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Stories from the Ranch  


Still in my jammies, I slip out to the patio with my coffee and devotional as the first rays of dawn kiss the mountaintop. Slowly, as the seconds pass, sunshine inches its way across the meadow, a gentle reminder that the earth is spinning with the exact precision as our Creator designed. Pine covered hillsides cut a jagged outline against the bluer-than-blue skies. A trail of smoke hangs low in the morning air and I know Myron has filled the woodstove that heats our swimming pool.

A four-wheeler fires up; time for the wranglers to round up the horses. Staff begin arriving at the office, one by one I recognize their vehicles. The hum of Little Two Feathers, the maintenance golf cart, begins to make its morning rounds. Guests trickle toward the office or down to the Grille and Pub for breakfast. Warmth from the sun fills my patio and I drink in the fresh scent of pine, along with my coffee.

And then, here they come…

I stand to get a better view. Twenty-five horses, their muscled bodies moving in thunderous rhythm, Appy in the lead as always. Some are slender, delicate in feature. Others are broad and stocky, work horses. Heads held high, the choreographed jaunt through the pasture and up to the corral yields a striking, theatrical show, tails and manes waving in majestic salutes.

Pure strength radiates from their long strides, their eyes round and dramatic, on alert. My heart skips a beat, taken back by the power of the moment. My eyes are glued to the stunning imagery as they spill into the corral, my front yard. Hooves pound against the earth, mixing with horse sounds and the chatter of wranglers.

And another day begins.






LOCATION: High Country Guest Ranch, 4 miles west of Hill City on Deerfield Road; 12138 Ray Smith Drive, Hill City, SD 57745.

PHONE: 605-574-9003


Five years ago we walked away from a comfortable life in the suburbs of Minneapolis and moved to the High Country Guest Ranch, here in these beautiful and sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. We felt called, as though there was a higher purpose involved and it was our duty to respond in obedience. Our six kids were grown and starting their own families, so the timing felt right. We packed all we owned and made the move.

Our home is now an 1890s horse barn converted to staff housing. Our backyard is the Black Hills National Forest. Horses mingle in the corral in our front yard. Evenings bring the high-pitched chorus of coyotes, a serenade caught somewhere between a cry and song. We can see the stars at night, the Milky Way stretched across the sky.

I’m the writer, the creative one. John is the businessman, the go-getter. When we arrived in March 2013 we believed we ‘knew’ the plan. We’ve since realized something this monumental can’t be defined in a business plan and instead must unfold day by day. We’ve been blessed to partner with some wonderful individuals, people that God has placed here, each with their own role, talent and purpose.

Many of our guests share that they feel something spiritual as soon as they turn onto the property. Others say the ranch is a place of healing. One young woman told us, Before coming here I was broken, and now I feel whole. It’s fair to say that God’s plan goes far beyond what our small human minds had imagined. We are thankful to serve as caretakers of this parcel of land for however long God determines.

I’ll be sharing some of our stories on this page, snippets of our transition into ranch life, a journey of trust and faith. May your journey take you to places you never dared dream, and may all the glory go to Him!

John & Barbara



Barbara’s Books

Painted Skies – coming soon!

When Vonnie Daniels volunteers at a guest ranch in Wyoming, she is drawn into the center of a mystery that nearly takes her life. Time spent amid the rugged mountain meadows and rushing rhythms of Sage Creek bring Vonnie to a crossroads that forever alters the course of her life.

Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche – Now celebrating its 11th year!

The remarkable story of Paul LaRoche, founder of Brulé, and his inspiring journey to share a message of reconciliation between cultures.

Seeds of Salton

Based on a true story, a beautifully moving story of courage, love, and the transforming power of forgiveness set in Montana’s Open Range country.

Michigan & Rookie: Guardians of the Night

Told in alternating point-of-views, this book shares the deep bond between K9 Officer Joaquin Guerrero and his four-legged partner Rookie.



Barbara Marshak is the award-winning author of three books and over 150 published pieces. Her essays and short stories have been featured in regional periodicals all over the Midwest. Barbara has made appearances at numerous book events from Minnesota to Arizona. Copies of Barbara’s books are available at the High Country General Store. She invites you to stop in and say hello!

To see more, visit her website at

©2016 High Country Guest Ranch • 605-574-9003 • 12138 Ray Smith Drive, Hill City, South Dakota 57745 •