When the Corn Died: Chapter Thirteen

Updated on May 18, 2016
Pushing west
Pushing west | Source

Where Are They Now?

When last we read about them, the Harpers were just outside Bozeman, Montana where their old Ford overheated. They are bound and determined to make it to Wenatchee, Washington, and start a new life as apple farmers, but the Great Depression has a nasty habit of shattering dreams.

Let’s peek in and see how the Harpers are doing.

THE NEXT DAY

We said goodbye to the Turcottes the next day. They rode along with us for twenty miles then said they were going to follow State Road One-Ninety-One south into Yellowstone. There was supposedly work there with the CCC and they needed money badly for their families back east. And so we shook hands, wished them well and watched as the two brothers took their first weary steps south towards the Gallatin Range. Ahead of us, to the west, stood a couple hundred miles of pure ruggedness, followed by a God-forsaken desert; I heard Evelyn sigh as she looked west with me, then felt her hand on my arm.

“It’s a big country, isn’t it, husband?

“Yes it is, Evelyn.”

“But all that bigness, Peter, simply means big opportunities. Let’s get back on the road and gobble up some of those opportunities before they’re all gone.”

It’s hard to imagine a man finding a better woman than Evelyn.

We took it slow that day, coaxing the old Ford, babying her, really, but she had served us well over the years and deserved some pampering. The peaks ahead of us, and to the south, all had a mantle of snow, an odd sight for Iowa farmers and a chilling reminder of all we left behind and all we faced ahead, rugged peaks, jagged peaks with the ability to slice a man’s dreams and leave him bloodied and broken.

Thirty, forty miles an hour, up one side of a hill and down the other, stopping often to put more water in the radiator, collecting our thoughts and our nerve, always pushing west. We passed the occasional ranch and drove through small towns with unfamiliar names, Logan, Three Forks, Cardwell and Whitehall. We crossed over rivers read about long ago in school books, the Gallatin, the Madison and the Jefferson. We saw the mines of Butte and the old prison at Deer Lodge and we followed the Clark Fork, its waters running shallow and peaceful into Missoula and still more mountains.

Crossing into the west
Crossing into the west | Source

Pushing Further West

We began to have a sense for what the pioneers must have felt ninety years earlier, the enormity of it all, the butt-puckering feeling of insignificance in a wilderness that knew nothing of economic depressions or the vagaries of a stock market, that cared less about the silliness of man. This country always was and always would be, and my family seemed to recognize, as one, that we are all just visitors on this land and we damned well better respect it for the wonder that it was.

The heat lessened as we climbed. Gone were the clouds of dust and choking stench of rotting farm animals. The air was clear and even in August it had a bite to it, a hint that winter was fast-approaching and only a fool would be making this trip a month in the future.

As the sun set ahead of us, and dusk weighed down upon us, we slowly passed a sign that welcomed us to Idaho. We decided it was as good a spot as any to have a late dinner and find comfort in the blanket of approaching stars. Peter Junior and Emma set about making a fire while Evelyn unpacked some plates. I grabbed the .22 and Timothy and I went off in search of rabbit. Our luck was good and my aim true, and twenty minutes later Evelyn was skinning and gutting the rabbit as daylight left us for good and the fire announced our intention to stay for the night.

“A man could get swallowed up in this country,” Peter Junior said to anyone listening as he stared off into the darkness.

“True words, son,” I answered. “I suspect a man learns, right quick, to respect this country and give it its due. That or die young, a fool.”

Do the mountains never end?
Do the mountains never end? | Source

After Dinner

We finished off the rabbit, a feast fit for weary kings and queens, and laid out our blankets for a night under stars so plentiful as to seem suffocating. Evelyn curled up next to me. Peter Junior and Emma, completely tossing aside all pretense, bedded down next to each other, with young Timothy content between them. The quiet was unnerving at first, so vast and unknown, but then it became comforting and I felt myself relax.

“What are you thinking about, husband?” Evelyn whispered.

“I was thinking I was the luckiest man alive, hon. You know, if we stopped and thought about it, this trip of ours, this starting over in a new land, well, it could be downright terrifying, and we would have a right to be depressed, leaving our farm behind us. But I don’t feel any of that. I’m looking up at the stars, and imagining God behind them, smiling down, and I know why He’s smiling. He’s approving of our decision and He’s glad to see a family glued together with love. That’s what I was thinking about, darling. I was thinking about love.”

I felt her hand slide down my stomach and then felt her touch, probing, tentative at first but then definite, and a part of me stood at attention and my breath shortened.

“How quiet do you think we can be, husband?” she said into my ear.

“I think we should find out,” I said in return, and then I kissed her, rolled over on top of her and made love, for the first time in my life, in Idaho.

The Next Morning

Dawn arrives late in the mountains, but by seven we had a fire going and were drinking coffee in preparation for a new day of adventure. As the gray of dawn turned blue we noticed, to the southwest, a plume of golden smoke rising from the mountains.

“What do you suppose that is?” Emma asked.

I was already rising and heading towards the truck as I answered.

“Unless I’m as wrong as I’ve ever been, that’s a forest fire. Gather up the stuff and let’s get the Ford moving west. There’s a town about twenty miles down the road. Maybe they’ll have some information for us and we’ll know what’s going on. Hurry now. I don’t like not knowing the story of that smoke.”

And That’s Where We Will Leave Them Today

But never fear, we will return to the adventures of the Harper family next week. Thank you so much for embracing this family and their story. I admit, I was skeptical when I started out on this writing journey. I didn’t think a story about common folk just living their lives would be appealing to too many people. Boy was I ever wrong!

I’ve decided not to make this into a book, so it will be around for awhile still. We’ll let the Harpers get to Washington and then they can decide if they want to continue telling their story. As is always the case, the characters in my stories make the decision how far a story will go.

Again, thank you! I’ll see you next week.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Questions & Answers

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      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Sha, I can definitely say that did not come from my grandmother....the sexual boldness, that is. LOL

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 years ago from Central Florida

        I love that part of her feisty personality!

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Sha, it's an interesting observation you make about sex back then. I've read biographies and bibliographies by some people who said sex was not nearly the taboo we consider it to be back then.....during the Roaring Twenties, in the cities, it was pretty common....but your point is also well-taken with regards to simple folk/farmers....I guess I just wanted Evelyn to have a little something extra. LOL

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 years ago from Central Florida

        Evelyn's libido always surprises me. For some reason, I was under the impression sex was considered more of a duty back in those days, rather than pleasure. In other words, I didn't think it was lady like to enjoy sex, let alone initiate it.

        Your descriptions of the terrain, sky, stars, etc. put me right there with the Harpers, Bill. I can almost hear the stars twinkling in the vast land that is carrying their dreams.

        Love this story!

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Lawrence, I had my doubts about anyone liking this series....no real "action" no thriller, just good people living their lives. I am pleasantly surprised.

      • profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        2 years ago

        I love this story. I think that the reason so many people love it is they can identify with the characters, and Evelyn's way of putting it "A family glued together by love" is awesome.

        Blessings

        Lawrence

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Very kind of you, Deb! Thank you!

      • profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        2 years ago

        Even in reality, there is never a dull moment. However that is correct if you know how to tell the story of life.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Shyron, don't you worry about the Harpers. Come hell or high water they will make it.

        blessings and thanks always

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Maria, this one is a walk in the park for me. I just think of my relatives and capture their collective persona...then sprinkle in some love.

        love,

        bill

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thanks Frank. Every once in awhile I'll have a good one. It's why we keep writing, isn't it?

      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Bill, I hope the Harpers don't have to fight a forest fire on top of everything else. But I am enjoying their eventful trip and hope the don't get to Washington too soon.

        Blessings always.

      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 

        2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

        This story is as easy to read as it is to write, as you've shared...a winning combination, I'd say, dear Bill.

        Love ya, Maria

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        2 years ago from Shelton

        leave a man bloodied and broken.. love that line

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Shanmarie, you are very kind. Thank you very much. I'm truly humbled.

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Well! That's some talent you have, bringing the characters so much alive that they decide their own fate. ;)

        As for the story being unexpectedly appealing, it's because it's so human and relatable. You're just a natural.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you Vellur. I need to go write the next chapter now. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        2 years ago from Dubai

        I enjoyed reading and I hope it runs into many more chapters. Great write.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        You are very kind, Genna. Perhaps, through this story, I am able to thank my extended family for the sacrifices they made so that I can enjoy the life I have. I suspect I didn't thank them enough when they were alive. :)

        Blessings always, my friend.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Their trek northwest was brought vivid to the mind with your we-are-there imagery, Bill. One of my favorite lines: "This country always was and always would be, and my family seemed to recognize, as one, that we are all just visitors on this land and we damned well better respect it for the wonder that it was." I love the ease with which you tell this beautiful story, and the characters -- as natural as their surroundings. I get the sense there was a kind of déjà vu/destiny that somehow marked this journey, to be written by you for some time. This is a book I don't want to put down; the pages really do turn themselves.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Michael my friend, it was a battle on this end to respond to your fine comment. The internet kept disappearing on me in the middle of my responses. Let me just say that any story with love as the main theme is a story you will understand very well.

        Peace be with you!

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I'm so glad you are enjoying this, Alicia. Thank you for always being here. See you in Wenatchee next week.

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 

        2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

        Your story had me traveling along with them and that smoke also shook me up. Looking forward to the next.

      • Michael-Milec profile image

        Michael-Milec 

        2 years ago

        More than anything to me the Harpers are on a miracle and a mercy journey of hope. Finding happines and being content under given circumstances, you are my dear friend, sending the message to the world of true family value in mutual trust, contentment and love in action. I know, they will reach their destination, since they are under the wings of heavenly protectin. Won't be easy though.(Sigh)

        Peace with us.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I'm still enjoying reading this story very much. I love the photos in this chapter, too, especially the first one.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Clive, I know you commented, but I can't find it now. Anyway, thank you for riding along.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        That's very kind of you, Missy! Whether they buy my novellas or not, I am enjoying the process greatly and will continue to write about things that are important to me. I appreciate you, my friend, and peace be with you always.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Awww, thank you very much, DDE!

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Zulma, I'll try not to disappoint you regarding Emma and Peter Jr. I sense the same thing, that this is a union that needs to become legal soon. LOL

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Faith, I agree with you about a good loving woman by your side.

        As for handling forest fires back then, the quick answer is they didn't handle them well at al. We've come a long way in that department.

        Hugs and blessings coming your way.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you Dora. That part is easy for me since I've driven this particular route many times.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        That was my goal, Bill, so thank you very much.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        That's sweet of you to say, Nell. Thank you! I hope you enjoyed your "comfort break" from reality. LOL

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Very true, Flourish...they were the inspiration for this next chapter. Thanks for mentioning that and of course for following along.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you so much, Jackie! Go ahead, call me a tease! LOL

      • Missy Smith profile image

        Missy Smith 

        2 years ago from Florida

        I like how we are traveling along with the Harper's. You put us in that old truck climbing those mountains with them. The scenery is beautiful.

        I also want to say how I hope many readers buy your novellas or come here and find your stories, Bill. In the world we live in today, I think your stories emote what we all should be thinking about and going back to. I feel love when I read your stories. I feel hope, and I feel determination for a better way of life. It's all what we, today, need to be gravitating back to. Everyone needs thoughts of just what you write about with your loving stories. Love and Peace ~Missy

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        The journey you take me on here is amazing and adventurous!

      • phoenix2327 profile image

        Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

        2 years ago from United Kingdom

        What a delightful journey. I'm glad Peter Jr. and Emma are together and making a little family for themselves. Will there be wedding bells in their future? I do hope so.

      • Faith Reaper profile image

        Faith Reaper 

        2 years ago from southern USA

        Who wouldn't love this wonderful story of the Harpers and their adventurous life full of love. You added an extra bit of spice here under the blanket of stars!

        With a good loving woman by your side, you can get through anything in this life.

        I hope it's not a forest fire, for I can't even begin to imagine how they handled it back then, or if they did at all.

        I'm enjoying traveling along with the Harpers and looking forward to next week's adventure.

        Peace and blessings

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        Adding my thanks for taking me on the trip. The vastness of the USA is not lost on me. You're really good at making us see.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 years ago from Massachusetts

        Love following this story Bill. Nice touch with the forest fire. Very curious to see where you take this next. I definitely feel like I'm along for the ride with the Harpers.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        2 years ago from England

        I always get comfortable to read your stories Bill, feet up, cuppa, lol! you never disappoint, leaving us on our toes as always, nell

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Oh, Sis, it's my pleasure This is a short story spawned from and fueled by love. It's the easiest story to write so far, but it's so nice to have it appreciated for what it is.

        Thank you Paula!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 years ago from USA

        Well done. With all the forest fires in the news that was a sadly realistic add.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        2 years ago from The Beautiful South

        Leaving us with a mystery and wanting more, Bill. Well done!

      • clivewilliams profile image

        Clive Williams 

        2 years ago from Jamaica

        Nice little adventure there. I love me some rabbit stew.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Closeness, courage and determination, all under the star-lit sky.....even expression & "activities of "love"...you devil, you.

        A lot of imagery (scenery) and you made it all visible & vibrant, Bro. I'm enjoying this journey just as this wonderful "family" is, with the same hope in my heart. No regrets, just sweet anticipation. I'm part of this story....and BTW, Thank you.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you Eric, my friend of few words. LOL Have a great Wednesday, buddy!

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you MizB! I don't mind honest, well-intended critics at all. How else will I learn? I hope you enjoy it and I hope Mr. B is doing better. As for the Harpers, Wenatchee is right around the bend in the road.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Fantastic.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        The Harpers are good folks, Bill, and I'll tell them you said so. :) Thank you my friend.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you so much, Ruby! I'm sure the story will continue for awhile. I'm so happy you are enjoying it, my friend.

      • MizBejabbers profile image

        Doris James-MizBejabbers 

        2 years ago

        One rabbit, a feast for five people? Come on, Bill, he could have shot at least two, unless it was a jackrabbit. I wonder if my uncles and their families had this type of adventure on their way to Wenatchee to pick apples. I can't wait for them to arrive so I can see what Wenatchee is like.

        BTW, I just now found time to begin reading your Billy the Kid novella (been sittin' in the doctor's office a lot waiting on Mr. B). I like it so far. You know I'm going to be your harshest critic because what I do is out of love for you and your writing, my friend. It is very well-edited. Ebooks usually are not.

      • Homeplace Series profile image

        William Leverne Smith 

        2 years ago from Hollister, MO

        The Harpers are good folks. I am so pleased that we get the share their adventure, and be a part of it. Thank you, so much! Looking forward to each chapter!! ;-)

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        2 years ago from Southern Illinois

        I rode along with the Harper family, through the hills and mountains. Your writing is so vivid I could almost taste the rabbit. I took a walk while you made love, then settled down for a rest under the stars. This is a wonderful/beautiful story that I hope will continue...

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Pop, we have a ways to go with the Harpers....need to get them settled in their new home, find jobs, work towards a new farm....I think I can guarantee they will be with us for awhile.....and thank you so much.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you so much, Harishprasad...I will try to always entertain you, my friend.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Thank you, Mike, and I'll be by soon to see your latest.

      • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Janine, thank you so much and Happy Hump Day! I had one store to do but now I'm right where I belong...typing out words.

      • breakfastpop profile image

        breakfastpop 

        2 years ago

        I hope the Harper's keep wanting to tell their story. I have said it before, and I will say it again...I love the way you write.

      • Harishprasad profile image

        Harish Mamgain 

        2 years ago from New Delhi , India

        A captivating tale of man's enterprise in search of green pastures ! Bill, how I missed such a nice stuff before ! You write so well. Looking forward to read more of it.

      • Mr Archer profile image

        Mr Archer 

        2 years ago from Missouri

        It is so easy to get lost in your words Bill. Having been to Montana once and dreamed about it ever since I can see the wonder and beauty through their eyes quite easily. I look forward to their next adventure! Have a good day Sir.

      • Janine Huldie profile image

        Janine Huldie 

        2 years ago from New York, New York

        I truly felt like I am along for the ride with them now and glad you are keeping this story going for a future book. Sounds like a great plan to me and now wishing you a very, Happy Wednesday Bill!! :)

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