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Coming Home Again

Home is Where the Heart Is

By Linda RivenbarkPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 13 min read
Coming Home Again
Photo by James Garcia on Unsplash

Dustin sat on the porch swing watching Jenny romping with Scooter in the front yard. "Come on out!”, summoned Jenny. “Scooter has too much energy for me to give him a good contest.”

Jenny was moving a little slower than usual and seemed to be unusually tired. She wanted to stop romping for now.

Scooter looked his way expectantly. Dustin picked up the ball from the basket by the front door and sprinted out to the front lawn. He did a mini wind up and tossed the ball down the hill toward the pond.

By Michèle Lippus on Unsplash

Scooter ran it down before it could go into the water, picked up the ball with his nearly full-grown teeth, and carried it back to Dustin. Bouncing, panting, and looking from the ball in Dustin’s hand to the pond, Scooter begged for more.

About 45 minutes of this throw and fetch and Dustin was ready for a break. He tossed the ball toward the house and it landed right beside the front porch steps.

Jenny took Dustin’s hand and motioning Scooter to ‘come’, she led them both back to the house and up onto the porch.

By Max Sandelin on Unsplash

The next morning, Jenny woke up early feeling queasy and could not eat breakfast. She called and got an afternoon appointment for a check-up.

Two hours later, Jenny drove up into the yard, got out of the car all smiles and said to Dustin, “Well Daddy, would you rather have a boy or a girl?”.

“Are you?”, Dustin exclaimed. “Yes indeed!”, Jenny enthused. “Are you happy about it?”.

The two of them acted like excited children, hugging, laughing, bouncing around for a little while, paying no attention to their confused Golden Retriever.

Jenny would be spending more time in bed than usual over the next couple of months. The doctor said she might end up being on total bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy if she didn’t let up on the amount of farm work she was doing.

By this time, the volume of work to be done had about tripled since they had brought the animals back from Andy Noble’s farm last year.

When Dustin took time to slow down enough to think deliberately about anything, he knew he had to hire some help to get anywhere near all the work done.

As usual, Dustin’s first thought was of Andy. A year ago, Andy Noble had been an acquaintance and a helpful neighbor. Now, Andy was Dustin’s best friend, next to Jenny...his ‘go-to-man’, you might say.

When Andy came by the Henry farm on his way to town the day after Jenny’s doctor appointment, he was beyond excited to hear about their coming baby, and offered voluntarily to help out with the work while Jenny was needing extra rest.

Harvest time was upon them and most of the crop was still in the fields or on the trees. They had an unusually large and beautiful crop of Bartlett pears on the trees, especially the tallest pear tree in the center of the row about halfway down the hill between the house and the pond.

Dustin’s grandpa had planted the trees the year he inherited the farm from his father. After the typical delay of two or three years, they had always produced a good harvest. But this year, it was better than Dustin ever remembered.

Wilbur Henry had mastered the art of harvesting the pears at just the right time, when they were full grown but not yet ripened.

All of his pears, the Bartlett’s and the Bosc variety, were firm on the outside and hard and grainy on the inside when picked.

A very deep and wider-than-usual cold-storage cellar had been added to the back side of the house for keeping the pears cooled to around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit for about two weeks. They were then checked for color, feel, and taste. If they were slightly tender to touch, a yellow-greenish tint, and soft, sweet, and juicy inside, they were ready to move to room temperature for continued long-term storage.

By Nur Afni Setiyaningrum on Unsplash

Add to the bumper crop of pears on the trees a bulging field of corn and two garden spots filled with beans, squash, okra, cucumbers, and late tomatoes, and Dustin realized his human labor requirements far exceeded what he and Andy could handle. By his calculations, he had about two to three weeks to hire some shift workers to harvest pears from sun-up to sun-down.

But where to start was the three million dollar question! Dustin’s mind was reeling with the thought of becoming a father. Oh, God! How he had longed for that. He knew Jenny would be an amazing mother, and he would give it all he had to be a great Dad.

He thought of all the years he had spent at the University studying for…for what? Sure, a Bachelor’s Degree with a combination major of Agriculture and Business Administration should help him to help Grandpa when he returned home. But he had waited too long.

He had been troubled since coming home about all the “wasted” (?) time spent earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

While at school, it seemed like a good idea. He meant to be ready for whatever Grandpa needed him to do. He had expected to have maybe a couple more decades with his Grandpa growing older before he was gone.

He hoped there was a way he could benefit from the extra education he had sacrificed so much to achieve.

The thought of a little bundle wrapped in a baby blanket loosened the worry lines on his forehead and brought a gentle smile to his face.

In a sort of semiconscious daze, he heard footsteps coming up behind him. He turned around and saw Andy trying to sneak up on him.

Andy was 10 years Dustin’s senior, and Dustin felt like he was the big brother he never had.

The thought of never having a sibling brought back memories of his parents’ untimely death.

His grandparents were all gone. His parents were gone, too. There would always be a measure of grief and loss he carried around with him.

Now there is Jenny, and soon they will have the greatest gift life could give them…a son or daughter.

He had been lost in reverie, but welcomed Andy’s sneak visit.

“Hey, ole’ Buddy”, Dustin greeted him. “I’ve been thinking a thousand things here in the last half hour or so. Maybe you can shed some light on some questions I have been pondering”.

“I am no psychiatrist, but I will do my best. What’s on your mind”?, asked Andy.

“Do you think I wasted four years, Grandpa’s last four years, working on a Master’s Degree in Business Administration? I don’t exactly need it to run the farm, and running the farm is my first priority right now, probably for as long as I am able to do the work, hopefully quite a few years. It will be our home and I wouldn’t trade it for any big city job”.

Andy had a ready answer for Dustin.

“You are right about running the farm. It is in your blood, part of your DNA.

But, Dustin, you don’t have to choose between farming and education. It is not an ‘either/or’ proposition.

Tell me, Dustin, what qualities do you need most to be a successful farmer? How about creative thinking, long-range endurance in working hard to achieve a goal, learning how to stay calm in the face of misfortune and adversity, and the tenacity to stay on the job until it is done?”.

“What did it take to get through four years of earning a Bachelor’s Degree and four more years of earning a Master’s Degree?”.

Andy saw a light come on in Dustin’s eyes.

“That’s right, Pal, you were preparing big time for what is getting into full gear right about now. Don’t sell yourself short. You will be able to steer the ship right into harbor. I will help in any way I can”.

Dustin felt a load lift off his shoulders and gave Andy a big bear hug.

“Want to stay for dinner, Andy?”, questioned Dustin. We have bunches of leftovers from a 12-pound ham we baked yesterday. Jenny made the glaze, I prepped it and put it in the oven and took it out when it was done. I don’t want her lifting anything that heavy. We have some side-dishes to be warmed up, but that won’t take long either”, said Dustin.

By Karo Kujanpaa on Unsplash

“How could I turn that down?”, replied Andy, “I would welcome a home-cooked meal. Being a bachelor myself, I sometimes go to the diner several times a week just to get a meal I don’t have to put together on my own”.

"Well, we will have to do something about that. If you are willing to help me get through this harvest and keep Jenny from doing too much at the same time, the least we can do is feed you at least one good meal a day starting now. Come on in, Andy. Let’s see how Jenny is feeing now”.

Walking into the living room, Dustin and Andy did not see Jenny anywhere. Scooter was curled up asleep near the fireplace. Dustin stepped down the hall and peeked into the bedroom. He shook his head knowingly and returned to the living room.

"She's sound asleep. Well, that will do her good. Let's take a walk about the farm and see how things are coming along".

Before the two of them could get out the front door, the phone on the computer desk rang. It was Joe Barnes calling in a frantic voice, talking so fast Dustin could barely make out what he was trying to tell him.

"Slow down, Joe! Tell me exactly what happened. Andy is here now and we can come over right away". After a pause, during which Dustin's eyes took on a panicked look, he said, "We are on our way. Hold tight, Joe".

"Andy, Joe's barn is on fire. He has called the Fire Department and they have trucks on the way. Joe said a man stopped by his farm this week and made an offer on his farm. He said his neighbor Benjamin had the same thing happen.

Joe told the man it was a no-go. He would not sell his farm for any price. The man promptly left.

A few minutes ago, Joe detected a burning smell and found his barn on fire with the flames already out control. He knew he could not to put them out".

When Dustin and Andy pulled into Joe Barnes' yard, they could not believe what they were seeing. The barn was already almost half destroyed and the fire trucks had just started spraying the flames with their biggest fire hoses.

The sound of the sirens had alerted other nearby neighbors of an emergency and several of them had arrived at Joe's place to see if they could help.

Two police cars pulled up and started writing a report on the incident. Just behind them was a camera truck from the local TV station. The police told the TV reporters to go ahead and report the fire, but not to interview Joe until the report was done and the initial investigation was completed.

By joey senft on Unsplash

Dustin and Andy stayed at Joe's house until the flames were brought under control and the initial damage assessment was completed. It was believed that the barn could be rebuilt with about half of it still standing, and volunteers' offers were pouring in to help with the rebuilding.

In the aftermath of the fire, Benjamin shared with his neighbors that some of his fences had been cut, apparently with wire cutters and intentionally, and four of his cows had gotten out. It took him and his hired hands several hours to round them up and more than a day to replace the wire. The police and Sheriff's Department were already investigating.

An emergency Town Hall Meeting was called for that evening.

Attorney Lucius Grey called Dustin and told him he would be coming and hoped Dustin would be there, too. Dustin told him that he and Jenny would be coming with Andy Noble.

The meeting answered a plethora of questions that the community members had been asking for the past two years.

First and foremost, the land scammers who had been harassing them for so long had been arrested. Their goal had been to purchase as close to all the land in the burgeoning mountain area as possible and create a lucrative housing development that would make them a huge profit.

Wilbur Henry had called it right. He had figured out their scheme, but did not have any proof. Nor did anyone else, until now!

Fliers were posted all over town and the newspapers gave a full account. The scammers had finally gotten frustrated with their lack of success and decided to try the use of force.

Their scheme was uncovered. Their game was over!

Dustin, Andy, Joe, Benjamin, and every other land-owner in the state rejoiced that justice was finally being done.

The peaceful mountain community could get back to its usual business of living happy, productive lives, helping one another, and raising their families!

About six months later, Dustin and Jenny Henry were awakened in the wee hours of the morning for an emergency trip to the local hospital, where Jenny was admitted to labor and delivery.

Three days later, the little family returned home...Dad, Mom, and newborn son.

By Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Jenny has never been more radiant, even in a state of exhaustion, as she is with little Andrew Wilbur in her arms.

Scooter is fiercely protective of his “little brother”. Andrew has thick black hair like Dustin and deep blue eyes like Jenny.

Dustin consulted with Lucius Gray, his attorney, right after baby Andy was born . Lawyer Grey told Dustin that there was a consultant position open in the firm’s financial office if he was interested. He would come into the office two days a week and work two more online from home. It would give him extra income to be able to pay for hired help at harvest time and maintain a small crew of workers year round.

On the way back from Lawyer Grey’s office, Dustin stopped by the little neighborhood church where Grandpa Wilbur was buried and knelt by his grave.

By Michal Matlon on Unsplash

“I’ve given it my best shot, Grandpa, and it looks like you have been helping me out even if you can’t be here. Gosh, I wish you could see your great-grandson, named after you. How could I not name him after the best and dearest Grandfather that ever lived. At least, that’s the way I see you. Andy Noble has become like part of the family. I’m sure you approve of that.

I will keep working the farm and raising my family with Jenny, hopefully more children yet to come. You will always be beside me, I know that! I love you so much Grandpa!”

And one more time, Dustin wept for the loss of his Grandpa, then dried his tears, laughed a little bit, and backed away from the grave smiling.

As he walked he contemplated what all he had learned since the day of Grandpa’s funeral.

Dustin had learned on the farm what eight years at the University had not taught him. He had learned that what mattered most to him was the people in his life, that cooperation overshadowed competition, that family and community filled his life with purpose and joy - all life lessons he would need to draw on mightily in the years and decades ahead.

immediate family

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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