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Coming Home Again

Fighting For What Really Matters

By Linda RivenbarkPublished 2 years ago 15 min read
Coming Home Again
Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

Dustin Henry had finally come home. He had not come home to settle down and help his Grandfather run the farm, as he had once expected. He had come home to bury his Grandfather. Had he seen it coming, Dustin would have put his continuing education on hold, taken a sabbatical, and joined Grandpa Wilbur in his final months and days.

But he had not known. How could he know? How can anyone know when death will steal a loved one and turn their lives upside down?

The hardest thing, thought Dustin a thousand times, was not being able to say he was sorry. Never being able to hug his Grandpa again and say, "I love you". Grandpa knew. Dustin was sure of that. But the urge to say it one more time was sometimes overwhelming.

The only way Dustin could think of to tell his Grandpa how much he loved him was to fight to keep the farm house and land he had poured the strength of his life into.

By Stephen Ellis on Unsplash

He would not give up. If there was a way to keep his old homeplace, he would find it...he must find it.

At least he did not have to face it all alone.

Jenny Carson now had his grandmother’s diamond engagement ring on her finger, and the matching golden band was safely locked away in the little brown box now in Dustin’s lock box.

It gave him s feeling of comfort and reassurance that the ring fit Jenny’s finger perfectly…no resizing needed!

Jenny fit into his life as perfectly as the ring fit her ring finger.

No date had been set for the wedding yet. They were content for now just to know they belonged together and whatever they had to face from this day forward, they would do it together.

Feeling a sudden, inexplicable desire to walk around the yard surrounding the house and barn, Dustin ambled slowly toward the garden spot Grandpa Wilbur had used most recently for planting crops. Another fertile area on the other side of the property lay barren now, too, only used for crop rotation to keep from wearing out the soil with repeated planting.

It was late summer now and this year’s harvest had been brought in and processed before Grandpa suffered the heart attack that no one had seen coming.

Dustin marveled anew at the perfection of Grandpa Wilbur’s garden spot. The Farmer’s Almanac could have taken advice from Wilbur Henry, and pictures of his garden in full bloom could have been their best advertisement.

By Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Grandpa knew all the tricks to repel insects and small critters that might ravage his crops. No scare crows would be found anywhere on the Henry farm.

Flowers did the trick just fine.

As a boy, Dustin had been puzzled by his Grandpa planting flowers around the perimeter of the field and scattering a mixture of small flowers throughout the rows of crops. The main thing he remembered was how vibrant and colorful the little flowers were.

By Rebecca Niver on Unsplash

Gold and orange spots always decorated the vegetable garden and made it a place of beauty for a little boy to enjoy.

In the distance, Dustin caught a glimpse of that bright orange color and hurried over to check it out.

It was one lone marigold regally standing above bright green foliage, the only sign of life in this dried up garden spot.

By Eugene Golovesov on Unsplash

He was going to drive over to Jenny’s house and pick her up to spend the day with him. They had so much to talk about, plan, and work on to get ready for a fall wedding.

He would ask Jenny to transplant this miraculous marigold to the front yard by the porch where he faintly remembered Grandma Mary cultivating a flower garden, year round with whatever was in season.

Suddenly, as in a cloud of memory, Dustin remembered Grandpa Wilbur telling him why he planted the flowers near the garden. Insects loathed the scent of these lovely blossoms. The crop was safe when surrounded by dozens of marigolds.

Bit by bit, piece by piece, fragments of Dustin’s childhood were coming to life again, building a bridge between the confusion and pain of losing Grandpa and the days when love and security wrapped him in peace and safety.

He wanted that again. Sure, he would never return to the innocence of childhood, but by remembering he could rebuild a foundation on which to build a life with Jenny.

This land, this farm, was the key to rebuilding his life. He must find out what was going on and deal with it.

Who were the strangers they had seen shadowing them in the past three weeks since he had come home again? Had they gone into his house that first day he was back?

Why had they not come out in the open to tell him what they wanted.

He had to have some answers, and soon.

He would ask Jenny to go with him again to see Mr. Lucius Gray and try to find some answers.

Dustin locked the front door of the house, got into his car, and headed over to his best friend’s house to start a new day together.


A few months earlier, the Henry farm nestled in a beautiful mountain landscape was bustling with life and energy. The owner, Wilbur Henry, had slowed down and lost much of the rigorous strength and energy he once possessed. Still, until the day of the sudden, fatal heart attack, there was no sign of impending shutdown for Dustin's beloved Grandfather.

For the past three weeks, since Wilbur Henry’s funeral, Dustin had been trying to find out about the mysterious strangers who were lurking in the shadows seemingly watching him but never coming out into the open.

Sometimes when Dustin was out inspecting the farm to see what he needed to do most urgently, deciding what he must buy to make necessary repairs, and planning for how he would bring the farm back to full productivity, he would get the feeling that someone was watching him. The feeling made him feel anxious and frustrated.

Summer was coming to an end. Soon the weather would turn cooler and outside work would be more pleasant than it had been these past few weeks since he came home again.

In the distance, Dustin noticed a car coming down the gravel road in his direction. He did not recognize the car, so he walked around to the front yard to get a closer look.

A few minutes later, the black Ford sedan turned into the long driveway and headed towards the farm house. It stopped and he saw an older woman with gray hair and stooped shoulders who looked familiar, but he could not put a name with the aging face.

By Todd Cravens on Unsplash

When she spoke, when she called him by name, Dustin knew…it was Edith Avery!

How long had it been since he had seen her. More than eight years, probably ten. She looked older than he would have expected, but the voice was unchanged.

“Mrs. Avery”, Dustin greeted her. “It is so good to see you again!”.

“I’m sorry I could not be here for Wilbur’s funeral, “ she she with a quivering voice. “I had to go to my sister’s house because she was badly injured in a car crash and was in Intensive Care for two weeks. “I got the call from my nephew that they did not know if she was going to make it. Said I needed to get there as fast as possible.

I had just been there a few hours when I got a call from Jenny Carson telling me that Wilbur had passed away suddenly with a heart attack.

Have you seen Jenny since you got back? I’m sure you must have. She was quite beside herself with worry about you and dreading telling you what had happened”.

Dustin stepped over to Mrs. Avery, placed his arm around her, and gave her a gentle hug. “Yes, I have seen Jenny…every day since I came home. Mrs. Avery, Jenny and I are engaged. I gave her Grandma Mary’s diamond that Grandpa had left to me when she said ‘Yes’. I know I never could leave here or leave her again”.

Edith Avery squeezed Dustin’s hand and let the tears flow down her cheeks unchecked.

“I’m so happy for you both. Don’t ever take for granted what you have with Jenny, Dustin. My whole life I hoped I would find someone to share it with. Your Grandpa and I were the best of friends and he meant a lot to me, but I knew he could never love anyone the way he loved your Grandmother Mary. Still, what we had was special in its own way and I so wish I could have been here when he passed away”.

“Mrs. Avery, let’s go in the house and have a cup of coffee and piece of cake together. Jenny will be here soon and we can spend some time catching up before she and I go into town to see Mr. Gray and maybe talk to the sheriff for a while”.

“It will be several hours before we need to go because Mr. Gray said he had a court session this morning”.

The coffee finished perking just as Jenny walked in the front door. Her face lit up when she saw Mrs. Avery, and she hurried over to give her a big hug.

“How is your sister, Mrs. Avery. I hope she is making a good recovery”.

“She is finally on the mend, Jenny”, Mrs. Avery replied. “I am so relieved, after all the touch-and-go caution the doctors expressed while trying to be optimistic but realistic at the same time. The crisis has passed, she is making progress, albeit slowly”.

“Jenny”, said Mrs. Avery, “ I will be going back in about a week to help care for her. I just needed to see you and Dustin and find out how things are going here.”

“By the way, Dustin”, Mrs. Avery continued, “have you seen or heard from some real estate developers who have apparently been snooping around several properties trying to coerce landowners into selling their homes and properties to them?”.

Dustin stopped his coffee mug halfway to his mouth. He placed it down on the table with a thud. “What can you tell us about that, Mrs. Avery? Jenny and I have been trying to find out what is going on but coming up with only dead ends”.

"Well, Dustin. I am not sure I have all the information exactly right, but here is what I have heard from some of the neighbors. A few months ago, the state had put out a notice that this area was being considered as a site for a new shopping mall.

They said it would increase revenue and help the state raise enough extra tax money to work on the infrastructure and build better roads for people to commute on.

The thing is, there were two other sites that the state had been considering, and it is almost certain they have chosen a different site for the new shopping mall”.

Dustin’s furrowed brow smoothed out a little and some of the worry faded from his eyes.

“Did Grandpa know about the change of plans?”, asked Dustin.

“Yes, I’m sure he must have”, Mrs. Avery replied. “He told me he had heard that some land developers were watching the situation, keeping out of sight, and the theory shared by many of the landowners around here is that they were planning to swoop in and try to buy up as much land as possible at an opportune time to be able to sell it to the state on their terms and make a sizeable profit.

Wilbur had his own theory that the developers didn’t plan to sell it to the state at all, but subdivide it for a housing development that could turn them a huge profit and make them very rich.

The truth about the whole thing is still out of reach. Mr. Gray and the sheriff are heading up a research project to find out what is really going on”.

By Alina Rubo on Unsplash

“Well”, sighed Dustin, “at least it is beginning to make some sense and give us a starting place. I assure you I have no intention of cutting a deal with ANYONE for the sale of this house and land. I think everyone else around here feels the same”.

“I have to go for now”, Mrs. Avery told Dustin and Jenny. If there is anything I can do to help in the next week or so before I leave to go back to my sister’s house, just let me know.” Jenny walked Edith Avery out to her car and hugged her goodbye.

Returning to the kitchen, Jenny helped Dustin tidy up the kitchen and they headed outside, got in Dustin’s car, and headed up the gravel road toward town to make their 2 p. m. appointment with Mr. Lucius Gray.

Mr. Gray greeted them warmly, shook hands with Dustin, and lifted Jenny’s left hand for a kiss. He stopped short when he saw the sparkling diamond on her left hand ring finger.

“Well, congratulations, you two! I recognize that ring as the one Wilbur left here for safe keeping. I am so happy for you both”, he said before kissing and releasing Jenny’s hand.

All smiles filled the lawyer’s office for a few minutes.

Dustin and Jenny sat in chairs across from Mr. Gray’s big desk chair and Dustin began, “Mr. Gray. We just had a visit from Edith Avery. As you know, she and Grandpa were close friends for decades after my grandmother died.

Mrs. Avery has been visiting her sister for the past few weeks, helping her recuperate from an auto accident. She will be leaving in a week or so to go stay with her sister for a while, at least”.

“Yes I heard about that”, signed Mr. Gray. “Edith Avery is as fine a woman as you will find anywhere. I hope she will be coming back someday".

"By the way, Dustin and Jenny. My best advice for you both today is that you attend the Town Hall Meeting tonight at the Community Center. The hot topic of the meeting will be the future of our little mountain town and community. I will be there".

After a brief discussion of what Mrs. Avery had told them, Dustin and Jenny left to visit the diner and then make their way to Town Hall.

They drove into the Town Hall driveway around 6 p.m. and found the parking lot almost full.

By Aiden Guinnip on Unsplash

A crowd of their neighbors were gathered under the big oak tree behind the Town Hall building, so they quickly walked over and joined them.

“Has anyone actually talked to these land developers?”, they heard Joe Barnes ask.

Benjamin Jacobs said he had one conversation with them when he caught them parked in his front yard a few months ago when he came home unexpectedly.

They had told him they were interested in buying a large plot of land in the area for a project that was still in the making. They refused to give Benjamin their business card or identify themselves. They seemed in a big hurry to leave, Benjamin told everyone.

“We need a way to flush them out”, Dustin suggested. And I need a way to start building up Grandpa’s farm to full swing again. I need farm animals. Does anyone know what Grandpa did with the cows and bull that belonged to him?".

By Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

"Old Bart, his fourteen-year-old bull, would be a good greeter for strangers snooping around other people’s property”.

Andy Noble spoke up next. “Dustin, Wilbur asked me to take his animals over to my farm about a week before he passed. Said he needed some rest and would pay me for their upkeep and bring them back home when he felt better. I have the chickens, too, and the turkeys.

Of course, you are welcome to come and get them and take them home anytime. I wasn’t sure whether you were planning to stay or not. We all hope you do”. Smiles and nods told Dustin he had, indeed, come home again.

The old school bell rang on the corner of the town hall building.

Time to go in.

The meeting turned out to be better than Dustin and Jenny could have thought possible.

Plans were made to return old Bart, the cows, and all the farm animals to their home in the next few days.

Dustin, and everyone who lived around there, knew that Bart did not like surprises.

Many of them could tell stories of times when Bart had been surprised by people taking a shortcut across Wilbur Henry’s pasture land only to be run up a tree by bellows from Old Bart.

Other business was discussed and Minutes were recorded.

Later that evening, after Jenny had gone back home, Dustin drifted off to sleep remembering Old Bart chasing a visiting salesman off the property for Grandpa Wilbur.


About the Creator

Linda Rivenbark

I believe in the magic of words, love, and tenacity. There is a world out there that needs to be explored, researched, and written out to try to make some sense of it, and to make a better place for the children of tomorrow.

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