For Sale: 1,682 acre tract of fertile sandy loam river bottomland along the Missouri River. 400 acres woodland along the river banks offers natural habitat for native wildlife—perfect for CRP acreage program. Nestled under the overhanging river bluffs, this Montana farmland acreage in the Missouri River Valley is world renown for consistent crop production--records available upon request. Call Nell at (795) 530-6258.
Nell Strong, exhausted and strung out, arrived home from work to find an overused answering machine brimming with messages. Kicking off her high heels and laying down her briefcase, she settled into an overstuffed lounge chair next to her contemporary glass end table in hopes of sorting out another day’s worth of farmland inquiries.
Nell sighed and clicked the blinking red button with the end of her ballpoint pen.
“Hello. I’m calling about the land you advertised for sale in The Missouri Ruralist. Please call me back at (295) 829-5380. My name is Ralph Fugate. Thanks.”
“I’m calling for Nell. I saw your ad and am interested in the farmland acreage. Name's Darryl and my number’s (317) 565-1095.”
“Hi, this is Ted Granger from the Eureka Post. Heard you’re tryin’ to sell the ole Strong Valley Ranch. I’d love to do an interview about the sale. You know . . . your story and your folks. Uuuhh, thought it might be just the opportunity for folks to learn the truth about . . .” Nell twisted abruptly in her chair and hit the “skip” button just in time. Ted Granger was a nosey pest and Nell knew she just couldn’t deal with him or his inferences.
Listening to the rest of the calls took another ten minutes. This was getting overwhelming, she thought. Maybe I should have hired a realtor, instead of trying to tackle this on my own. She shook her head, realizing that this was one task she must complete alone.
The next day, Nell thought back to the Ted Granger call and wondered if it might be best to simply confront the man. Maybe if she got the past out in the open, once and for all, it might just end all the gossip about the ranch. It would be difficult, she knew, but with her parents now gone, going public might help the ranch sell and clear the air with the locals. Since it was Saturday, she’d have a couple of days to muster up the courage to call Granger on Monday.
Nell closed her luminescent grey eyes as misted memories floated through her mind. The Strong Valley Ranch had been her father’s dream, his very life. Nell embraced the rural life as a child, exploring the fertile valley, and enjoying the company of her father as he worked the land. His passion for ranching was contagious. The summer Nell turned sixteen, life changed in the valley. A stranger appeared at the ranch, looking for work.
Even in her near dream state, Nell shuddered at the memory of that man who altered the ranch’s reputation and shattered her innocence. It was always at this point that her thoughts turned dark and Nell saw red—literally—blood red and death. Reliving that last dark day on the ranch had been difficult these past 12 years. Only with the help of Helen, a compassionate Christian therapist, had Nell been able to move past the pain and grief of losing both her parents and herself.
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones washed over her again—a vision that always gave her hope. My life was as brittle as the dry bones strewn about the valley floor—lifeless, hopeless, and destitute, just like the Israelites. God asked me if the bones could live again and I acknowledged His provision. He promised to breathe life into my bones. He rebuilt me from the bones, to the ligaments, to the muscles, and then clothed me with new flesh.
Nell softly recited God’s promise “’And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it, . . .’”*
Abruptly, Nell sat up and reached for her cell phone, punching out the numbers from the message pad next to her phone. “Mr. Granger, this is Nell Strong. Just wanted you to know, there’s no story here for you. The Strong Valley Ranch is not for sale.”
(*Ez. 37:14 NASB)
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