Summer on Harmony Farm
A Children’s Story
by Ken Pierpont
Chapter One: Harmony Farm
The train came to a stop and Riley Miller stepped off and looked around for a familiar face. It had been four years since he had seen his Uncle Clem.
Maple Grove had not changed much since Riley and his family had left for the mission field. The band-stand on the town square had a fresh coat of paint and Sheriff Goodman had a new patrol car with radar. Over under the awning on a rough bench in front of the barber shop it looked like the same men were gathered who had gathered there to talk weather and politics for the last twenty years.
Riley heard a sharp whistle and spun around to see his Uncle Clem and two strange looking boys running towards him. As they came closer Riely realized the boys were his cousins Gerry and Glenn. They had nearly doubled in size since he had seen them last.
In a minute they had thrown Riley’s suitcase in the back of Uncle Clem’s old pickup and they had turned off the main highway and were bumping along the gravel road to Harmony Farm.
Uncle Clem loved to call his old place Harmony Farm. He believed in working together and he loved music so the name seemed just right. Uncle Clem never had a TV and he only turned on the radio to check the weather and on Saturday night to listen to his favorite radio programs; “Prarrie Fiddler” and “Mystery Theater of the Air.” After supper everyone would gather before a big fire in the winter or out on the front porch in the summer and listen to Uncle clem play the harmonica or fiddle. They usually read from the Bible or told stories, but they always sang.
Uncle Clem and Aunt Norrie knew hundreds of songs. Some were funny. Some were sad. Some were fast and some were slow, but most of them were hymns and church songs that everyone sang in three or four-part harmony and that is the main reason Uncle Clem liked to call his place Harmony Farm.
Aunt Norrie had a big delicious meal of sweet corn, green beans, fresh tomatoes and limas from the garden all ready when they got in. You could smell it coming up the lane. Riley saved room for a big piece of Aunt Norrie’s famous apple pie. Uncle Clem said it was made from apples picked from a tree planted by Johnny Appleseed himself.
After supper dishes were done everyone went out and settled down on the porch to watch fireflies and catch up on all the news. Riley loved to sit on the big porch swing and listen to Uncle Clem tell stories about what he and Riley’s dad used to do when they were young.
That night while Riley lay in bed everything seemed so peaceful. He could hear the crickets and frogs and the breeze blowing through the branches of the huge twin Oaks outside his window in the front of the house. Soon he drifted off into a peaceful sleep. He had no idea the adventure his summer on Harmony Farm would hold for him.
Chapter Two: Prayer Meeting
It seemed like only a few minutes from the time Riley’s head touched the pillow that his Uncle was standing at the foot of his bed thundering something about how all farm-hands had to help with the chores before breakfast. “Roll-out sleepy head” Uncle Clem said, and bounded down the stairs.
The sun was coming up and throwing bright streaks on the wall of the quest room. Riley could hear the roosters crowing from the hog barn lot across the spring run.
A wonderful smell was coming up the stairs from Aunt Norrie’s kitchen and Riley remembered what Uncle Clem liked to call “Farm-hand Breakfast.” He quickly pulled on his jeans and shirt grabbed his sneakers and socks and his favorite red wool bass cap and hurried down the stairs and out into the kitchen.
Aunt Norrie said, “Morning, Riley. You better run, They’re on their way to the pond to run the lines. You might have fresh fish for lunch.” He jumped up on the wagon just before it lurched and headed off down the lane under the pines toward the west pasture and the pond.
A half-hour later they had finished off breakfast, cleaned their catch of six good-sized catfish, a crappie and two bass and they were off with Uncle Clem to cut hay.
Uncle Clem cut hay most of the day but quit early because it was prayer-meeting night at Crow’s Creek Church and Uncle Clem was in charge of the meeting. Preacher Vales was at Barron Hill Church this week. (Neither church could afford a full-time preacher, so they shared Preacher Vales).
At supper Uncle Clem asked Riley to tell the people at prayer meeting what it is like on the mission field. He had trouble eating because the whole idea of talking I front of a group made him nervous. He agreed to do it because he remembered how important it was for people to pray for missionaries. His dad had said nothing was more important than the blessing of God, and that God would give His blessing especially when people pray.
After Riley went out and found a quiet spot near the top of the hill behind the house and knelt down and asked God to tell him what to say and give him the courage to say it. He had seen his dad do that many times before he spoke to a group of people.
At prayer meeting he answered lots of questions and it wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. When everyone knelt down and began to pray aloud he could hear his parent’s names and it made him kind of homesick. He prayed that everything would go well for them at their conference in Chicago.
When they got home they sat out on the porch again and sipped lemonade. All of Harmony Farm was sweet with the smell of freshly mown hay. Uncle Clem said, “By the end of summer we’ll make a country boy out of you.”
Riley felt good as he knelt beside the high antique bed I the guestroom. He folded his hands over the old quilt that Aunt Norrie had turned back for him and thanked God for the chance to visit Harmony Farm and for the courage to speak at the prayer meeting. He lay still in the bed and the smell of honeysuckle mixed with hay was the last thing he remembered before he drifted into sleep.
Chapter Three: Beauregard
If you have ever bailed hay on a hot July day you know how Riley and his cousins Glenn and Gerry felt when the finally plunged into Chatum Run. It was near suppertime but Aunt Norrie had shooed the boys out of the big kitchen for an hour and a half. Uncle Clem had gone to town to visit a shut-in friend. Later the boys would make this visit with Uncle Clem but this afternoon they were cooling off in Chatum Run. The boys rigged up a rope swing from a high branch in the big Sycamore tree that angled out over the water just above where the creek made a turn and over a deep green pool of clear water. Perfect for a dip after a hot afternoon in the haymow on and on the hay wagon.
Over and over again the boys took turns plunging into the water. They had a contest to see who could do the wackiest dive. Time passed quickly and soon it was time for the boys to make their way down the lane back to the big house for a well-deserved meal. The boys either heard Aunt Nellie ringing the dinner bell or their hungry imaginations were playing tricks on them. They were not taking any chances on missing supper tonight. So they hurried down the lane with the afternoon sun and a light breeze frying their clothes.
Suddenly the boys were brought to a stop by the sound of a loud racket in the pine trees along the lane. Glenn shouted, “Look, It looks like an army of blackbirds!” The boys ran under the shade of a tree to see what had the birds so upset. The birds were flying in circles close to the ground. A small animal was the center of the bird’s attention. Riley was the first to discover what had happened. A little ragged pup had made a lunch of a little blackbird. The others were trying to run him off.
“He looks so hungry and skinny,” said Riley sadly; “I bet he hasn’t eaten in a long time.”
“He’s a stray, Riley,” said Glenn. “Dad won’t want him around. Hungry strays usually end up killing the chickens and they are more trouble than they are worth, said Gerry. Sure enough Aunt Norrie said he would probably have to go as soon as Uncle Clem returned from town. Uncle Clem had had some pretty bad experiences with stray dogs.
In a few minutes later the boys could tell Uncle Clem was on his way home by the cloud of dust rising from the gravel road at the bottom of the hill. When Uncle Clem got out of his pick-up truck he took one look at the little black, mixed breed dog and shook his head no. “After supper, he said, “That little mutt is going for a one-way ride. We’re not going to have another stray, killing chickens on Harmony farm. Let’s eat.”
Riley could have cried. He had never had a dog. They were not allowed on the mission field. During supper Riley didn’t listen to the conversation or enjoy Aunt Norrie’s fried chicken. He couldn’t get his mind off the sad looking little puppy whimpering outside the screen door. Riley excused himself and slipped our before dessert with some table scraps and chicken bones for his new friend.
The wooden screen door slapped shut and Aunt Norrie called, “Riley, come back for dessert. I thought strawberry shortcake was a favorite of yours.” It was, but the little black dog and the threat of a one way trip robbed Riley of his appetite. He said, “No thank you”, and fed the scraps and bones to the grateful little pup. He had never seen an animal eat so fast. His tail wagged so fast Riley had to laugh. He made up his mind that he would make an appeal to Uncle Clem to keep him.
“Don’t get any ideas”, boomed Uncle Clem’s happy voice from behind Riley, “and don’t get attached to that dog. He’s got to go.” Then came Aunt Norrie’s voice, “oh Clem, he seems like a bright pup. Let’s see if we can train him to leave the chickens alone. Do you think maybe we could give him a week as a trial period?”
“Well, it’s against my better judgment, but seein’s how the boy’s never had a dog… and he is a cute little critter we’ll give it a try. But , son, you have to be responsible and feed and water him the dog every day. And you have to take responsibility for it. If it kills any chickens after you train it. You will have to pay for them out of your own money and the dog will have to be shot.”
Riley shuddered at the thought of the little dog being killed, but quickly agreed to Uncle Clem’s terms. The little black spot of a pup let out a happy little yelp as if he knew he had just been welcomed into the family and the boy and the dog tumbled on the grass together.
Riley knew exactly what the dog’s name would be. From the first time he saw him strutting around with the bird in his mouth, he thought he looked like a proud little general… so he gave him a name fit for a general… He called him General Beauregard… or Beauregard for short or Beau for shorter>
That night Riley’s heart was full of thanks for his Aunt and Uncles kindness, but especially to the Lord. He remembered the verse in Psalm 37:5, “Delight thy self also in the Lord…He will give thee the desires of your heart.’ Riley jumped happily into bed with a little black furball curled up at his feet.
He had no idea the lesson that little General Beauregard would teach him.
Chapter Four: Riley’s Mistake
Riley was trying to train Beauregard when Aunt Norrie called from the house. “Riley, come get these buckets. If you will go and pick me a mess of raspberries, I’ll have a pie or two cooling for after supper.”
Gerry and Glenn were leaning on the fence by the milk house. They had just finished their chores and they were trying to choose between drowning a couple worms in the pond and rolling end over end down the hill in an old tractor tire inner tube when Riley came by with the berry buckets.
The boys made their way back over the hill behind the house to the berry patch and soon their buckets were nearly full. Glenn said, “I know where there’s a patch of berries ten times as big as this..It’s over on the Hickum Place. Nobody will care if we pick’em. No one had lived there for years.”
Gerry agreed. “There are a couple apple trees there too, that are great for apple picking'”. The boys all agreed and scurried off.
The Hickum Place looked abandoned. Mr. Hickum died years ago. Mrs. Hickum lived in a nursing home in the county seat and their only son only came to mow a couple times a summer because he lived in Cincinnati. So the place really was all but deserted.
The boys climbed under the split rail fence that separated their farm from the Hickum’s and soon had their buckets running over with berry stains all around their mouths and on their hands from generous helpings on the job.
Pulling out his pocketknife, Glenn said with a mischievous little smirk on his face, “Watch this little trick that Teddy Holcum taught me. He cut a long branch from a nearby apple tree and sharpened the end. The branch was about an inch thick and five or six feet long. They boy stuck small green apples on the end and they could ?flick” them about three times further than they could throw them.
Riley had an idea. “Lets take turns and see who can be first to break a window in the old house.” He knew he shouldn’t do it but his cousins agreed so quickly that within a few minutes Riley had thrown an apple through an upstairs window.
“Great shot, Riley,” Glenn shouted, as he grabbed for the stick, but he suddenly froze in place and looked past Riley toward the road. A car was slowing down to turn I the drive. The boys ran all the way back to the house a fast as they could.
Riley didn’t eat very well at supper that night and when his aunt asked why he lied and told her he wasn’t feeling well. It was partly true. He was so guilty for the destruction at the Hickum place earlier that afternoon he felt almost kick. He skipped the raspberry pie and homemade ice cream that Uncle Clem cranked out but he set on the porch with the rest of the family and tried to act like everything was ok.
Uncle Clem leaned forward in his hickory limb rocker and said, “I believe I hear someone coming up the road from town.’ In a minute riley saw something that made his heart pound for fear.
Chapter Five: Sheriff
There in front of the house was a big black car with a yellow star on its side. The Sheriff! Riley’s heart raced and Beaureguard seemed to know something was wrong. He ran under the porch with his tail tuck between his legs.
“Howdy Sheriff Goodman; the Sunday School books in already. (Sheriff Goodman was the head of the Sunday School at Baron Hill Church but he had the books for both churches sent to his house and he always brought the books out to Uncle Clem.)
“No Clem, I’m afraid I’m here on business,” the Sheriff said as he shot a stern look in the direction of the boys. “This afternoon Mr. Hickum stopped in to report some vandalism of his mother’s home. He said he saw some boys running away and an upstairs window was broken.”
Uncle Clem looked at his sons and said, “You boys know anything about this?” “They were picking berries for me all afternoon, offered Aunt Norrie.
Sheriff Goodman frowned. “These boys had picked their share of berries too. Mr. Hickman said he was planning to get them to donate to the Memorial Committee for pies for their bake sake next weekend. His berries were pretty bad picked over.”
Aunt Norrie was in the middle of a bit of her raspberry pie and her fork stopped in mid air. She looked hurt and disappointed.
Riley figured it was about time to tell the truth about what happened. He confessed what he had done and offered to pay for the damages. The boys agreed to volunteer their time to pick more berries for the memorial committee and help with the bake sale. They would sell tomatoes and sweet corn at a roadside stand on Saturday to earn money for the repair of the window.
“Alright then,” said the tall, stern-looking Sheriff, “but I don’t want any more trouble.” He looked straight at Riley and said, “Son these boys have never been in any trouble, till now. I hope you won’t be a bad influence on them. If I have any more trouble with you, we will have to take serious measures.”
“Yes sir,” said Riley. When the Sheriff drove out of sight Riley began to cry. Beaureguard came out from under the porch and licked his face.
Uncle Clem said, “Boys you had better turn in, you have a lot of work to do to make things right tomorrow.”
That night beside his bed, Riley asked forgiveness of the Lord for his sin before he crawled in beside Beau.
Chapter Six: Great Sadness
The boys worked all morning to pick green beans, tomatoes and sweet corn from the garden above the old spring house. Early after lunch they had hauled it behind the tractor out to the main highway to sell. Beauregaurd had learned to jump up on the wagon and he ran around their little roadside stand yapping at a bewildered groundhog.
Riley was sure he loved Beau more than any animal he had ever had. He had had a white mouse, a gold fish, a garter snake and even a little salamander that changed colors every time it moved to a new place, but he had never had a pet like little black Beauregaurd. Beau would follow Riley everywhere he went. He even sat quietly outside the church on Tuesday afternoons while Riley and his cousins and some of the other kids from the neighborhood would attend Bible Club. After Bible Club Beau would yelp when he saw Riley and they would run together down the road toward Harmony farm. Usually Riley could get Beau to do little tricks or sit still or come by sharing some of his Bible Club treats or some beef jerky he would bring from home.
Riley was shocked the first time he took Beau with him to the swimming hole. Beau jumped in at the first sight of water and swam like a veteran right away. Everyone laughed when Beau shook his coat and gave everyone a shower.
Riley had never seen such a smart dog. Whenever Riley really started to miss his parents, it seemed like Beau would be right there licking his hand and taunting him into a wrestling match or a run down the lane.
It had been almost a week and whenever Beau would get curious about the chickens, and go over near their coup Riley would say “NO” in a very stern low voice like the one Riley’s Dad used when he got in trouble…and Beau would just slink away to a corner of the yard like he knew something was wrong.
If riley was in bed, Beau was curled up at his feet. If riley was on the front porch, so was Beau. If you called for one…you got them both.
Mr. Yokum from down the road took on look at Beau and said, “Son you have yourself a fine, fine dog. He is almost a pure-bred black lab…a fine animal. And from the size of his feet I can tell he is going to be a big, beautiful dog.”
Riley hated the thought of leaving Beau when he went back to the mission field with his parents, but he knew Beau would always be waiting for him on Harmony Farm and he didn’t feel so bad then.
Business was pretty brisk at the roadside vegetable stand and by late afternoon they had sold almost everything they brought. The boys felt good that they were going to be able to make everything right and repair the damage they had done.
Between customers Riley tossed a ball of old socks or Beau to fetch. Mr. Yokum had told Riley that Beau was a retriever and that it was natural for him to fetch.
The boys heard the dinner bell and they were loading up what was left when Beau made a funny bark and took off like a rifle bullet for something he saw on the other side of the road.
Riley called for Beau and his little head shot straight up, his ears perked and it looked like the little dog smiled at the sound of his name, then he eagerly shot back toward Riley as fast as he had gone. Mr. Fields was making his afternoon milk run. He was hungry and a little behind schedule so he was driving a little faster than usual when his big dual tired tanker thundered over the crest of the hill near Harmony farm. On one side of the road was a huge oak, then on the other ? right next to the road was a little black dog. He had a split second to slam his foot on the brakes and pull the horn chain, but it was too late.
Riley watched with horror as the tanker ran over little Beauregaurd. Riley ran out onto the highway and cradled his little companion’s head in his lap. Beau looked up at Riley almost like he smiled, then he licked Riley’s hand and let out a little sigh and closed his eyes.
Chapter Seven: Romans 8:28
(The next car over the top of the hill belonged to Steve Gordon. Mr. Gordon was) Riley loved the Lord’s Day. Sunday was Riley’s favorite day of the week from the smell of bacon coming up the stairs to the evening when Riley would lay on the porch and look out at the stars while Uncle Clem talked about Preacher Vales’ sermon. Riley loved every minute of it…but not today. Riley had not had one happy thought since Friday evening when they carried little Beau back to the bend in Chatum Run and buried his fury little black body by the swimming hole. From that day on riley always called it Beauregaurd run after his little friend.
Riley cried through church, he just couldn’t stop. He couldn’t forget all the fun things he had done with his little dog. Everything he looked at reminded him of Beau.
He was sitting on a rock near the little cross he had driven in the ground to mark Beau’s grave when he heard footsteps. He looked over to see a pair of blackwingtips. Pastor vales hot down on one knee and put his arm around riley. “Son I’m here about what happened to your dog. I know you loved him.” Riley buried his face in Preacher vales white shirt and cried. Preacher Vales handed him a handkerchief.
For a long time no one said anything. Then pastor Vales asked riley? “Riley, do you love God?” “Yes Sir, one day I was listing to my Dad explain Jesus’ death to one of the men from the village. Dad was telling him all about God’s law, How everyone had broken it. How no one had ever kept God’s law but Jesus. While I listened I thought about so many things I had done wrong. Dad told the man from the village that when Jesus had died he paid for the sins of the whole world. Dad told the man that if he would confess his sins and trust Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for them he could be forgiven and be God’s child and have eternal life. I was supposed to be getting water but I had to stand by the window and listen. When the man from the village left I went in and asked Dad to pray with me. I trusted Jesus to forgive me of my sins. Yes, Sir I really do love Jesus.
“Riley, do you know what Romans 8:28 says?” Said preacher. Riley remembered a little but he pulled his testament out of his pocket to look it up. He read aloud, “For we know that all things work together.. “Riley, I can’t tell you how but God has promised that some good will come from this. If you pay attention to god’s ways you just may see why God allowed little beau to die.
He turned to go and then stopped, “Mr. Fields, the milk truck driver feels awful about what happened to little Beau. He asked me to give you these tickets to the fair to help you get your mind off what happened.”
As Riley made his way slowly back down the lane he listened to an owl’s call from the woods ? it seemed so sad. He didn’t think the fair would ever take his mind off Beau. And he couldn’t imagine any good that could come from his death.
Chapter Eight: The County Fair
It smelled like rabbits and horses and sheep and hogs and elephant ears and funnel cakes and Italian sausage and onion rings and diesel fuel and gas fumes all mixed together. It was wonderful! It smelled like only the country fair could smell.
Riley and his cousins drink in all the sights. They were going to see the new farm machinery first, then they would visit the livestock barns. They planned on eating lunch at the Crows Creek Church tent. (They knew they could eat free there). Then they would spend the afternoon watching the steam threshers and antique tractors. Before supper they would stop by Mrs. Overholtzer’s story tree.
Mrs. Overholtzer always told great stories under a huge oak tree that made a gigantic shade area just along the bank of the pond. Children would gather from all over the fairground under Mrs. Overholtzer’s story tree. Sometimes there would be a puppet show. Sometimes some Christian slight of hand. Once there was a juggler and once a lady who would play the harp, accordion, marimba and bag pipes. (guitar, harmonica)
Everything went as planned. It was a great day. Riley didn’t think about beau at all until they were sitting in the shade of Mrs. O’s story tree. An elderly man played a guitar and his harmonica at the same time. His harmonica was on a little wire bracket around his neck. When he finished his song he leaned his guitar against the tree and cleared his throat and began to tell a story.
Once there was a farmer, he was a good man ? kind to everyone he met. He was walking back down his lane one day when he saw a robin building a nest in a brush pole. The farmer reached over and tore out the nest and threw the straw on the ground. The next morning the farmer was driving his cows back to the pasture again and he saw that the robin was rebuilding it’s next in the brush pile again ? again he tore it down. This happened three times. Finally the robin gave up on building her nest in the brush pile and she build her next nest in a tree near the farmer’s house. He watched her finish her next and everyday, before he would go to milk he would look in at the blue eggs to see if her chicks had hatched.
The old man paused and asked the children “Why did the farmer act so strangely? Why did he tear down the robin nest? Why did he leave her nest alone in the tree?”
He looked around. No one knew the answer. With a twinkle in his eye he leaned forward on his stool and said, “A couple days later the farmer burned the brush pile. Children, the Lord knows best. Sometimes He allows things to happen that seem bad, we don’t understand, but we need to trust Him.”
Then he said something that shocked Riley. “Over the years when things happened I could not understand, I remembered what the Bible says in Romans 8:28. All things work together for good…”
Riley thought about how Beaureguard’s soft little furry body would snuggle up close to him whenever he lay under a tree or set on the grass and he still could not see how any good thing could come from his death.
After supper the boys bought a few tickets and decided which rides they would take. They each had enough money for two rides. They settled on the “round-up’ and the double Ferris wheel.
The round-up made Riley sick but his stomach settled while he waited in line for the Ferris wheel. From the top of the second wheel Riley could see all over the fair grounds and all the way to the county courthouse. The people below looked tiny from where Riley was. All too soon the ride was over and it was almost 9:00pm. So the boys had to make their way to the truck. They promised Uncle Clem and Aunt Norrie they would be at the car at 9:00 p.m.
The boys spent the last of their money on cotton candy and slowly made their way out the big stone gate and through the parking lot. It was dark in the parking lot and the truck was ? of a mile away in the back of what was Mr. Bale’s hayfield the rest of the year.
Riley had to stop to use the restroom so Gerry and Glen went on ahead. He was making his way among the cars and was looking for his cousins and his uncle ?s truck when out of the shadow of a horse trailer a huge, dark figure lunged for him and knocked him to the ground, three dirty, crude, foul-mouthed men stood over him cursing. His head hurt and he was sure his arm was broken. He tried to cry out but no sound would come. He rolled to the side and tried to get to his feet, one of the men kicked him hard in the ribs. The wind was knocked out of his lungs and he rolled on his back and looked up. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or scarred at what he saw.
Chapter Nine: Trouble
Sheriff Goodman had a puzzled look on his face and he was out of breath. He fumbled for his flashlight and focused the beam on the boy on the ground. “That’s him. That’s the one what lifted the money. Make him give it back,” said one of the men. Another one swore and said, “Sheriff why don’t you just leave him to us…we” get our money back right quick.” Sheriff Goodman pulled Riley to his feet and looked him squarely in the eye. “I warned you, son. I was afraid I would see you again, you’re going to have to come with me to the jailhouse so we can get to the bottom of this.” Sheriff Goodman took the men’s manes and promised to get back with them and return their money. Then he took Riley by the arm and walked him to the patrol car. Riley began to shake and he hurt all over.
As the sheriff drove to the courthouse he said, “Riley, you are in a lot of trouble. Why don’t you just admit what you did and give the money back? Those men want their money back and they are very angry.
“But sir, I didn’t take any money, Riley pled. I was with Gerry and Glen all day, they will tell you that.”
“We’ll see about that, Riley, and I’m afraid we’ll need to talk with your Aunt and Uncle too.”
It seemed like hours. Riley had to wait in Sheriff Goodman’s office until His Aunt and Uncle and cousins arrived.
Soon they were all gathered around the Sheriff’s desk. Sheriff Goodman said, “Where were you at 8:55 p.m., Riley?” Riley tried to think. Sheriff said to Glen and Gerry, we’re you with Riley at that time?” The boys looked at each other. “No, said Gerry, Riley told us to go on ahead, because he needed to use the restroom.”
“Clem, $40.00 was stolen from the ticket booth a few feet from the main gate just before nine. The men saw Riley take the money from the cash box. The men saw Riley take the money from the cash box. It was sitting in the window and they were getting ready to take it to the office. Riley just ran by, scooped out the cash and took off through the parking lot. The men chased him down and when I heard all the commotion, I came to see what was wrong. They had Riley ? they caught him stealing red handed.
Uncle Clem looked so sad. “Riley, empty your pockets right now on this desk.” Riley put his empty wallet and pen knife on the desk and turned his pockets inside out… No money.
“I didn’t take any money, Uncle Clem, “I just went to the restroom and then these men jumped on me while I was going to the truck.
“Well, Clem, I’m gonna let you take the boy home tonight, but you need to bring him back first thing in the morning…Oh, and you better call his parents and have them come as soon as they can, their boy is in a lot of trouble. His word won’t stand up against 3 eyewitnesses,” Said the sheriff sternly.
Riley’s thoughts raced. He felt bad about Beau. He missed his parents. He was confused about what had happened. He was scarred about what would happen tomorrow. He knew his parents would not be able to return to the field if they had to leave the conference early. He was disappointed that his aunt and uncle didn’t seem to believe him. His hands trembled as he set up in his bed before he turned out the light and read Matt. 5:12 “Blessed are Ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven….”
“Oh, God help me in Jesus name,” Riley prayed, “Show me how all these bad things can work together for good.”
“Turn out the light, Riley, you need your sleep. Your parents have left Chicago and they are driving through the night. They will be here I the morning. You better have a convincing explanation for them.”
Chapter Ten: The Hickum Place
Riley sat between his parents on the way in town.
“Of course we believe you, Riley,” said Riley’s dad, “It ?s just that we need to prove that you were not the one who stole the money.”
They pulled up in front of the courthouse. Riley’s dad bowed his head and prayed, “Lord, you know who stole the money, somehow show the sheriff it wasn’t Riley.” Riley’s dad paused and what he said next flooded Riley’s heart with a warm, peaceful feeling. “We know all things work together for good to them who love God, amen.”
Riley smiled at his dad, “Dad will you be able to go back to the mission field?” ” No, son, the Lord must have other plans for us.” Said Riley’s dad. “The board will not allow us to go since we did not complete the training conference.
Riley’s mom frowned, “we’ll worry about that later ? let’s take care of this right now.”
When they walked into Sheriff Goodman’s office he was smiling from ear to ear. “Hello, folks, I think there is someone here you would like to meet,” said the sheriff, “follow me.”
They looked at each other with puzzled expression and followed the sheriff to a small room at the end of the hall. When Riley turned the corner he was stunned at what he saw sitting in front of him was a rough looking boy ? that could have been his identical twin.
“He flopped down $100 for a new pair of boots this morning at the western shop where my wife works. When she realized how much he looked like Riley, she asked him how he earned the money. He shot out of the store like a scarred rabbit.’
They returned to the sheriff’s office. “What will happen to him,” said Riley’s mom. “He will have to be placed in a foster home. His mother moved on without him a few months ago and he’s been helping with the rides. You can go now, I’m sorry for the trouble, but you can see how much the boys look alike.”
Riley and his parents drove back to Harmony Farm and sat on the porch with Aunt Norrie and Uncle Clem. Preacher vales stopped by to visit with Riley’s parents.
“Did you hear about Mrs. Hickum?” Said the preacher, “She has given her farm to the church. I met with the board last night and they want you to live there and keep the place until you know what the Lord wants you to do ”
“Thank you,” said Riley’s dad, “that is an answer to prayer! “You know, honey,” said Riley’s mom, “I can’t get that little boy out of my mind. That Hickum place is big enough to raise a dozen boys. Why don’t we take the boy and any others the Lord allows us to raise and you can help preacher Vales with the Churches.’
“What a wonderful idea,” said preacher vales and he jumped from the porch and ran to his car, I’m going to talk with the board about this.
Chapter Eleven: A New Beginning
At least 200 people were gathered on the square in Maple Grove. The only light came from the gaslights along the street and the bandstand. The concert was coming to a close and preacher Vales stood and spoke to the crowd. “I have an important announcement to make this evening. On behalf of the Hickum Foundation, Crows Creek and Berron Hill Churches, we would like to announce the opening of Hickum Home for Boys. The home will be directed by Riley Miller Sr.
Riley looked at his dad and mom. Their faces glowed and he wondered what would have happened if he had not been given tickets to the fair by the man who ran over his dog. He would never doubt again the truth that all things work together…