Currently viewing the tag: "Helping Out"

written by James Rada, Jr.

5: Helping Out

Peter Lawrence seemed to mature before his mother’s eyes, and she wasn’t sure if she was proud that he was growing into a fine man or sad that he was losing his childhood.

Stacy Lawrence had reluctantly given her son permission to work part-time on Bobby Hennessey’s farm. So far, Peter said he was enjoying the work, and Bobby had promised Stacy not to overwork the 12-year-old. Each day, Bobby would pick up Peter and drop him off, and for a few hours in between, Peter would take care of the animals and complete odd jobs around the farm–nothing too physically demanding.

Despite this, Stacy couldn’t shake off the guilt she felt. She would have loved to see her son out skateboarding with friends at the Thurmont Skatepark. Peter had chosen to help out on the farm after seeing how much Stacy was struggling financially. It was both heartwarming and bittersweet to see her son take on such responsibility at such a young age.

When she looked at her son, she saw glimpses of Jack, her ex-husband and Peter’s father. They shared the same unruly brown hair that never seemed to lay straight and bright green eyes that shone with kindness. But what really made them look alike was their smiles—wide open and friendly.

Thankfully, Peter had inherited his mother’s strong work ethic. He didn’t shy away from hard work and always gave it his all. With such dedication, it was no surprise that he proudly handed over most of his weekly pay to Stacy. And even though she knew they needed the money, she couldn’t bring herself to spend it. Taking Bobby’s advice, she opened a savings account in Peter’s name at PNC Bank. One day, he would have a nice nest egg thanks to his own efforts – and knowing Peter, she had no doubt he would use it wisely.

In the quiet moments while she tended the bar, Stacy’s thoughts often drifted to her son. She couldn’t help but miss his presence, even if he spent most of their time together, hunched over his tablet while she worked. Thankfully, Bobby was more than willing to match Peter’s days off with hers, so they could still enjoy some quality time together.

One day, after finishing work early, Stacy swung by Bobby’s farm to pick up Peter and save Bobby a trip. As she pulled up, she saw Peter feeding the animals and Bobby sitting under a tree with his easel and paints.

Curiosity getting the better of her, Stacy approached him and peered over his shoulder at his current creation.

“Not bad,” she said.

Bobby smiled warmly. “You’re kind. I enjoy doing it, though. I find it relaxing.”

“What do you do with them once you finish?”

“Half the time I just paint over them again.”

“And the other half?”

“When you go into the barn, you’ll see them hanging for the horses to enjoy.”

Stacy chuckled at the thought of a horse staring at Bobby’s paintings.

Putting his brush in a jar of water, Bobby stood up. “Would you like a glass of iced tea?”

She nodded, and they walked over to the house and the back deck. Bobby motioned to a cozy patio chair with a worn but comfortable cushion, inviting Stacy to have a seat.

“Have a seat, and I’ll bring out the tea.”

Stacy settled into the chair and took in the view of the farm. It wasn’t sprawling, but it had its own charm, with two rustic barns and a large fenced arena. She couldn’t help but feel relaxed as she sat and gazed out at the peaceful property. In the distance, she spotted Peter pushing an empty wheelbarrow into one of the barns before disappearing inside.

When Bobby returned with a tray carrying a pitcher of tea and two glasses, he joined her at the table. He set it down on the table between them and poured each of them a glass before taking a seat next to her.

“You really have a lovely farm,” Stacy remarked.

“Thank you, but it’s too much for me, really.”

“Then why not sell it?”

“I grew up here. I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories of my parents here. If I sold it, I would feel like I’m losing a part of myself. That’s probably why I have no interest in leaving Thurmont. Everywhere I turn, there are buildings, parks, houses that hold special meaning for me because of the memories attached to them.”

“I’ve never lived in a place like that.”

“Too bad.”

“Maybe, but can you miss something you never had?”

“Maybe not, but you can yearn for something you’ve only dreamed of having. In some ways, that can be even harder because it’s an ideal rather than a reality.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Peter jogging out of one of the barns.

“Bobby, I think you should take a look at Hershey,” the boy said.

“What’s wrong?”

“He’s been acting strange. I’m worried he might be sick or something.”

Bobby and Stacy quickly got up and followed Peter into the barn. “You named a stallion Hershey?” Stacy couldn’t help but ask.

“He reminded me of milk chocolate,” Bobby explained with a fond smile as they approached the stall where Hershey was housed.

Bobby’s four horses were housed in a spacious, rustic barn, with each stall adorned with fresh hay and a clean watering trough. Peter stood at the stall of a large, chocolate-colored stallion, its muscles rippling under its glossy coat. The horse kept shaking his head and biting at his flanks, clearly agitated and uncomfortable. Despite Peter’s attempts to soothe him with calming words and food, the stallion showed no interest.

Stacy entered the stall with cautious steps, her experienced hands lightly running along the stallion’s side. He nipped at her hand, but she quickly pulled it away. She noticed Peter hadn’t yet changed the bedding in the stall, which appeared crushed and dirty.

“I think he may have a mild case of colic,” she said to Bobby.

“What should we do?” he asked, concern etched on his face.

“Let me take him out to the arena and walk him for a while,” Stacy suggested. “Movement can sometimes help with mild cases. In the meantime, Peter should clean out the stall and remove any remaining food. A sick horse shouldn’t be eating.”

With a halter in hand, Stacy led Hershey out of the barn. The horse was hesitant at first, but with gentle words and slight tugs on the halter, he reluctantly followed her lead. As they walked around the arena, Stacy explained to Bobby how walking can help relieve gas and stimulate bowel movements in horses experiencing colic.

“Do you have any experience with this?” Bobby asked.

“I’ve dealt with it before,” Stacy replied. “But I’m not a trained vet, so if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to call one out here.”

“You seem pretty knowledgeable.”

“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” Stacy shrugged modestly. “But I wouldn’t want to risk your horse’s health.”

“I trust you,” Bobby said sincerely.

As they continued their slow laps around the arena, they talked about their pasts. Stacy was surprised to learn that Bobby had been married, but tragically, his wife and daughter had passed away in a car accident several years ago.

“Doesn’t it taint your memories of the town?” she asked sympathetically.

Bobby shook his head. “No. The town helps me remember them. They’re buried in a small family cemetery back behind the barns. Sometimes it makes me sad to visit their graves because of the memories associated with their gravestones, but you have to take the good with the bad.”

Bobby came to a sudden stop, waving his hand in front of his face as if trying to ward off an invisible attacker. “Now that’s a something I can do without.” Hershey had let out a belch of gas, the putrid odor hanging heavily in the air. “Smells like a dead skunk that’s been left out in the sun for a week.”

Stacy couldn’t help but laugh at Bobby’s pained expression. “Like you said, you have to take the good with the bad.”

She paused and ran her hands over Hershey’s belly, relieved when he didn’t snap at her. “I think he’ll be fine. Let’s walk him a little longer and see if he gets rid of anything else.”

“If he does, I might just lose my lunch.” Bobby grimaced as they continued their stroll.

They walked for another 10 minutes before Stacy led Hershey back to his empty stall. “Leave it empty for tonight, no bedding or food. Just to be safe and make sure everything is okay. If his manure is soft or watery in the morning, then we’ll take him to get checked out. But he should be fine.”

“Thank you,” Bobby said gratefully. “I really appreciate you helping Hershey and potentially saving me a vet bill… or even losing my horse.”

“I’m just glad I was here to help,” Stacy replied sincerely.

“I want to pay you.”

Bobby reached for his wallet, but Stacy quickly placed a hand on his arm. “Don’t you dare. You’ve already been so kind to me and Peter. This is the least I can do.”

“Well…” He thought for a moment before an idea struck him. “At least let me order us some pizza, and we can have dinner on the back porch?”

Stacy smiled, nodding in agreement. “That sounds lovely.”