NORWALK, Wis. - Dirt flicked from the wooden wheels of the bright red stagecoach as it slowly made its way to the top of the Devil's Hole Ranch hill.
The six passengers inside chatted with excitement as the wind blew through wide-open windows.
The rolling hills and bright green grass, grilled hot dogs, and thoughts of a fast ride down - nothing was off topic.
"This is really fun," said Sam Miller, a sophomore at Logan High School in La Crosse. She smiled as the stagecoach shook and shimmied, adding to the authenticity.
At the top, Logan High School freshman Gus Fischer bid farewell to the gals inside and headed to the driver's seat for an exciting ride down.
"You're going to love this," said Courtney Chambers. As an experienced second-time rider, the Logan High School junior knew the drill.
A quick dip later and the crew was welcomed by their waving and applauding peers back at the ranch Monday morning.
The Rocky Mountain Round-Up offered ranch-type activities for about 25 cognitively disabled students from Logan High School. The students learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, were able to interact with horses, enjoyed a cookout and learned about conservation education from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The round-up was one of several service learning projects by LaCrossroads high school students this year.
Senior Shannon Gage wanted to do something with the cognitively disabled students to make them feel special and welcome. She was thinking roller skating and then the opportunity for the round-up came along.
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"I love this," Gage said. "This is so much fun."
Like the other LaCrossroads students, Gage spent the day with the Logan students helping and having fun.
Prior to the outing, the students spent time interacting and getting to know one another at Logan.
"To see these kids interact with the CD kids is wonderful," said Karen Schoen-feld, lead coordinator for LaCrossroads.
"This is good for my kids," she said.
The cognitively disabled students benefit from an education that is functional, hands-on and real life, said Lisa Schreiner, a CD teacher at Logan.
"We can talk about a ranch and a stagecoach, but to be here seeing it … " she said.
"They learn by doing. To touch, smell and live it is priceless."
The event was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the School District of La Crosse.
Autumn Grooms can be reached at (608) 791-8424, or firstname.lastname@example.org.