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.
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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.”
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.
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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)