The City and the Ranch

Heinrich had everything he wanted. Because of his lucrative job, he and his family had a high-rise condominium in the middle of downtown, a private yacht moored at the pier, and an abundance of spending money for shopping, concerts, movies, and sporting events. The kids had laptops, earbuds, and mobile devices to ensure they could never be bored.

The condo sported a balcony that provided a view of much of the city and its nightly, varicolored lights. Each of Heinrich’s kids, now teenagers, had a bedroom where they could keep their devices and entertain themselves. It may have worked a little too well because often they had their eyes on a screen or buds in their ears during family outings on the yacht or at shows and other events, or even just a walk down the busy streets of the city center.

But in spite of all the great things Heinrich’s family had going for them, all the wonderful amenities and privileges they enjoyed, the kids were troubled. Heinrich’s wife caught their oldest experimenting with smoking a drug he’d obtained from a friend. Another child’s friends had been prosecuted for shoplifting; fortunately their own daughter hadn’t been with them, but it might be just a matter of time. The third seemed to be withdrawing from everyone and everything and acted nervous whenever she was around more than just a few people.

Heinrich loved everything about his life, everything he had. But he knew something had to change.

One day, he came across an ad about ranches for sale, most of them located over a thousand miles away. This idea caught his attention, but he had no clue why. What did he know about ranching or about that part of the country? Still, the thought wouldn’t leave his mind.

After he and his wife discussed the matter, they decided to act. They could treat this like an experiment, and if it didn’t work, Heinrich could always find another job in the city and they could move back. After doing some research, they chose a particular ranch, contacted a realtor, and started the process of the purchase and moving.

So they sold their condo, and because of the cost of the ranch they decided to buy, they had to sell the yacht as well. Heinrich paused when he realized he had to give up that boat, and he had to remind himself why he was doing this. He steeled himself in preparation to leave behind everything he knew and enjoyed. Well, except for their furniture. That could come with them.

Of course, their children were upset and threatened to find their own places to live, but Heinrich held his ground—they were going to conduct this experiment as a family. If after a year they could see it wasn’t working, they could return. But they all had to give it a fair chance. The children agreed. A year wasn’t that long.

The family moved to the ranch and settled in. They began working with the animals and learning their names. Ranch hands taught them how to care for their land and livestock. Cellular reception was spotty on most of the property—the only reliable phone was a landline in the house—forcing the teenagers to find other means of entertainment when they weren’t helping around the ranch. After long days working, the family found that they could have fun eating dinner, playing games, and watching silly TV shows. Together.

Their modern-looking furniture from the condo seemed out of place in the ranch house, so over time, they sold pieces off and replaced them. Strangely, they felt more at home without the furniture they had brought with them.

One evening after going horseback riding with his wife and kids, which he had found he enjoyed more than riding the yacht, Heinrich went out to the back porch. The sun was setting, a burst of pink, orange, and violet reaching across the western sky, outshining the city lights he used to look at from his balcony. The land swept away into green, rugged valleys rimmed with forested mountains, a much more breathtaking view than that of concrete and steel.

What had this ranch cost? Well, at the time it seemed like everything. But Heinrich had gained more than he had given up. The experiment had been successful.

Indeed, when the year had passed and Heinrich casually brought up the possibility of moving back to the city, one of the kids summed up everyone’s feelings with one question. “Why would we do that?”

Photo by Helena Lopes on

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4 thoughts on “The City and the Ranch

  1. Maerhwyn 12 June 2022 / 9:52 am

    I wish so badly to do this. Move to the mountains and let our kids run around in the woods all day. Teach them that there’s more to life than YouTube.


    • Ben Minson 12 June 2022 / 3:52 pm

      That may or may not have had an influence as the source of this parable. 🙂


  2. Kay 11 September 2022 / 10:27 am

    I want to go to the mountains too!


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