyric that everyone knows but nobody can get quite right.
Milton Faver--or Don Meliton Faver, to use the honorific he earned during his spectacular life--built Fort Cibolo in 1857, enclosing its courtyard within thick adobe walls as protection against the Apache. A five-foot-nothing Renaissance man with a two-foot-long beard and a Mexican wife, Faver was a trader, rancher, merchant and passionate agriculturalist who planted orchards and gardens. By all accounts sophisticated and dapper, he was also so tough that he inspired the character of rancher Gil Favor on Rawhide, the television show that gave Clint Eastwood his break, and the Blues Brothers their hit.
In 1990, a Houston businessman named John Poindexter bought Faver's fort and set about painstakingly restoring it, along with the two other mini-forts on the 25,000-acre property: the four-bedroom La Cienega (which comes with a private chef) and a tiny honeymooners' haven, La Morita. In the two years that managers Lisa and Artie Ahier have run the ranch, it has become the hideout for celebrities craving seclusion (Mick Jagger is a regular) and locals wanting to be fed well and pampered. Most stay, as I did, in El Cibolo, the main building, in one of the rooms overlooking the courtyard. All have cowskin rugs on terra-cotta floors, supremely comfortable wood-framed beds, air conditioning for blasting Texas summers, fireplaces for chilly nights and bathrooms stocked with locally made herbal unguents. There are also more toiletries than I have seen in any five-star hotel--evidence of Lisa's thoughtfulness, and a tip-off to why word-of-mouth fills Cibolo in all seasons. The Ahiers are hosts with perfect pitch.