This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
Dreams Don't Grow on Trees
Adam became a take charge type guy when planning Justin's birthday party. Jon helped some, but for the most part Adam planned everything. Grace offered to bake the birthday cake as well as cookies for the party. Lena Ward, director of the food bank, was invited to attend to help with the donated food. Lena's granddaughter Katie was invited by Jon, as he had a crush on her.
Rita and Betty decorated the center prior to the party. Grace baked a large sheet cake with images of Justin doing his favorite things: riding his horse, fishing, and playing basketball. A section of the center was reserved for the guests to put the donated food bank items. The area had to be expanded as most brought in food by the case. Lena Ward was astonished at the generosity of the guests; however, the amount spent was likely less than the price of a gift.
As the DJ began the music, the teens were reluctant to dance until Adam and Tiffney began dancing. Justin stood back until Emily Powell pulled him onto the dance floor. The fun really began when Adam danced with Grace. The others laughed and applauded when she matched Adam move for move.
"Grandma, I didn't know you could dance like that," Adam said when the dance was over.
"Honey, I'm not that old," Grace said as she gave him a hug. "Ethan, why aren't you dancing?"
"Grandma, I don't know any of these girls," Ethan responded.
"Ask one of them," Grace suggested. "That's the best way to get to know them."
"What if she says no?"
"Then ask someone else."
Reluctantly, Ethan asked a pretty girl to dance since he knew his grandma would badger him until he did ... he was soon having fun dancing.
As the party ended, Lena realized her car wouldn't hold all of the donated food; so Ray offered to take it to the food bank in his truck. Jon, Ethan, and Adam offered to help load and unload the food.
"Ethan, where're you going?" Grace asked when he prepared to go help. "We're leaving in a few minutes."
"Grandma, remember I'm spending the night with Adam," Ethan said.
"I wasn't aware of that," Grace said. "Did you even bring clean clothes, and how are you getting home?"
"Haden's driving me home," Ethan said. "And yes, Grandma, I brought clean clothes."
"Yes, I offered to drive him home," Haden assured Grace. "I'm going to Kyle's football game in Covington tomorrow."
"I want to go too," Ethan said.
"Call your parents and get permission," Haden said. "Adam, Justin, and Jon are going."
"Wow! There's a lot of food in here," Adam remarked when they began unloading the food at the food bank.
"We have a lot of people in this county having trouble making ends meet," Lena explained. "Even with this much food, we have to limit what we give out individually, to make sure that everyone that needs it gets help."
"How does this work?" Ethan asked.
"We're all volunteers here," Lena explained. "The number in the household determines how much food we give out. The food is all donated, or purchased with donated funds. We've even had people bring in fresh vegetables from their gardens."
"Wow, we threw out a lot of squash and other vegetables from our garden that we couldn't use," Adam said.
"We had lots of extra vegetables too," Jon said.
"Next time, bring it in and we'll give it away," Lena said. "We've even had hunters bring in venison."
"Oh, you can take meat products from individuals?" Ray asked.
"We can, if it's processed by a licensed processor," Lena explained.
"I can donate a beef," Ray offered. "I use a licensed slaughter house."
"Oh, that would be wonderful," Lena said. "We always need a good source of protein."
"How would you like it packaged?" Ray asked.
"It works better for us if it's in one pound packages of ground beef," Lena said. "That way everyone gets an equal share."
"That'd work for me," Ray said. "Sometimes, I have an older cow that's past her prime and doesn't bring much on the market. I'd rather donate her to you than sell her. Most don't realize how much of the ground beef sold in stores is from older cattle."
"Could we volunteer to work here?" Jon asked.
"You're in school the hours we're open," Lena explained. "Katie volunteers when she's out for the summer. She volunteers one day a week during the summer. I think that's plenty for your age."
"We could do that, right, Jon?" Adam offered.
"Could I, Dad?" Jon asked.
"I'm sure I can get by one day on the farm without you," Ray said with a grin. "Alan is becoming helpful now."
"Dad, could I use your SUV this afternoon?" Haden asked the next day.
"Sure, but why?" Darrell asked.
"Well, it started out with just Adam and Ethan going to the game with me," Haden explained. "But as word got around, Jon, Justin, Ethan, Wade, Alan, and Jarred want to go too. Steve and Linda are going, but Jarred wants to ride with me to be with his friends."
"Can you handle that many rowdy boys?" Rita asked.
"They all promised to be good," Haden said.
"Will you guys be home for dinner?" Rita asked.
"No, the game's at 2:00, so I'll take the gang to a buffet after the game," Haden said.
"I'll transfer money to your account to cover the meal and game tickets," Darrell said.
"Thanks, Dad," Haden said. "I had to buy new tires, and I'm kind of short of cash."
"Haden, why didn't you tell us," Rita reprimanded him. "We pay for those things while you're in college."
"Oh, I can manage," Haden said. "I'm just a little short this month."
"Do we need to increase your allowance?" Rita asked.
"No, I'm good," Haden said. "I still have some savings and my scholarships. Thankfully, I'll be graduating in May. Then I start my intern teaching next semester."
"Do you know where that'll be?" Darrell asked.
"It might be at Lacey's school at Rock Creek, or possibly here in Sparks," Haden said. "I'll know in a month or two."
"Adam, if you boys are going to the game with Haden, you'd better get ready," Rita said when Adam and Ethan returned from their horseback ride.
"Do I have time for a shower?" Adam asked.
"Oh, we'll take time," Haden said as he gave his brother a playful punch. "Ethan, you can use my shower or the one in Amy's room."
"I'll have sandwiches ready for you when you've finished," Rita said.
"Haden said we're eating at a buffet," Adam said.
"That's after the game," Haden said.
"Hey, there's Lacey and Dustin," Justin said as the group searched for decent seats in general admission at the stadium.
"Where?" Adam asked.
"Right down there," Justin said as he pointed toward his sister.
"There's room for all of us," Haden said. "Let's go join them."
"Hi, guys, what a nice surprise," Lacey said as Dustin happily greeted his uncles.
"Where's Perry?" Ethan asked.
"He's out there with the team," Lacey said.
"He's a coach?" Jon asked.
"He can't play because of his army injury, so he's working with the coaches learning to be a coach," Haden explained.
"Haden, there's a good chance Perry will intern at Rock Creek next semester," Lacey said.
"I didn't know he had enough credits to graduate next semester," Haden said.
"He doesn't," Lacey said. "He'll graduate at the end of the summer term. Also, Coach Cunningham is retiring, and there's a chance Perry will get that position."
"That's good news, but will Perry be okay not coaching high school?" Haden asked.
"I think so," Lacey said. "He seems excited about the possibility of coaching at my school."
"Daddy, Daddy," Dustin said as he stood on the bleacher as the team returned to the locker room after the pregame warm up.
"He can't see you," Adam said.
"Yeah, he can," Dustin argued. "See, he waved."
"I need to go pee," Alan said.
"Jon, could you take him?" Haden asked.
"Yeah, but where're the toilets?" Jon asked.
"I know," Ethan said. "I'll go with you."
"I need to go too," Wade said.
"You're a brave one to bring this bunch," Lacey said.
"Actually, they've been really good," Haden admitted. "I don't know how it'll be when we go to eat after the game."
"Where are you going?" Lacey asked.
"I thought about Golden Corral for the buffet," Haden said. "Do you and Perry want to meet us there?"
"I'm sure we can," Lacey said.
Kyle had earned a starting position and played a good game, but his team lost by two touchdowns. After the game, it was a large group by the time everyone gathered at the buffet. Scott, Carol, Hanna, Julie, and Carl also joined them.
"Were you good?" Julie asked Wade as she gave him a hug.
"He was," Haden said before Wade could answer.
"I was good too," Alan said.
"Yes, you were," Haden agreed.
"Mom said we'd better be good," Jon added.
"So, Perry, Lacey said you may get to intern at her school," Haden said. "I listed Sparks and Rock Creek as my choices."
"I hadn't thought about Rock Creek until Lacey said they'd be hiring a coach," Perry admitted.
"Rock Creek only goes through eighth grade," Scott pointed out. "I thought you wanted to coach high school."
"I thought that, but I decided that it doesn't matter as long as I'm coaching," Perry explained. "I'd also be teaching history."
"Haden, were do you want to teach when you graduate?" Julie asked.
"Some other state," Haden quickly responded.
"Why is that?" Carol asked.
"I want to teach, not deal with the issues of being gay," Haden said.
"Maybe you should be the one to help make a change," Lacey said. "I had no feelings about gay people either way until I got to know you. I now know that you're an intelligent, caring man."
"Haden, I remember how you set me straight when I made that remark about Hal Campbell," Perry said. "Have you not noticed how Hal has been accepted as a very good teacher; not because he's gay, but because he's a good teacher?"
"Yeah, he's one of the best teachers I've had," Haden agreed.
"At least, think about it," Perry said.
"Alright, I'll think about," Haden promised. "A lot will depend on what Kyle wants."
"Kyle wants to stay in the area," Perry said.
"He's never mentioned that to me."
"No, and I probably shouldn't have said anything, but I think you'll be making a mistake if you give in to the bigots."
"Amy has said pretty much the same thing."
"Haden, I don't want to try to tell you what to do," Julie said. "But please, really think about how much good you can do in this area. When I was growing up, as poor as we were, we weren't looked down on as much as the black families were, regardless of how much money they had. There has been progress in that area, but a lot still needs to be done. It's the same for gay people."
"Julie's right," Scott agreed.
"Being black is different than being gay," Haden argued.
"Haden, it wasn't all that many years ago that black people were hanged simply because of the color of their skin," Carl said.
"Adam, we haven't seen your Uncle George in several days," Rita mentioned one chilly fall evening. "Call and invite him to dinner tomorrow."
"Alright," Adam agreed.
"We haven't seen Amy in a few days either," Darrell said.
"I'll call her," Haden offered.
"Mom, Uncle George wants to know if he can bring someone," Adam said.
"Of course he can," Rita said.
"He'll be here," Adam said after ending the call.
"I wonder who he's bringing," Rita questioned
"It's probably his neighbor Sam," Adam said. "He and Uncle George have become friends, especially since Sam's wife died."
"Probably so," Rita agreed.
The Harringtons were surprised when George arrived with Mary, his realtor. "Mary, what a nice surprise," Rita said when the two arrived. "Mary, I don't think you've met our daughter Amy and son-in-law Tony."
"No, I haven't," Mary said. "It's nice to meet you. I listed the house you bought. However, I was on vacation when it sold."
"Yes, I recall seeing your name on some of the paperwork," Amy said. "Tony and I love the house."
"We sure do," Tony agreed.
"So, Uncle George, are you and Mary dating?" Adam asked the question that everyone wanted to know.
"We've been on a few dates," George admitted with a nervous laugh.
"Well, that's good," Adam said, putting his uncle at ease.
"Yes, it certainly is," Rita agreed.
"George mentioned that you've taken him in as a member of your family," Mary said.
"George is a member of this family," Darrell said. "He's Adam's biological great-uncle, and that makes him part of the family."
"Actually, their family and friends have become my family too," George said. "My own family has never been this close. This family has a big Thanksgiving gathering that's one big happy family gathering."
"There're so many of us that we have to rent the Reed Center," Tony said.
"Would it be okay if Mary came this year?" George asked.
"Of course it would," Rita said.
"Grandma makes the best dressing ever," Adam said.
"She sure does," George agreed.
"Is this your mother, Rita?" Mary asked.
"Actually, she's Darrell's ex-wife's mother," Rita said. "She's an amazing woman, and treats me as her daughter. In fact, all of Brenda's family have made me part of the family."
"They all treat me as family too," George added.
"Uncle George, you are family," Adam said.
"Adam's right," Haden agreed.
"Darrell, did you remind your brothers of the Thanksgiving gathering?" Rita asked as plans were being made.
"I reminded them earlier," Darrell said.
"You probably should call them again, just to be sure they didn't forget," Rita said.
"I'll drop by Uncle Dale's office at the university and remind him," Haden offered. "I've had lunch with him almost every Wednesday since he began to teach there."
"I forgot to mention the event when he and Chad came into the store to arrange for Jeff to build them a barn," Darrell said.
"Are they getting horses?" Adam wanted to know.
"I didn't ask why they wanted a barn," Darrell said. "But I imagine if they're around Jeff very long, he'll sell them horses."
It was a beautiful Thanksgiving Day with the temperature nearly 70 degrees. The youngsters enjoyed playing outside while the adults finished preparing the meal. Adam and the older boys played a little half-court basketball while the younger ones enjoyed the playground equipment.
"George, you're right, this is the best dressing I've ever had," Mary said as the family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner.
"I told you Grace made the best dressing," George said.
"She sure does," Adam quickly agreed.
"Oh, it's nothing special," Grace said.
"Oh yes, it is, Grandma," Ethan said.
"Uncle George, you should've invited your neighbor Sam," Rita said.
"I did, but he isn't ready for a family gathering like this yet," George said. "So, I told him I'd bring him a plate of food."
"I'll fix it now, and these boys can take it to him," Grace offered. "I'm sure he's hungry by now."
"I'll help you," Mary offered.
"Thank you, young men," Sam said when the boys delivered the food. "This is a lot of food."
"Grandma sent some of about everything," Adam said.
"Tell your grandma thanks," Sam said.
"You should've come over and eaten with us," Jon said.
"George invited me, but I'm just not ready for family gatherings so soon after Maggie died," Sam said.
"You'll have to join us for our next gathering then," Adam said.
"Yeah, we always have lots of food," Ethan said.
"I'll think about doing that," Sam agreed.
"Cool, we'll see you for Christmas," Jon said.
"If everyone is as nice as you boys, I may just do that," Sam said.
"If you get hungry, come by for leftovers," Jon added.
"Oh, there's enough food here for two days," Sam said.
"Well, come by for dessert and coffee," Adam offered.
"I may do that," Sam said.
The adults enjoyed the rest of the event visiting while the younger ones played outside. Even some of the young adults joined in for a little basketball. "Look, there's Sam," Jon said when he saw Sam walking toward the center.
"Maybe we should call him Mr. Snyder," Perry said.
"Yeah, I guess so," Jon admitted.
"Hi, guys," Sam said as he approached the group.
"Hi, Mr. Snyder," Jon said.
"Oh, please call me Sam," he said. "I'd prefer that."
"Hi, Sam," Adam said with a grin.
"We're about ready to go inside for some leftovers," Haden said. "Come and join us."
"I don't mind if I do," Sam said with a chuckle. "That was some very good food you boys brought me."
"Sam, I'm sorry to hear that you recently lost your wife," Rita said as everyone enjoyed the leftovers.
"Thank you," Sam said with sadness. "She fought a hard battle, but the cancer eventually won."
"I was one of her nurses," Amy said. "She never complained."
"Of course, I remember you now," Sam said.
"You'll have to join us for our gatherings," Lois said. "One of us will try to let you know."
"Thank you," Sam said. "You know I went to school here. It's amazing what has been done to this old building. I didn't get to participate when the work was going on due to my taking care of Maggie."
"It was a community effort," Ray said with pride. "We'll be starting a senior lunch program after the first of the year. You can always come over and enjoy a good hot meal."
"That would be good," Sam said. "How much will you charge?"
"Donations will be accepted, but it's free," Lois explained. "We got a grant to hire a cook and purchase food."
"I'll be volunteering to help," George said.
"I could do that too," Sam said.
"Come by Monday and sign up as a volunteer," Ray said.
"Grace, you and Walter look familiar to me," Sam said.
"We used to live in the area," Walter said. "We were sharecroppers back then."
"Of course," Sam said. "I remember you now. I worked for the owner of the property where you lived one summer when I was in high school."
"I remember you too now," Walter said. "Grace and I were just out of high school and newlyweds then."
"Do you still live around here?" Sam asked.
"No, we live over near Covington," Walter said. "I work for the university there, and Grace is a cook for one of the schools. We bought a small farm just outside of town."
"So you're still working?" Sam asked.
"We'll be retiring soon," Grace said. "We both need two more years to get our retirements. Social Security isn't enough to live on."
"So, are you related to this family?" Sam asked.
"Darrell is our son-in-law," Grace began. "He was married to Brenda, our oldest. They're divorced, and he's now married to this wonderful lady Rita. Perry, Amy, Haden, and Adam belong to them. Scott is our son, and his wife is Carol. Ethan and Hanna are their children. Julie is our daughter, and her husband is Carl. Wade is their son."
"I know Ray and Lois, but not the others," Sam said.
"They're all friends, but we consider them family," Grace said. "We'll let them introduce themselves."
After cleaning up, another family event was wrapped up and plans were being made for the Christmas Holidays.