Lone Rancher Lessons

The Lone Rancher Lessons

By: Susan Schiller

I looked out the window and said to myself, "Sue, you've got to get those horses out of the pasture and into the corral." My husband usually took care of that. He just saddled up and rounded those horses right into the corral. I was just in the beginning stages of learning how to saddle a horse, so the whole cowgirl thing was a work-in-progress!

My husband was gone a lot, those days. I was weak, still recovering from a serious illness, but there were 30 top-dollar horses to feed and 100 hungry cows who needed hay. Older water troughs needed ice to be broken, and the sneaky goats seemed to always be escaping. There was a lot to figure out for a girl who lived 20-years in Chicago.

Okay, please don't get mad at me for telling you this. But you know how much horses like oats, right? I went and filled a huge bucket with grain and jogged out to the far pasture, shaking my bucket. Horses have a hierarchy, mainly based on age and strength (don't ask me how they know all those things!) and the lead horse saw my bucket and came galloping. That set off a stampede of sorts!

Within seconds I was engulfed in horse noses and having to be very firm with my boundaries. Fortunately it wasn't a terribly far walk to the corral. Home safe!

A little wiser, next time, I brought our retired border collie, Mattie, with me. She had been a working dog all her life and although her body was worn out, her spirit was ready to give those horses a reason to gallop across three pastures.

So Mattie and I went to work every day, teaching those horses who was boss. Mattie somehow picked up on the clue that I didn't really know how to herd large animals, so she often did all the work herself. Eventually, I learned how to flick a rope, without touching the horses, to give myself a safe space while walking in the pastures.

And just to relieve your mind, I did get better and better at the Lone Rancher thing, thanks to the GRACE of GOD! No animals died or got hurt on my watch. I know there were some very good cowboy angels working with me.

We lived on the edge of the huge Wind River Reservation, a desolate and lonely area. It's "Home on the Range" with wild buffalo and antelope, along with the Indian cows and bulls that have free range. It was just Mattie and me and the animals until my daughter and granddaughter arrived to live closer to us! Up till then the only ones to talk to, in those days, were God and Mattie. It was lonely. Scary.

Mattie taught me what trust looks like.

I didn't know it then, but my world was about to crash and my "lone rancher" lessons were what God knew would carry me through, just a few months around the bend when my life suddenly turned upside down.

Mattie showed me the lesson of JOY in OBEDIENCE. Like most border collies, she lived to make ME happy! If I was happy, she was happy! It was an endless cycle of joy, because her obedience made my life easier. I could trust her to bring in the horses or to move the cows. She wasn't even afraid to herd the buffalo and the bulls! She cheerfully obeyed, always giving her ALL!

I wish I could say that about myself! Do you, too?

Mattie showed me the lesson of always LISTENING for the VOICE of my Master. She knew true authority, and to her, I was the voice of authority!

Her eyes and ears were trained on me most of the day. If I walked into the kitchen, she went to the kitchen. Even if she was nestled in her favorite spot, it didn't matter… wherever I was, that's where Mattie wanted to be!

Although she loved the outdoors and couldn't wait to do chores, if I went inside the house, that's right where Mattie wanted to go. She expressed her love in joyful obedience, even if it meant not getting her way.

Have you ever had to give up your will, to obey God? Did you do it cheerfully? Did you give your ALL? Mattie taught me to ask myself these questions!

Mattie showed me God's face and His ways.

if Mattie had her way, we would chase cows and horses from pasture to pasture, all day long. But that wouldn't be good for her (or the animals). She wasn't able to see what I saw, that her spirit was willing but her body was getting too old to work so hard. She submitted to my decisions for her life, even if it meant disappointment and sorrow…. even pain.

Have you ever been disappointed by God, too?

Mattie showed me Loyalty and Grace.

Mattie never stopped loving and trusting, even when there came a day when we had to leave her precious ranch. How would she handle living in a plain old house with an ordinary backyard? Would she complain or get depressed?

Not Mattie, no. She continued to look and listen for me. She learned to be content with trips now and then to a local dog park. And at my son's suggestion, we bought a rat condo!

Mattie loved her rat herd!

Here's what I wrote on Facebook on January 28, 2011: What do you do with an 8-year old professional border collie who has worked hard herding cows all her life? She entered retirement last year and still has trouble adjusting to the quiet life, so my son convinced me to buy 2 pet fancy rats… and now this dog is in heaven! She's totally fascinated by "corralling" these rats and guarding their pen… she feels like she's back to work without the hard toll on her limbs. Matty is so happy with her pets she doesn't even want to go outside with the horses! Have you ever heard of a pet needing pets?

From all the great responses fellow Facebookers wrote on my Wall, it's confirmed that we truly love and adore our pets! Even to the extent of buying pets for our pets!

Mattie taught me the greatest life lessons of all:

Love submits to true authority, always listening for the voice of our Master.

Love sets aside one's own needs to focus on what the Master is doing.

Love believes and trusts, even when it's confusing and nothing makes sense.

Love keeps moving forward, not looking backward to what we used to have.

Love looks up for a solution, not down in depression.

Love is joyful abandonment in the trust that what you need will be given to you, at the right time.

Love is God, our Master, who we will do anything for, at any time.

Love heals. Love makes us whole. Mattie was a gift from God. She came to live with me at just the right time.

God knew I would be a "lone rancher" and He provided for me, even before I knew I'd be needing the help.

Papa God knew that my toughest trials were just ahead, even just a couple months away, and that I would need every one of these lessons in the years to come.

I'd like to offer a writing prompt and the opportunity to publish your own story here at Team Family Online…

 A story of overcoming adversity, or a story ofomething you learned during a challenging time of your life. By the way, my guidelines for sharing a "Love Wins" story – or any other kind of story – at TFO are these:

  • ​Aim for 500-1500 words.
  • Send me a one-paragraph, or 100-word or less, biography. You may also include one link to your site, if you have one.
  • If you have mature content, R-rated words or images, that is usually okay, although I will preface your story with "trigger warnings" and/or an alert for the reader to expect mature content. I reserve the right not to publish stories if the content does not suit the purpose of TFO. Thanks!
  • Here's a link where you can read the stories people have sent to me – "Write to Freedom"


My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish Jones April 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I so agree with Bruno, Susan. We certainly can learn a lot from animals and this is a great example of total submission … which as you know to me is spelt LOVE!


Susan McKenzie April 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Yes, love can be the only motive in submission! Otherwise, the results are downhill in relationships, fast!

Thanks, Trish 🙂


Gertraud Walters April 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Oh I wish. Iwish I could write like you. Breathtakingly Beautiful. I am so glad I joned this Challenge. Reading your posts is stirring things up for me. In a good way. I can see clearer now . Words are Life, and the Word in me is springing up again.

Thank you Susan.

I'm going to read some more now:)


Susan McKenzie April 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I wonder what is stirring in your soul, Gertraud… maybe there is a story brewing there. Remember to never compare yourself to others, especially not to me! You have your own beautiful style! Blessings to you… (((hugs, Gertraud)))!


Carrie Medford April 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

Yet another wonderful blog post. It's amazing the life lessons we can learn from all of our Father's creation. We just have to have eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that is open to receiving His instruction and guidance.


Susan McKenzie April 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

I agree, Carrie – thanks so much!


Bruno Buergi April 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

Great story Susan. As you wrote, we can learn a lot from animals. We have only be aware what's going on around us.


Susan McKenzie April 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thanks so much, Bruno – you are right! 🙂


Beth Hewitt April 25, 2013 at 6:04 am

Hi Susan, 


Isn't it great when we can lessons from animals and children and other amazing beings.  The world has so much to teach us if we only take the time to see what wonderful lessons we can take from life.




Susan McKenzie April 25, 2013 at 7:03 am

Life itself is the best teacher, I agree, Beth – thanks!


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