Updated date:

When the Corn Died: Chapter Seventeen

The Harpers Have Returned

And thank you for joining them!

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll write this story. I’m just running short of time and my novels are calling me…demanding of me…that I pay more attention to them. So I’m afraid the Harpers will just have to muddle through life without me for awhile.

My goal with this series was to see how a feel-good story was accepted by the reading public. There is no action to speak of in this story. There is no gratuitous violence or harrowing chase-scenes. This story is simply a tribute to my grandparents, and people like them, who lived during The Great Depression, suffered all that time period could throw at them, and emerged from it as good people, loving people, people I am proud to call my relatives.

The story parallels, somewhat, the life of my grandparents. I’ve taken some liberties with their story but what can you expect from a fiction writer? I don’t think my grandparents would mind if they were alive, so you shouldn’t. LOL

When last we left the Harpers, Peter and his son were hired on permanently at the apple warehouse, but Evelyn and Emma had better news: they were invited to live on acreage and work a farm for a store owner and his sick wife.

So things are definitely looking up for the Harpers as 1933 comes to a close in Wenatchee, Washington.


Home Sweet Home

There are times when a man simply can’t find the words. This was one of those times for me.

Standing in the driveway of Appleby’s acreage, looking out over seventy-five acres of neglected apple trees, wondering how that two-room dilapidated cabin was even standing, I was thinking that it was just about the most beautiful sight I had ever seen, but I couldn’t find the words so I just stood there, silent with tears falling. I felt Evelyn’s hand take mine.

“Beautiful, ain’t it, husband?”

“Damned beautiful, wife!”

“A lot of work, though, Peter, and Emma and I still need to help out at the store, and you and Peter Junior need to work the warehouse job to keep money coming in. Can we take care of this farm and make it profitable?”

For one of the few times in our marriage, it was my turn to deliver a positive message.

“We’ll make it work, Evelyn. We’ll make it work! Hard work has never scared us off and it sure as hell won’t now. Come on, woman, let’s see if that cabin falls down when we open the front door.”


Barely Standing

Well, it didn’t fall down, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t tomorrow. The cabin had seen better days, and I was just about to inform Evelyn of its hopeless nature when our son called us from the barn.

“Ma! Pa! Come out to the barn and take a look!”

The boy sounded so excited that it set our feet moving pretty quick. When we got there we found him, Emma and young Timothy inside. Peter Junior turned to us when we entered.

“We can make it work, Pa, Ma. The cabin is probably beyond help but we can live here in the barn until we build us a new cabin. We can partition off rooms here in the barn….drag the wood stove out of the cabin and put it in the barn for warmth. It will be a little drafty this winter but hells bells, it’s better than our other options right now. And it will feel good knowing we are building a new home from scratch. Emma and me have some ideas about the new cabin if you want to hear them, and……”

He was so excited he just kept on talking for fifteen minutes straight, and Emma filled in the gaps, and little Timothy was running around the yard like it was home…..

Which it was!

We could do this!


The Next Few Weeks

I’ll tell you truly, we ended each day plumb worn out for the next couple weeks. Winter can come early in Wenatchee, and besides the work on the barn and cabin we also had to prune the apple orchard, and let me tell ya, pruning hundreds of trees over seventy-five acres will wear you down and spit you out by day’s end. As October ended and November began, we had ourselves about ten acres of pruning still to do, but the barn was partitioned off into rooms and for better or for worse, we were ready to greet winter.

On the first Sunday of November, Victor Appleby came out to take a look at our progress while Emma took care of his wife back at the store. He and I took a walk around the property and then joined Evelyn in the barn.

“Folks, Rose and I felt good about you when we first met you and by God, it turns out we were right. You’ve done a fine job out here on our acreage and I thank you.

“Rose, she’s not going to make it through this winter. That’s just the truth of it. Her heart is plumb worn out, and the doc says every single day is a bonus at this point.”

He stopped and wiped his eyes before continuing.

“The thing is, I can’t take care of this place, and when Rose dies, honestly, I just won’t have the heart to continue. She and I have talked, and she wants me to sell off the store in town once she passes. She’s got this dang-fooled notion I need to go travel, see the world, visit all the places she wanted to see before she got so sick and, well, I don’t have it in me to tell her no.

“What I’m getting to is we want to sell you this property. Times are tough, we know, but we figure we’ll sign up some papers at the bank, and you can pay us a fair price each month, say ten, twenty dollars, if that sounds fair to you? We talked to the banker and he said we can set it up so you just pay the bank each month and I’ll get the money from him. How’s that sound to you folks?”

There are times when the kindness of a human being surpasses anything you thought was possible. That was one of those times.

Evelyn took the small man in her arms and hugged him tight. I was going to argue with him, tell him his offer was just too kind, but Evelyn, she was looking at me while hugging him, and she was shaking her head, telling me, without words, to keep quiet.

After He Had Left

I held Evelyn as Mister Appleby drove back to town. We had shook hands on the deal, and the papers would be drawn up the next day.

“It was important to him, Peter, important to his wife, as well. They don’t have any children and I suspect this is their way of making sure their farm stays in good hands. I figure it would almost be an insult to tell him no or to haggle over price.”

I kissed my wife and held her tight.

“Life is a mystery, Evelyn, and the longer I live the less, it seems, that I understand it all. I can’t seem to wrap my brain around the randomness of it all. All I know for certain is I’m madly in love with you.”

“Well you just keep on thinking like that, Peter, and we’ll be just fine as a family. Now let’s go tell our son the good news, and then later on tonight we can all sit down as a family, have some ice cream, and make plans for our new farm. I love you, Peter!”

It was another time when I had no words.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 30, 2018:

No, you didn't miss anything, Rodric. I did. That was a loose end I forgot to tie up. Maybe when I get around to a re-write I'll catch it the second time. Thanks for following along. You are appreciated.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on April 29, 2018:

This was an amazing experience. I loved the happy ending. I want to know about Peter and Emma's wedding and if they had lots of kids. I want to know if Peter Sr and Evelyn ever had a big country home as I feel they should. I want to read the rest of the story that played like a movie in my mind and captured my heart with the faith of its characters. This is good. Thank you for this story and giving me this experience. I do have one question. When they were in Idaho, what happened with the smoke and the town that was 20 miles away? Did I miss something?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 14, 2016:

Thanks Sha! I'm happy to report that the Harpers are alive and doing well in Wenatchee. :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 14, 2016:

I just love this story. Love and kindness are always rewarded when given unselfishly.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 12, 2016:

Lawrence, we are in complete agreement. The world does need stories like this one....we need to get back, as a society, to some very important values.

Thank you sir!


Lawrence Hebb on July 11, 2016:


This story is full of action! Okay it's not the 'shoot em up' kind of stuff but there's plenty of it.

Robberies, losing the farm, talking down would be robbers who were just good folks driven by desperation, then theres the present stuff!

Our world needs stories like these, the ones that remind us what previous generations dealt with to give us our world!

I hear you about the novels, they can be a bit demanding, but let's not forget these stories too!



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 28, 2016:

Dee, your husband and my wife would get along famously well. Constant sunshine with those two. LOL

Thank you my friend!

Dianna Mendez on June 27, 2016:

Your grandparents would be proud of this series. I love the attitude of the husband -- we'll make it right. Reminds me of my hubby who is always looking at the bright side of things.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2016:

That's a wrap, Deb. We may re-visit the Harpers at some point, but as far as I'm concerned, they are where they should be.

Thank you Deb!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2016:

Thank you DDE! This was about my family so the feelings came naturally.

Deb Hirt on June 26, 2016:

Signed, sealed, and delivered, as far as I'm concerned. Sadly, life is no longer this simple, but it used to be the right way to do things.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 25, 2016:

Your story is greatly felt and you told it so well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2016:

Missy, thank you so much. I did that intentionally. I'm sure the Harpers will return but first, they have work to do on their new farm.

Missy Smith from Florida on June 23, 2016:

As always, this story leaves you with a great feeling. I wish more people in the world today could grasp a kindness that the Harpers possess. We certainly need it now more than ever.

I love this story, but I do understand the need to concentrate more on your other projects. The good news for us is, you have written this installment in a way that it could continue, or it could also make for a happy ending to your story. Either way, your readers are smiling. Thank you. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2016:

MizB, we can't afford to buy property, but if we could we would do exactly that with the barn. It's been a dream of Bev and me for quite some time.

So glad you enjoyed this story. The Harpers may return shortly....one never knows. :)

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 23, 2016:

I can't tell you how much I've loved this story, Bill. I like it possibly because it kind of parallels my aunt and uncle and their kids, except after WWII. They weren't as lucky to get a farm dropped into their lap, but they loved Wenatchee and their succeeding generations still live there. I think I've told you that before, but I'm getting old and senile and tend to repeat myself.

Funny about the barn, as I've had at least two friends buy property and build themselves small apartments in the barn while they renovated the house. Then my cousin bought 110 acres of hunting property in the Ozarks and built a barn with a nice apartment in it to use when he is there hunting. So you see, barn living is getting popular, at least in my neck of the woods.

The Harpers are welcome to come back anytime and take up where they left off. Thank you for a great read.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2016:

Maria, I have no doubt you'll enjoy "Angels." Thank you for your loyal friendship.

Peace and love coming to you


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2016:

And Rasma, the Harpers thank you for your kind words.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on June 23, 2016:

Dear Bill,

This feels like a lovely spot to leave the Harpers for now...as you masterfully juggle stories and projects.

I'll be checking out 'When Angels Sing' as time permits...sounds like a perfect summer read.

Hope you are having a great week. Love, Maria

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on June 22, 2016:

Another great visit with the Harper family. Always look forward to the next.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 22, 2016:

Aw, thanks, Faith. I'm very happy for the warm acceptance of this simple story. Makes my heart smile.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 21, 2016:

Hi Dear Bill,

This is still one of my favorite series of yours for sure, and it does go to show us all how a wonderful story can be written exhibiting great morals, faith, love of family and neighbors, hard work and hope for a better tomorrow, despite the obstacles life seems to throw at us, for all to enjoy.

Peace and blessings

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 21, 2016:

Dora, they are a standard we can all aspire to. I know I do. Thank you so much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Thank you once more, Vellur! I'm so glad you enjoyed my sweet story.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Genna, I thank you for your wonderful support. I'll probably bring the Harpers back soon. It's hard to keep good people down. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Bill, that is very kind of you to say. Compare me to Keillor and I'm in heaven, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Thank you Zulma! I had a great Father's Day with the kids and Bev.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

And Happy Father's Day to you, Bill! Thank you!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 20, 2016:

The Harpers are an exemplary act to follow for any one starting over. Their positive attitude and their trust in each other boost their courage to face their challenges.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Gosh, Eric, I don't even know what to say to such kindness...other than a simple thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Thanks Pop! This is to counteract the reality of politics. LOL

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Thank you Manatita, and Happy Father's Day to you, my friend. No pressure....and peace be with you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Perhaps, Manatita...perhaps! LOL

blessings and thanks

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Zulma, I suspect we'll see the Harpers again before the holidays. Thank you for the kind words. I'm so glad others enjoyed this story.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

It looks like you are right, Alicia. With love all things are possible, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Shannon, I think I need you as my publicist. LOL I would settle for a Hallmark movie any old day.

Thank you kindly!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

Bill, that's a wonderful quote and I thank you for sharing it. Have a superb Monday, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 20, 2016:

That means a lot to me, Audrey! Thank you so much.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 19, 2016:

Another great day for the Harpers enjoyed reading. Harpers deserve a lot of happiness and life is giving it to them in plenty because they are good people. Great story.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on June 19, 2016:

With the love and support of a family like the Harpers, anything is possible. I truly believe this. How fortunate to have grandparents who served as the inspiration of this terrific series, Bill. I'm not alone giving many thanks for sharing this with us all. We understand that your other writing demands are calling; and such summons must always be heeded, my friend. Hugs for this wonderful series.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on June 19, 2016:

Bill, the world needs more yarns like this to make its spin a little less lopsided. The works of Earl Hamner, Garrison Keillor, and yourself are inspirational, instructional, and entertaining without being maudlin or preachy. It's a very thin tightrope that you write on - but you never fall off!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 19, 2016:

A quick fly-by to wish you a Happy's Father Day.

My poor husband is spending his Father's Day with a stinking cold. I will be his most unappreciated Florence Nightengale till the kids wake up and then it will be their turn.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 18, 2016:

Another wonderful chapter Bill. It's good to see that hard work and kindness are paying off for the Harpers. A happy Father's Day to you.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 18, 2016:

Us crazy Christians are told to meditate on the things that are good and noble. You do a double whamy here. First we are treated to marvelous story of the fortitude and love of our human condition. And during it all we are treated to a wonderfully written story. Bill you bring good things to life.

breakfastpop on June 18, 2016:

This is a feel good story, one that is most welcome to me.

manatita44 from london on June 18, 2016:

Almost, forgot...probably won't visit you tomorrow, so Happy Father's Day! I'm also a father, too. Just so you know. Ha ha. I do so much for Mother's! You must do something for fathers, my Friend. No pressure, sometime in the future. Peace.

manatita44 from london on June 18, 2016:

Ended sweetly, softly, kind of like "Aah! so sweet!" Perhaps a little of the Harpers in you Bro. The Spirit lives on...

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 18, 2016:

Such a lovely story. Perhaps we can drop by again say Thanksgiving or Christmas and see how they're getting on. That would be nice.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 17, 2016:

This is a lovely chapter, Bill. The Harpers deserve happiness, and it looks like they're going to get it.

Shannon Henry from Texas on June 17, 2016:

Keep on like this and you might mess up your goal. This is a Hallmark movie in the making and no writer like this can go unheard of. I hope the Harper's don't leave us just yet.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on June 17, 2016:

Absolutely wonderful story! Well told! Thank you, so much... you know I would like it. This quote comes to mind, came across it the other day, have now used it three times... says it well: “I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just don’t write anything without hope in it.”

Oscar Hammerstein

Thanks for this story, Bill! ;-)

Audrey Howitt from California on June 17, 2016:

Your work is getting so much tighter Bill--just a pleasure to read!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Well you're a good one, Sis!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Jackie, I wish I had one. :) Thanks my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Thank you Larry! Much-appreciated.

Suzie from Carson City on June 17, 2016:

The way I've always heard it~~that's what sisters are for.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 17, 2016:

Another great turn and I look forward to the new apple farm!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 17, 2016:

Well done, as always my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Sis, if I had you as my publicist, I'd be a best-selling novelist by now. Thank you so much....this is one of those days when I needed a pat on the back and you provided that.

Everything you said is true...so much of what the Harpers are about is missing in today's world, and perhaps that right there is the main reason for so many of our problems. I hope we figure it out soon.

Have a great weekend and again, you're a great sister.


Suzie from Carson City on June 17, 2016:

Bro....If there ever was a moment in this marvelous story that a reader forgot in what era this story takes place, this chapter will jolt them back to the time!

A time when kindness and generosity, tenacity and hard work prevailed. A time when a hand shake between two honest men, sealed a deal, lock, stock and barrel. Going through this journey with the Harper's brings us all the goodness and fairness and "trust" people had in their hearts because they recognized they truly needed one another.

A time when greed was barely heard of and scams hadn't been invented yet!

Though struggling and hanging onto hope at every step, the Harper's make it all look simple through their family love, unity and sincere gratitude. The Harper's make courage and resolve look like characteristics that were freely bestowed upon them at birth.

I understand why you need to break away a bit from this series with all else that you have on your agenda. I'll be patient because now I'm a part of the Harper family and they won't settle for me stomping my foot!! Have a great week-end and take a break Bro, you deserve it. SIS

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Aw, Ruby, my family thanks you, as do I.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Thank you Chris! That means a lot to me. Thanks for reading.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 17, 2016:

I've grown to love the Harper family and I know they will make it come hell or high water. Your family would be proud. Loved it!!

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on June 17, 2016:

Bill, the story lacks nothing. There was enough conflict in day to day life back then to make this story very worthwhile and interesting. Thanks for writing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Thank you so much, Linda. Carry it in your mind; it's my gift to you. I'll have a brand new story coming soon...as soon as my muse speaks to me.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 17, 2016:

Bill, you have done such a wonderful job of "creating" these people. I will miss your weekly chapters of this story, but I think I can carry it on in my mind if you'll let me. It has been a wonderful journey. Thank you for sharing a bit of your history with us. Have a blessed weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

Janine, that's sweet of you and I thank you! I think my grandparents would be happy with the story.

Have a super Friday, my friend.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 17, 2016:

Aw, love that you used your grandparents' story as a backdrop for The Harpers and have truly enjoyed reading about them, but do understand that your other writing needs you, too. Just want to thank you for sharing them here with us and also of course wish you a wonderful weekend ahead now, Bill!! :)

Related Articles