A lantern light from deeper in the barn shown on the man and woman standing in the door. They had been waiting for news and were just about to hook the horses to the buggy. They would begin to search themselves. Neighbors in this part of the world passed word quickly. They knew that if anyone saw him where he should not be they would come to visit. Surely, they thought, he will be home soon. He had never been late before. Surely he would come back….
But dark had come and gone. The house felt empty and cold. Morning light lit the windows for the little house set deep in the canyon. Afternoon shadows had darkened the door once more and another night had settled in. Where was he?
The rattle of a stone on the road startled them both. What was it? Was he home? Had he decided to not run away? Was that him kicking a rock all the way back like he had done so many times before? They both stood stock still, breath drawn in, steadying the shadows in the barnyard.
He was not theirs to keep but he lived with them and worked with the man at his side. They sent him to school in the little one room school house for those month the teacher came each year. A payday came once a month for the boy and for a year now they had allowed him the freedom to go for a few hours that once a month. He was to be back by dark on the pay day and he had always returned just as dusk settled in. He knew the money he took to his folks on that day was important…they survived because of it. So he would visit Papa and Grandma on that day and then stop by to visit with a friend…or two. This time he had done something different…he had chosen to try life without a family just one day. He had used the money for a dinner and slept in the small park. He was deciding.
The couple that had used him as a hired hand had seen the restlessness in his face. They began to think he would not be around much longer. And they had begun to care a great deal.
It was always that way when you were lent a boy to help on a small farm. More than a hired hand but less than an adoption. They had liked it that way. No real commitment to caring or needing. Then they discovered that the caring or needing had nothing to do with commitment…not this time. The heart took care of it all on it’s own.
A sigh of relief came when they saw his face emerging from the shadows of the night into the light from the lantern.
“Buzzard? Is that you?”
The boy looked back with the same easing of pain that they had felt. His heart had lead the way too. They were not his Papa and Grandma Ester. But they were people that truly cared for him. That was more than he had ever had in his young life.
A lantern light from deeper in the barn shown on the man, woman and a half-grown child standing in the door. The night would be better for there being a boy in the house to stay. They had finally made the commitment.