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When the Corn Died: Chapter Fifteen

Updated on May 26, 2016

The Harpers Have Arrived

My fictional family is now in Wenatchee, Washington, in the year 1933. They lost their farm back in Iowa and now want to make a new life growing apples.

But there is a long road to travel before that becomes a reality.

Shall we join them?

Thanks to you all for keeping this story alive through your comments.

Wenatchee, Washington
Wenatchee, Washington

New Town, New Problems

We camped that night on a hill overlooking our new home town. The sun’s final rays sparkled upon the Columbia River, cloaking it in a golden robe and warming our hearts. As a group we smiled when we saw it. Surely it must be a sign that this is where we should be.

Despite the comforting final vision of daylight, and despite the relief that we had finally made it to Wenatchee, my mind would not rest as we lay under the stars. We needed to find work in a land stripped of all hope. We were farmers, experts in a dying way of life. We were one family against powerful economic forces, those forces unseen and yet omnipresent.

I listened as my family, Evelyn, Peter Junior, and our adopted family, Emma and Timothy, breathed gently and rhythmically, exhausted from the travel and worry, finding comfort for a few hours, but that comfort would not come to me.

What would we ever do if we failed?

Surrounding farmland
Surrounding farmland | Source

A New Day

After breakfast the next morning we made our way to the town itself. The sun and temperature rose in unison as I parked the old truck and we took our first tentative steps on the dirt road of downtown Wenatchee. Somber, dust-caked people nodded in greeting as they passed us, people wearing the clothes of back-breaking work, their faces lacking expression, their eyes lacking the sparkle of hope. It reminded me so much of our former home, Charles City, and the choking atmosphere that surrounded it, the air heavy with a mantel of resignation.

Evelyn squeezed my hand.

“It’s going to be all right, Peter. Hold your head up and smile to them all. If they see a glimmer of hope in your eyes perhaps that will help them get through the day.”

I’m a lucky man!

We made our way to the banks of the mighty river where all the apple warehouses were located. I was encouraged by the activity there, a constant flow of humanity involved in commerce, ships and rail cars waiting anxiously, trucks coming, going, exhaust filling the air, loud sounds, whispering sounds, all speaking of a higher purpose and grander scheme of things we were not privy to.

Peter Junior and I left the rest of the family by the riverbank and entered one such warehouse. There must have been twenty, twenty-five men moving around inside and one man, a bulky man atop a spindly crate, shouting out orders to the rest, a clipboard in his hand. He was a busy man and he let us know it by ignoring us for a good minute. Finally he looked down and asked us what the hell we wanted.

I stuck out my hand.

“I’m Peter Harper and this here is my son, Peter Junior, and I guess we can start this conversation by saying we’d really like to be treated with respect when you speak to us.”

Fifteen seconds, thirty seconds went by, my hand extended, the man standing on the crate staring at it. Finally he shook his head, took off his hat and stepped down off the crate.

“I apologize, gentleman. Tough day already and only nine in the morning; people say they want to work and then they don’t show up, leaving me short-handed and deadlines to meet. But that’s not your concern now is it? My name is Otis Armstrong and I’m the foreman here at B &B Produce. What can I do for you?”

“Apology accepted, Mr. Armstrong, and it appears we can do something for each other,” I told him. “We are newly arrived from Charles City, Iowa, farmers we were up until a few weeks ago when the bank took our acreage, and so here we are, looking for work, my son and I, and willing to do anything you need us to do.”

His laugh was of foghorn quality, booming throughout the warehouse as he extended his hand once again.

“Well then, Harpers, from Charles City, Iowa, roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.”

And just like that we had our new beginning.

Sharing the Good News

While Peter Junior filled out some employment paperwork, I ran outside and told the family of the good news. Evelyn, of course, was beaming at the news. She kissed me hard on the lips and then did a little jig.

“What did I tell you, husband? Just what did I tell you? Well get in there, you big oaf, and get to work. Don’t you worry about the three of us; we’ll be fine. We’ll meet you back here later in the afternoon and we’ll decide then on our next step forward.”

Did I mention I’m a lucky man?

General Store
General Store

Meanwhile, the Women…..

Evelyn, Emma and little Timothy left the warehouse district and walked south along North Miller Street, then South Miller Street, taking their time and enjoying the first hours of their new adventure. Storefronts were much the same as back home, advertising all sorts of wonders at slashed prices, out-of-business signs, foreclosed signs, once shiny new paint jobs now flaking and chipped, faded like the old photographs of another era.

And yet despite the worn and torn appearances there was a feeling of movement forward in this city, a feeling like a smidgeon of hope could be found in every apple, and each day that passed was one day closer to a solution.

They finally came to a general store, Appleby’s by name, a sprawling one-story building with a welcoming porch, and they found a clerk behind a product-heavy counter, staring at them as they entered. He was a little man in vest, starched white shirt and well-worn trousers. He was losing the battle against baldness and his constitution kept him rail-thin. His smile took him some effort but he tried his best.

“Welcome to Appleby’s!” he said. “How can I help you this fine morning?”

“Mr. Appleby, I assume,” Evelyn said. “We are new to your fine town, from Charles City, Iowa, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions where a new family might find a safe place to spend some nights before they found suitable housing?”

“Well, you might try the park west of here. The city allows…..”

In the back of the store a bell rang.

“Excuse me, folks. That’s my wife. I’ll be right back.” And with that the rail-thin man who called himself Appleby left through a door to the back room.

Evelyn and Emma touched the fabrics and looked at jewelry behind a glass case while little Timothy busied himself watching parakeets in a large wire aviary. Finally Mr. Appleby returned wiping his eyes.

“I’m sorry for the interruption,” he said. “Now where were we? You had a question but I’m afraid I don’t remember it.”

Timothy walked over and put his small hand on the man’s arm.

“You look sad, Mr. Appleby. What’s the matter with you?”

And the store owner cried, at first a single tear, followed by a strangled whimper and then a full-fledged gulping for breath between sobs. The women waited it out, patting his arm, wiping his forehead with a damp cloth Emma had produced, and finally the sobs became sighs and the torrent of tears ended.

“I’m so sorry. That’s never happened before,” he said. “It’s my wife. She’s sick something terrible with a weakness of the heart. The doctor says there’s nothing we can do. She was always so lively, always singing, dancing, loving life, and slowly her breath was short and the long walks become shorter, the dancing stopped and now she’s in bed most of the day, in the back room, and damn it all to hell, she’s such a good, loving woman. I’m afraid it’s all just been too much, me running the store and trying to take care of her.”

Evelyn instinctively reached out and hugged the man.

“Mr. Appleby, why don’t you take yourself a break? Emma, would you go to the back room and see if you can help Mrs. Appleby? I’ll watch the store while you, Mr. Appleby, go for a much-needed walk outside. Go on now, get!”

“But I can’t pay you for this kindness,” he told her.

“Shush now. Enough of your silliness. People help people. That’s what we do, so please allow us to help you. Go on now. Take all the time you need. We have everything under control here.”

And That’s Where We’ll Stop Today

But never fear, we will return next week with another installment of the Harper story.

Thanks for stopping by and following this fine family. They wanted me to tell you that they appreciate you all greatly.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 12 months ago from New York, New York

      Happy to see The Harpers story continue now that they have made it to their destination and now just want to wish you a wonderful Thursday now, Bill!! :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      Really good, Bill. Seems like the Harper kindness knows no bounds.This one actually brought tears to my eyes. I know the Harpers will fare well, no matter what they do.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 12 months ago from Missouri

      I loved the moment Evelyn reached out to the perfect stranger; would that we all were that way. Keep it going Bill; this is so good!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I just love happy stories -- Hooray for getting jobs first day. Thanks

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine. I'm working on a ghostwriting job about real estate...boring as hell but it pays the bills. LOL Happy Thursday to you, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, to hell with realism. This is a feel good story and I want kindness that knows no bounds. :) I'm glad you felt so strongly about it. Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mike. I think I'm writing a story about how I wish life would be today.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Me too, Eric! I love me happy stories! Thank you sir!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 12 months ago from The Beautiful South

      I love the turn it is taking Bill! Great time to be alive, wasn't it? Hard work and all.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 12 months ago from Texas

      Wow Bill, this is another tug at the old heart strings. I hope that the Harper women can help Mrs. Appleby get well.

      If we were all like the Harpers can you just imagine how much love there would be in the world?

      Blessings, hugs and thank you for sharing the love from the Harpers.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, for the Harpers, any day they are breathing is a great time to be alive. :) Thanks as always, Jackie!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shyron, I can't even imagine what that would be like...so much love....whew! Hopefully, one day, we'll get to see that.

      blessings my friend, and a ton of thanks!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 12 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a beautiful story filled with love and kindness. People like the Harpers will make it anywhere they go. Again, you brought all the characters into view with your detailed descriptions, the foreman especially. See ya next time..

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 12 months ago from England

      I have missed a few to be honest, but I love catching up with the family, and am enjoying the read, carry on! LOL! love your stories Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you once again, Ruby! Quite frankly I wish the Harpers lived next door.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm very happy that you do, Nell. Thank you my friend and Happy Thursday to you!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 12 months ago from Florida

      There were many things I liked in this installment. First, I love the smiles you put on their faces at sunset. And I commend you with the way you brilliantly not only describe the scenes of the great depression, but you make us feel just how it must have been back then. I also loved how Peter Harper stood his ground about respect with a cordial attitude, and subsequently after a few minutes, the foreman Otis appreciated that about him, and gave him and Peter Jr. a job.

      Such hard times littered with hope on every spot of land they stand on. It's inspiring to read the simplicity accompanied with love this story of yours tells. The fact that strangers could mostly be trusted back in those days makes me want to be there. We lack this type of humanity in this day and time, and I really wish it would make a comeback.

      Again, I love your story of hope and family, Bill. Thank you for sharing with us. ~Missy

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 12 months ago

      Good decent people make my heart sing.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 12 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      When the corn died, the apples remind us that life goes on...and so do the Harpers - heartwarming installment this week, dear Bill.

      Happy Thursday. Love, Maria

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 12 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Loved this story, Bill! Keep them coming, so will I!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh Bill, you already know how I feel about this family--they are not just words written in black and white. They are living, breathing people. There is, once again, so much love in this story...and hope.

      It strikes me that the Harper family exudes something that is lacking in so many lives today--respect. Respect for everyone, even those who treat you badly. Look how Peter's words worked on the heart of Armstrong.

      And then there is Timothy. Once again the little one leads the way--so perceptive, I find myself wondering if he is an ancestor of the child named Hope?

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 12 months ago from southern USA

      It is so lovely how the Harpers had taken the initiative to become part of the community that very first day, and reach out to those who need a helping hand, even when they needed one themselves. That's how it is supposed to work in this life. That is exactly how God intended for us to do ...for if we see someone in need, i.e., a man in the cold, and we have plenty of blankets and coats to spare, then just tell the man, go and be blessed ... I will pray for you -No, that just doesn't cut it!

      Thank you, dear Bill, for another enjoyable read. I'm looking forward to next week and seeing how the Harpers' presence there will impact others for the better, and in turn, they will enjoy a blessed life.

      Peace and blessings

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm continuing to enjoy the story, Bill. I'm glad it hasn't ended with the arrival at Wenatchee.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Missy, I love your comments and insights, and I'm so happy this story has touched you. It's coming to an end soon, but I already started a new series I know you will love. Stay tuned, my friend, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Pop! They are hard to find but so worth it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria...great analogy on your part...that was actually my intent. Brilliant you are!

      love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I thank you.....a couple more installments and I'll be done with this story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, Linda, I wish I had thought of that. LOL No, he isn't, but he is a special one for sure. I'm so happy you enjoyed this story. The Harpers will be leaving us soon, but a new story is in the wings and I know you'll love it. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, it's like you were reading from my notes before I started this series. The Harpers are everything I wish I saw daily in today's world...they are my fantasy family and I want to clone them. LOL

      hugs and blessings

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      But soon it will, Alicia, so thank you so much.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 12 months ago from Texas

      Well, this is a heart-warning change from Billy the Kid's misadventures. LOL

      I am partial to these kinds of stories because I have seen people helping people in reality. Yet it still seems so rare. Good for her!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 12 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Bill. I was looking forward to this next chapter; I confess that I shared a little of the worry Peter Harper felt in not knowing what new challenges his family would face their new environment.

      Pete stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Peter Harper and this here is my son, Peter Junior, and I guess we can start this conversation by saying we’d really like to be treated with respect when you speak to us.”

      Otis seems like a good man who recognized another when he met him.

      Evelyn's warm kindness to Mr. Appleby brought tears. “Shush now. Enough of your silliness. People help people. That’s what we do, so please allow us to help you. Go on now. Take all the time you need..."

      I love this story, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, I figure this is about as far removed from Billy the Kid as I can get...which was my purpose. Thank you for stopping by this series.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 12 months ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed reading and looking forward to reading more chapters.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Another very enjoyable chapter Bill. Things are starting out well in the Harper's new home. Hopefully it's the beginning of a new life for the Harper's.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Genna, thank you so very much. These are good people and they deserve to have their goodness highlighted...as all good people do.

      blessings my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well thank you Vellur. I have a new chapter that needs to be told today, so I'll see you again on Wednesday when I post it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Hopefully it is, Bill! The Harpers thank you for your well-wishes, as do I.

    • profile image

      Larry Rankin 12 months ago

      Always interesting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have written and published many good chapters with each I look forward to more always so much to think of here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And Larry, I always appreciate you. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Another one coming on Friday, DDE. Thank you so much.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 12 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      It truly is a good feeling when you can share kindness and reach out with a helping hand.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It truly is, Rasma! I hope well see more of it.

    • profile image

      Deb Hirt 12 months ago

      I am so pleased to see the Harpers settling in nicely. Seems like this is a town made for them.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 12 months ago from Shelton

      I am enjoying how you pull every chapter or installment together.. bravo my friend :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, I think they are going to be very happy in Wenatchee, and if I think so, it will be. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate the kind words, Frank! thank you sir!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 12 months ago from United Kingdom

      It's good to see the family finding their feet. And that little boy is a treasure. There something almost supernatural about the way people open up to him.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Almost, Zulma, but not quite on the level of, say, Sheila or Hope....but nice observation, my friend.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 12 months ago from The Caribbean

      The Harpers exemplify the right attitude of newcomers to a city. You teach many character and family values and people skills in your stories. Valuable!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's what I'm trying to do, Dora. Thank you for your affirmation.

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 11 months ago

      I knew there was a reason I love apples so much!

      This was a heartwarming episode with the Harpers, no matter the roigh time they've had they're just looking for ways they can help others.

      Wonderful story Bill

      so uplifting

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Apples for everyone, Lawrence!!!! Thanks for the kind words.

    • profile image

      Michael Milec 11 months ago

      Fine family indeed my friend, fiction or not, reminding me back there in old-good-times of post ww2, when humans acted as the people, nothing short of the Harper's fine experience being reworded by kindnes for ther radiant approach to the life's need. A hartwarming article full of promises and unfailing hope still awaiting those willing and obedient where the God helps those who help themselves. It is my kind of outlook on our earthly journey into the promise land.

      Blessing and prosperity,

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, I had a hunch that you would enjoy this family. The Harpers, as you say, are a family from the past. We rarely see anyone like them today.....sigh.....but hopefully more will find the true path in the years to come.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 11 months ago from Central Florida

      Things are starting to fall into place. Timothy's an amazing little boy. He seems to look beyond people's exteriors and into their souls. This isn't the first time his direct approach has resulted in comfort and ease. I look forward to seeing what path his life takes.

      The Harpers appear to be in the right place at the right time.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Timothy is an amazing boy, Sha. I'll be sorry to end this story but I must. Time waits for no writer....or maybe it does. LOL I really don't know much.

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