Bette delivers a wise message – The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd
Judy on Goodreads says…
Southern, much loved storyteller, Bette Lee Crosby returns following Passing Through Perfect (2015), landing on my Top 50 Books of 2015 – Best Southern Fiction” and “Best Southern Storyteller of 2015”, continuing with heart-warming #4 Wyattsville Series, with THE REGRETS OF CYRUS DODD.
A complex life of one man. A story worthy of telling. But to appreciate the end you have to go back to the beginning. A long dark road of misery.
“Love and sorrow come into your life hand in hand. I’m an old man now and over these many years I have seen more than my share of sorrows, some so great they brought me to my knees. But I have also loved with such passion that it set my soul afire. Were you to ask me would I give up one to avoid the other, I would turn away.”
Elk Bend, West Virginia 1930, Cyrus Dodd’s life in the rural country on a farm. He and his wife Ruth own land, a home, and a farm. Everything a man wants in this era. He takes pride in protecting his family. They may not have riches; however, live comfortable.
However, Virgil Jackson, a neighbor (not friends), has them over a barrel. Virgil of course took every opportunity to remind Cyrus of this, daily. An evil man with greed and hate in his heart and soul.
The Dodd’s source of water was from the pond on Virgil’s land. It had an underground spring that offered an endless stream of fresh water, and fed the brooks running across three different farms. One being Dodd’s cornfield. It enabled Cyrus to irrigate the bottomland and water the livestock as well as their crops. Unfortunately, Cyrus had no alternative other than to remain neighborly with Virgil.
Until . . . .
The spring they each had piglets. Virgil seven and one stillborn, and Cyrus nine (all alive and well). A week later a tornado, and his pig wound up at Virgil’s farm. Cyrus knew where his missing pig was and tried to attain it from him. It was branded, so he knew. Virgil said it was his. Refused to return it. Cyrus goes back later and takes his pig.
This started the feud of a lifetime.
Virgil goes to the sheriff, they go to court, and ultimately case dismissed. However, worried about the water, his wife wants him to make peace. Virgil would not accept pigs, animals or apologies. Soon he built a dam, and Cyrus’ water supply was cut off.
Virgil was not a forgiving man. Virgil desired nothing more than to see Cyrus fail.
Pretty soon, tragedy hits the Dodd’s household. From his crops, animals, and his livelihood. Cyrus is stubborn and will not leave his land. Ruth knows he cannot make a living on a farm without water. What kind of life would they have if they stayed? When they think matters cannot get any worse, they lose their baby. Almost as bad as “Job from the Bible”, everything is taken away. They buried their baby boy and planted a small elderberry bush.
Who is to blame? The anger Cyrus feels toward Virgil is hatred. Ruth saw it coming; however, he did not listen. He will make it up to her. He cannot change the past, but he will not let Ruth pay for his mistakes.
A feud is not forgotten, regardless of how well-intentioned a man is, once hatred settles in his heart, it remains there forever. With every hardship he suffered the hatred grew stronger, until eventually it became so powerful, not even his prayers could overcome it.
More tragedy and sorrow. Even rain flooded his cornfield. Day after day, Cyrus’ anger swelled. Ruth wants them to sell the farm. Cyrus is proud and says it is his home and he will never leave. Ruth reminded him it was “their” home. A man’s pride. Another cold winter, and no money, and once again another sorrow. This time, a loss so painful, Ruth may never recover.
Cyrus, is at his lowest when he sees the light go out in Ruth’s eyes. She is bedridden and has lost her will, to even get out of bed with her sadness. She has lost her will to live. It is his fault.
In the meantime, Cyrus does not know, Virgil has problems, of his own. His wife cannot handle his anger. Their oldest son is holly terror. He is bullying his younger brother and baby sister. Things get so bad his wife takes their daughter to live with her sister in fear of their lives. She has to guard her younger son and carries a gun to protect for their own son. The oldest son is out of control. Virgil cannot see he is following in his path. Bad things start happening to Virgil. Karma is a bitch…
“A man’s pride will cause him to do things you never dreamed possible. When being right was most important, and all other things were blocked out.”
Cyrus was a strong man who could deal with many things—from flooded land, failed crops, hard winters, even humbling himself to a man like Virgil. But the one thing he couldn’t deal with was seeing Ruth so weary. He thinks of killing Virgil, he is so angry. Will his hatred get the better of him?
However, he thinks about what Ruth said.
He learns of a job in Virginia outside a small town of Wyattsville, working for a railroad. A man loves his land, but he loves his wife more. She gets a flicker of light back in her eyes. They make plans to leave; however, they have not been able to sell the land, due to Virgil, cutting off the water supply. No one could afford to get on the bad side of Virgil.
They are afraid of staying, and equally frightened of going. They begin selling off everything they con to get enough money to make the trip. Cyrus will never stop trying. Ruth deserved better. With little money they leave and take a train.
From here to the end of the book, things start changing for them. When all seemed gloom and stuck on the side of the road, with nowhere to go, they meet a stranger. Fate steps in. A right decision.
A woman, (angel) Prudence Greenly all alone and her husband, Arnold is deceased. She offers them a room for a few days, and they wind up staying. They love the town, and Ruth soon gets her strength back, and she and Prudence become best friends. Life is good.
“Having regrets ain’t good for the soul.” Some are irreversible.
Cyrus is doing well on the job and now they are saving money. However, Cyrus is a proud man and wants a place of their own; however, he helps out Prudence and they wind up staying until Prudence’s death years later. Even a healthy daughter.
“The thing about regrets is that no matter how many you’ve got, you just keep adding more.”
Cyrus still has regrets and thinks of his land and everything in his life. However, they begin to start taking trips and vacations (one to the Greenbrier Hotel, VA). Been there many times. They try to appreciate one another, their time, and good fortune. They try enjoy life without the worries of money-with new neighbors and friends.
Cyrus never forgets Virgil – he stole his life, but decides he has all he can get. He is giving him too much power over his life.
As they get older, their daughter Joy goes off to school and starts her own life; they become empty nesters. Another tragedy. Another storm. This time the neighbors rally around to help them. This is when we get to revisit with Olivia, and some of the folks from previous books at the Wyattsville Apartment. (love it)
“I keep thinking surely to God, I have already done everything there is to regret, but every time I’ve thought that I discover another regret waiting on the horizon.”
In the meantime, little does Cyrus know, Virgil has lost almost everything important in his life. There was a murder, and his family is gone. He was a hateful evil man.
Cyrus has a long list of regrets. The problem is you never know exactly what it is you’re going to regret until it’s too late to change what you’ve already done.
“A man cannot change who he is. He can only hope that with age comes the wisdom to see his folly.”
Flashing back and forth from Ruth and Cyrus, and get the updates happening back at Elk Bend from Virgil Jackson.
From the house on Harrison Street. Young Married to Empty Nesters. Retirement. Wyattsville Arms Apartments. Full circle. The cycles of life. The regrets. The memories.
A former life. They revisit their land they lost, and their home they loved years ago . . and the man who took it away. Landing where they are today. Sometimes we have to reach our lowest in order to receive what awaits around the corner. One flicker of fate can change your whole life. Memories: Some sweet. Some painful.
“As I grow ever closer to the end of my time, I look back at this life and tell you that the only thing I would wish to give up is the regret I’ve carried in my heart for all these years. At long last I have come to realize the things I once counted as regrets were indeed blessings that I was too blind to see.”
What a heart-warming series!
Bette is a master designer with her quirky gritty southern storytelling. She bridges the gap from young to old, so eloquently.
Reading her stories is like sitting in a cozy kitchen- with some homemade goodies, a fire, and a cup of tea or coffee with a wise grandmother, telling tales to her grandchildren.
As always, Bette delivers a wise message, metaphors of life storms, and plenty of life’s essential lessons. A cautionary tale.
“Sometimes regrets are not mistakes. The difference is some keep hanging on to the memory of them. Some regrets Cyrus carried around, weren’t really regrets after all. Just life’s heartaches. It is imperative we learn to discover the differences.”
Some decisions have repercussions that can last a lifetime. Most of these decisions are made daily, and they require focus and perspective to keep them from haunting you.
Highly Recommend The Wyattsville Series (All 5 Starred)!
Passing Through Perfect (Wyattsville, #3)
Jubilee’s Journey (Wyattsville, #2)
Spare Change (Wyattsville, #1)