95. Moving Forward

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Two days later, it was early in the morning when Henry made his way over to a log cabin on the south end of Hester. Behind the cabin, he noticed a field with rows of corn and a disheveled scarecrow attached to a cross-shaped post.

Henry had a plan now. He'd had a couple nights to think about it. He wasn't going to allow himself to wallow. He had a family to take care of, and it was important that he pick himself up and start taking responsibility for his family's future.

Henry knocked on the cabin door.

A moment later, Dale appeared, and he still looked half-asleep, wearing a long white nightshirt and a floppy nightcap.

Henry suppressed a giggle, and Dale must have noticed.

He shot back an annoyed look. "What? You never saw someone in night clothes before."

Henry turned serious. "Hey, I know it's early, but I could sure use your help."

Dale sighed as if he understood and opened the door further. "Come on in."

Once inside, Henry stared around in amazement, surrounded by logged walls that looked like they'd been dipped in bronze. He stood in the living room, a huge space with two rustic couches on each side of a coffee table made from a natural wood slab.

"This looks more like a hunting lodge," Henry said, and he wasn't kidding. Two massive deer heads stared back at him from opposite walls. He noticed a gun rack, and it held ten rifles with large scopes. Four bows and two crossbows dangled on hooks next to a stone fireplace. "What's Mr. Bell paying you? You must have spent a fortune on this place."

"Not at all." Dale waved his hand, gesturing for Henry to sit.

Henry took a spot on the end of the couch beside him.

"I built this cabin myself," Dale said before plopping into a chair. He removed his nightcap and tossed it onto the coffee table. Then he grinned, his hair resembling an untamed bush.

Henry crinkled his brow in disbelief. "Where'd you learn how to build a place like this?"

"After high school," Dale said, "I spent a couple years working for a builder in New York. Saved up some money for school."

"College?" Henry said, curious.

Dale nodded. "Syracuse University. I played ball there, but I also got a degree in agriculture. After graduation, I moved to Hester and got a farming grant for ten acres. So I built this homestead. Started a small farm with corn, wheat, and soybeans. I hunt for meat – deer, turkey, rabbit. The land has everything I need to be self-sufficient."

Henry remained silent. He'd come here with an important question, but he didn't want to overshadow the fact that Dale had just opened up to him. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen between a white person and a colored. Then again, Dale wasn't like the other whites.

Dale broke the silence. "Listen, I heard about what happened the other day. How are you doing?" His expression looked as glum as Henry felt.

"Okay, given the circumstances. I keep telling myself, maybe it's for the best."

Dale shook his head. "No way! Both you and Willy made the Pioneers better than we ever were before. A bunch of us tried talking to Mr. Bell, including Jake, but we couldn't get him to change his mind."

Henry couldn't believe Jake had stood up for him. For the first time, he wished he could thank the Cowboy. Changing his way of thinking couldn't have been easy.

"Thanks for trying," Henry said, "Tell everyone I appreciate their efforts. But I got to put all that behind me now. Sarah's pregnant, and I need to find a job pretty quick."

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