In Wynerset, Iowa, almost everyone knew each other. Father Harris spent his entire childhood in this town, more like a close-knit community. Because everyone knew each other, Father Harris was very surprised when he first heard about a little boy who lived nearby.
“That’s right. The boy’s name is Bobby. Every few days he comes to me to ask for some food. I think he’s about seven or eight years old,” Mrs. Santiago reported after the Sunday service. “We need to help him, don’t you think?”
“Does he only need food?” the priest inquired.
“Just food. According to the boy, his mother is sick and she can’t work, so Bobby takes care of the food for her. Except, when I asked him, where their home was, the boy said, ‘Over there,’ and pointed at random in an unknown direction. I suspect he has no home, but that’s just my guess,” the woman replied.
“Thank you for the information, Miss Santiago. I’ll ask if anyone else has heard of this boy,” Father Harris promised. However, he learned nothing new. According to one of the residents, Mr. Jenkins, he once saw a boy crying at a bus stop. But his attempt to talk to Bobby was unsuccessful, because he ran away at once. After hearing the words, the priest assumed that the boy was uncomfortable in the presence of a strange man.
More often than not, Bobby would show up in town to get food and then immediately disappear. As some townspeople noted, the boy would change his face dramatically when someone suggested we go to his mother’s house together. Father Harris could no longer stay away.
One day he waited for Bobby to show up in town. In the boy’s hands was a bag full of food. The priest realized that Bobby was headed to the outskirts of Winterset. It was an abandoned part of town where no one lived. Father Harris was seized with anxiety.
Certainly, their town was not the coldest in America, but the weather was cool in those days. The priest tried to move as quietly and inconspicuously as he could. Suddenly he realized that he had lost sight of the boy. His hope of finding Bobby was fading before his eyes. Suddenly a dog barked nearby.
Father Harris looked up and saw that the dog had not left the small, unsightly building on the vacant lot. There was snow around the shack, and it was probably not much warmer inside than it was outside. The barking of a dog caught Bobby’s attention and he looked outside to see who it was barking at. At that moment the boy saw father Harris, his eyes rounded with surprise.
“Don’t be afraid. I came here to offer you help. I have been told about you by the townspeople. I want to talk to your mother, is she there?” inquired the priest, pointing at the shack.
“Can you actually help us?”, Bobby asked with childlike directness. When the priest assured him that he had come here for that very purpose, the boy disappeared into the shack. A few seconds later he emerged, holding the hand of a little girl. She looked about four years old.
“Is that your little sister?” clarified Father Harris.
“Yes. Mama’s gone, she’s dead. Daddy’s gone too, he was gone before Mom was gone. I was afraid my little sister and I might be separated. So we ran away, and Sparky helped us, protected us. But we were lucky, the people here are nice,” Bobby shared.
“That’s really true, there are wonderful people here. And they care about what happens to you,” the priest said, hoping to endear himself to the kids. He petted Sparky the thoroughbred sheepdog, the children’s faithful friend.
“We could go on living here. I’ll get a job and take care of my little sister,” Bobby’s voice quavered as he pointed back and forth to the cabin.
With a sympathetic sigh, Father Harris replied, “You’ve shown a lot of concern for your sister. But still, it’s not going to be easy for you without help. It’s getting colder by the day, and you need to find a better place to live. I can tell you one thing for sure, no one will separate you,” the priest said.
“And Sparky?” came the girl’s gentle voice.
“What’s your name?”, Father Harris addressed the girl.
“Fine, Rosie. I swear Sparky will stay with you. You don’t have to worry. After all, she’s already part of your family,” the priest reassured the children.
“Now let’s go to church. You need to eat properly. There will be food for Sparky, too.”
Tired from his restless nights, Bobby accepted Father Harris’ invitation. He smiled approvingly at Rosie, and together they followed the priest. Sparky kept up and ran after them. Father Harris led the children to the church back room, where the spare cribs were located. The priest prepared in advance for the children’s arrival. After supper, the brother and sister went to bed. Sparky stayed behind to watch them sleep.
In the morning, Father Harris began to collect the information about Bobby and Rosie’s mother. He learned that the woman had passed away about three months ago. The priest then tried to ask Social Services if they could help the children with a new home. In response, Father Harris heard that the children had been searched for these months. The social worker thanked Father Harris for his involvement and said that the children definitely need a new family.
But Mrs. Santiago told the priest that she had one good couple in mind who could not manage to have a child themselves. According to the older woman, the McCartney family deserves only positive reviews. In addition, the couple are very fond of dogs.
In the social service, the proposal of Father Harris concerning potential parents was well received. An important prerequisite for establishing custody of the children was for the couple to complete the necessary paperwork and successfully pass the background check. While this whole process lasted, the children were under the care of Father Harris and a nun.
Two weeks later, the McCartneys welcomed Bobby and Rosie into their home. They sincerely thanked Father Harris and Mrs. Santiago for their participation and help. And all the townspeople were happy to help the two young children.