The Rancher


There is a story about a cattle rancher and his mail order bride. Dan Barker had come out west when it was wild and no place for a lady. But the west had now been tamed, and growing older he longed for a wife and a family to pass the ranch on to. So Dan put out an ad in a few eastern papers for a wife.


Nan had been raised in a Christian orphanage since birth. She had been well taken care and had been given a basic education, but still longed for the love she had missed by not having a family. When Nan was old enough to go out on her own she ended up being a housekeeper to a wealthy family. Much was expected of her but not much love was given back. And love was what she valued most of all. So when she read the ad in the paper for a bride to come out west and share the life of a rancher, she had replied immediately.


To Nan’s surprise she received a letter two weeks later asking her to come out west, meet Dan, and possibly marry him. She accepted the offer and two days later began her journey west.


When Nan arrived at her destination, Dan met her at the stage coach station. Dan was predisposed to a problem with his cattle, so he had Tug, the ranch cook take Nan in the supply wagon to the ranch. The ride was long and bumpy, and Tug, though he was courteous, was not much of a talker, so Nan did not learn much from him about Dan or the ranch.


When they finally arrived at the ranch it was not what Nan had expected. Oh it was large enough with a big house, bunkhouse and two barns. But the house was dark and dirty, and looked like it had not really been cleaned for years. Nan changed into her work clothes and began cleaning the house, trying to make it just dirty from its filthy condition.


While Nan was still trying to clean the house, the ranch crew came riding in. They walked into the house all hot, sweaty, and hungry for lunch. Dan and Nan sat at the head of the table eating with the rest of the crew. It was an uncomfortable situation for Nan, as Dan did not want to tell the crew much about Nan until he had time to talk with her. And the crew stared at her, for no woman had ever eaten with them before. Nan was glad when the crew finally left so she could privately talk with Dan.


Dan said he would be brief, that he was a decent Christian and he didn’t want a woman around just for companionship. He wanted to have children and since he was growing older he wanted to have them right away. He realized he was a little older than Nan, not all that good looking, but he would be good to her and let her run the house and make it suitable for the family. He would share everything with her and God willing the family would have the ranch forever.


Dan said he would work late today so they could go into town tomorrow and be married by the preacher. He would sleep in the bunkhouse tonight and she could let him know in the morning if his offer was acceptable. If not, he would send her back on the stage tomorrow and wish her well. With that he excused himself and left.


Nan sat stunned in silence for a few minutes. This was not the knight in shining armor she had dreamed about. It was not even one bit romantic. She felt like Dan merely wanted her for the children she could have, yet she wanted to be appreciated and loved as well.  But she could not turn back now. Besides for the very first time in her life she would have her own home. Yes, she would marry Dan tomorrow.


Nan somehow made it through that first adjustment period of newlyweds. She enjoyed being a ranch wife, having her own house. Time passed quickly, soon Nan had a son and daughter. The Lord had blessed her richly and she was very content being a wife and raising her family. Then as old saying goes, “Up popped the Devil.”


Dan had just hired a new ranch hand. Phil was nice and polite, but he somehow stirred feelings in Nan that she never felt before. She loved and respected Dan, but it was nice to be noticed as a woman again. It was simple flirtation, foolishness that as a grown married woman she should be over. Still deep down she loved that feeling of being noticed as a lady.


Then it happened. Nan was riding with the crew gathering cattle and when she stopped for a drink at the creek Phil was there. Soon she was openly flirting with Phil and he was flirting right back. Then Dan saw them. Dan angrily told Phil to go to the line camp and work there until payday. Then he would have enough to leave the area and if Dan ever caught Phil around his wife again he would kill him. Phil replied that nothing happened and if Dan took this out on Nan he would come after him. Then Phil jumped on his horse and headed for the line camp.


Nan was furious for how her husband had handled this situation. She jumped on her horse and angrily road home still upset at how her husband had treated her. She was a grown married woman and able to take care of yourself. She decided it would be best just to wait for Dan to cool down, and then hoped he would apologize for the way he had acted. But when her anger subsided she realized the situation had gotten out of hand, it would be better if Phil left the area right now. So she decided to secretly give Phil enough money so he could leave right away, without having to work the rest of the month for wages. 


Nan quietly sneaked out the house that night and headed out to the line shack to bring Phil some money. As she was leaving she thought she heard someone stirring in the House, but no one ever bothered them with all the ranch hands around. She rode hard to the line shack so she could get back home quickly. Her approach woke Phil from his sleep and he walked out to meet her. She told him to take the money and leave because she was a married woman and didn’t want any more fighting between him and her husband.


Phil refused at first, but finally agreed and saddled another horse for her to ride home, as her horse was worn out from coming here. They both agreed never to tell anyone about this meeting and Nan took off for home at a gallop. As Nan was nearing the ranch she saw lights and all the cowboys scurrying around. Sneaking into the barn with her horse on the opposite side of the commotion she was able to unsaddle and get half way to the house before a cowboy saw her and yelled out.


Suddenly Dan was there with a bloody bandage on his shoulder breathing a sigh of relief that Nan as well as the children in the house were alright. She soon realized that sound she had heard when she was leaving was someone robbing them. Dan had been shot but seemed okay and the children had not been bothered in their bedrooms.


Nan walked quietly back to the house with Dan, sat down and had a cup of coffee with him. Dan had surprised someone robbing their safe and was shot in the shoulder. The escaping robbers had also killed a ranch hand as he came out and tried to stop them. Dan had been very worried because he could not find her anywhere.


All Nan could think to say was that she had gotten up for a drink of water and hearing the intruder she had run out to the bunk house to get help. She had fallen stunning herself and was just recovering when she was found. Nan knew she was lying, but she couldn’t tell the real truth because it could be misconstrued, and cause more problems for all involved.


About an hour later some of the cowboys rode in with Phil, whose hands were tied behind him. They had found him with some money and a horse in the stable that had been lathered after a long ride. Phil vehemently denied stealing the money and claimed he had just been asleep when he heard somebody riding by. He had gotten up and saw two men take off galloping when they saw him. Phil thought they looked like some of the men who were hanging around the local saloon.


Dan’s voice then boomed out asking all the ranch crew who had gathered around if they knew anything else about this robbery. Had anyone recognized any of the thieves, seen the tracks of these riders, or knew any more about the lathered horse at Phil’s, or the money Phil had. 


Phil looked real hard at Nan. He hoped she would tell the truth. If not now, maybe later when she came to her senses before he was hanged. Nan could not look back into his eyes because she had so much guilt in her heart. She should come forward with the truth, because Dan and the others would probably believe she was meeting Phil on the sly, and she did not want to be thought of as a tramp cheating on her husband. No, it would be easier to keep silent until she could talk with the sheriff.


A few of the crew headed out towards town to bring Phil to the sheriff. The only problem was the sidekick of the cowboy that was killed was riding along with them. A few miles down the road he convinced them that they were wasting their time bringing Phil into town. They lynched him in a lonely valley not far from the road to town.


In the morning when Nan heard the cowboys talking about it she went quietly to her bedroom and just broke down and cried. She was crying when Dan walked through the door. “Crying over your dead lover? I finally figured it out when I found the horse from the line camp here. Phil had an extra horse and you were going to run away with him after you and him stole all of our money.


The only thing you didn’t count on was falling and stunning yourself so you couldn’t get away. I understand your attraction to a younger handsome man, but I never thought you would do this to your family. For the sake of our children there will be a ticket on the first stage out of town. Take it and never come back, or I will tell the sheriff the real truth.”


Nan had much to reflect on during the stagecoach ride back home. At first she felt very unlucky for what had happened and blamed God for her problems. But then she looked deep inside herself and realized that she had caused this situation all by herself, and had merely been caught up in her own lies.


Her first lie was that she would not admit her own vanity, that she liked other men noticing her. This was not an overwhelming problem. She should have just apologized to Dan about flirting with Phil, telling him it would never happen again, and the problem would have gone away. But her pride had kept her from admitting a mistake. It caused her to try and solve the problem by sneaking around behind her husband’s back. It seemed like it was getting easier to tell lies while she was getting dragged deeper into deception, and turning a simple problem into a drastic one.


When she could have straightened everything out she had remained silent, hoping there was an easier way to solve the problem. It was like the lies were controlling her actions. Then time ran out on her and she was caught up in her own web of deception, a small indiscretion which had gotten out of control, with lies which no longer could be turned back into the truth. An innocent man was dead, and Nan had nothing.


Nan would return to work at the orphanage where she was raised. She gave love to the children there, the love which was missing when she was raised there. She continued to pray to the Lord to help her follow in His ways. And that Dan would forgive her and let her come back to her children.


All of Dan’s ranch crew who were part of the hanging quickly left to parts unknown, before Dan or the law could come after them. Dan remained very bitter over the whole situation, but continually prayed to the Lord to help him lose his anger over what had happened, trusting Him to somehow reunite his family again. 


The Lord heard their prayers, and a few months after Nan had left, the real robbers in a drunken stupor bragged about the robbery; and it was overheard by the bartender. When they were convicted of the crime, Dan sent the money out to Nan for her to return to her family. This family was reunited once more as Dan and Nan were forgiven by their Lord, as they forgave each other, and they promised to follow their God forever.


Here are a few thoughts one might want to consider:


- When we tell a lie we are only deceiving ourselves; for God always knows the truth

- All lies are sin, whether big or small; and push us away from God.

- When we lie, we gain nothing; we only lose the many blessings God wants to give us

- The easiest person to lie to is ourselves; to hide our own short comings

- Standing by silently when a lie is told; makes us become part of that lie.

- Never say behind one’s back; what we would not say to their face.

- Don’t be a party to gossip; merely ask the person involved

- Secrecy makes a void where gossip quickly grows; making the ugliest lie believable.

- When we tell a lie, it can force us to tell another lie; until we are tangled in a web of our own deception.


* Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Col 3:9-10 ESV+




Short Stories




Copyright 2002 amended 2013 by Ron Borkey

+ ESV “Scripture quotations marked [ESV] are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version,” copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good New Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

+ NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (1995 Update) Copyright © 1981, 1998 The Lockman Foundation, A Corporation Not for Profit, La Habra, California. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

+ NIV Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

+ NKJV "Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."