By Ronnell Kay Gibson
The sheriff tossed the yellowed documents onto the Sutton’s kitchen table. “I’m sorry to tell you folks. The documents are real.”
A small cry erupted from Margaret’s lips.
Hank moved behind his wife and gripped her shoulder, hoping the warmth of his hand would lend her strength. “Are you sure, Sheriff?”
“I’m sure. Went and had a judge up in Harlow County inspect ’em.”
Margaret wrung the kitchen towel tightly around her hand. “What are we supposed to do now?”
Hank stared at the papers. Age and weathering had faded them to a creamy yellow. Yellow. His favorite color. The color of hundreds of acres of wheat blowing in the wind. The Texas sun as it set behind the trees out back. The egg custard Margaret made on special occasions.
But now yellow was spoiled for him because Amos and Billy Judd, the biggest landowners in the county, had found evidence that this land, his land, belonged to their great, great, great granddaddy.
Hank tried to keep his voice steady for Margaret’s sake. “Please, Sheriff. This farm has been in our family for generations. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Not according to these papers. You were merely caretakers. The land and everything on it belongs to the Judd family.”
Margaret blinked away tears and twisted the towel around the other hand. “Just like that? After all our hard work? We’re being forced out?”
“I’m sorry, but yes. I tried to talk them into letting you stay and harvest this year’s crop, but the Judds won’t budge. They’re giving you two weeks to vacate the property.”
Hank’s stomach knotted.
Tears trickled down his wife’s face. “We have creditors to pay. We need the profits from this sale of crops.”
The sheriff picked up his hat. “I’m sorry, folks. Truly I am.”
As the sheriff opened the screen door, he stopped. “The Mason’s house down the road is empty. Went into foreclosure when they gave up gold mining and moved in with their son out east.”
The Mason’s rundown place was one-fourth the size of their home, with less than five acres of farmland.
“I know it’s not ideal, but I’m sure you could get a fair price.”
Hank tried to keep his frustration in check. “Thank you, Sheriff. The suggestion is appreciated.”
As soon as the door clicked shut, Margaret buried her face in Hank’s chest. He drew her closer as she sobbed. Let her cry for the both of us.
When her tears subsided, she pulled away and looked at him with tear-stained cheeks. “What are we going to do, Hank?”
He only had one answer for her. The same answer he’d given for all their struggles throughout the years—drought, floods, two miscarriages before the twins were born, his bout of pneumonia last Christmas.
“Margie-dear, God has always been faithful to us. He’ll continue to provide. Maybe this is a blessing. Hank wiped her tears away with his thumbs. Boys are getting to be courting age. They’ll be leaving soon to start families of their own. This place will be too much for just us.”
She tried to smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She was humoring him. “God’s plans aren’t always easy. But they’re the best.”
“That’s my girl.” He clasped her hands and squeezed. It would be hard to leave this home, for all of them, but it was necessary. “And just last week, didn’t you say how much you missed Charity Mason’s yellow fig trees? Best figs in all the south.” Hank winked. “And think of the blue ribbons you could win after you create all-new, delicious fig desserts.”
She patted his slight belly. “Hank Sutton, you don’t need any more desserts.” She giggled. This time her smile enveloped her face, her eyes once again bright with hope. “But Hank, do you think the bank will give us a loan?”
“I’m not sure. Without the house, land, or crops… there’s nothing left for collateral.”
Margaret stepped back, wiping stray tears away with the dishtowel still in her hands. “Then it is in God’s hands now.”
Fourteen days later, Hank closed the door on the old homestead for the last time with a crisp, white document in hand. A rental agreement to the Mason’s old property. The bank wouldn’t give them a loan but offered to let it on a month-by-month basis. The first month’s rent drained what little savings they had.
After all the furniture had been moved, Hank left his wife in the kitchen, giving her time and space to add her special touches to their new home without him underfoot.
While the boys ran into town for a few supplies, Hank walked the new property line, making mental notes about tasks he’d have to accomplish before winter—repair the fencing, trim back the overgrowth, replace the dilapidated barn door. The further he walked, the more the list—and Hank’s anxiety—grew. Maybe this wasn’t the right move after all. What will we do next month? Hank squashed the fear that wanted to rise up.
As the sun began to set, the sky blazed in those radiant golden hues he’d always loved. No, the color yellow wasn’t spoiled for him. He would trust God’s plan, wherever that led them.
He lifted his face up toward heaven, closed his eyes, and basked in the familiar peace that washed over him.
A sound caught his attention. There, at the furthermost part of their property, Hank discovered a brook, bubbling with life. He knelt down and splashed cool liquid over his face. Gold flecks shimmered off the surface of the water.
Or was it in the water?
Hank smiled. Like their faith, their future would be secure.