When the Corn Died: Chapter Sixteen

We Pick up Our Story

The Harpers have arrived in Wenatchee, Washington, hoping for a new start with better fortune. Their timing was exquisite as Peter Harper and his son immediately found work at the B & B Produce Company, and the women, Evelyn and Emma, have found a fallen angel to help at Appleby’s General Store.

Let’s peek in and see what’s happening.


Two Weeks Later

It’s a busy time of year in Wenatchee, that’s for damn sure. Peter Junior and me have been working sun-up to sun-down ever since we hit town, boxing apples, preparing them for shipment, loading them on rail cars and trucks, dust in the air, hotter than Hades, sweat pouring off us, all for twenty-five cents an hour thanks to President Roosevelt setting a minimum wage. Otis Armstrong, our foreman, grumbles about the high wages which is pretty funny since it don’t come from his pocket and these apples are flying out of here, meaning someone is buying them and profits are being made up top the ladder.

We’re damned grateful to be working. Still, I can’t help but wonder what happens when the last apple has been shipped and business dies down for the winter. Will we be kept on? Sure could use a job this winter; expenses of living don’t stop just because the corn died and the apples no longer grow on the branches.

Evelyn just says to stop my worrying, things will work out, have faith in the Lord and in our family, and I know her words to be true but still, a man has to worry some over his family or what else is there?

It was lunchtime one day in late September. Peter Junior and I had taken our lunches down to the river bank, as we normally do, and we were sitting under a giant oak when Otis Armstrong came walking up.

“Excuse me for interrupting your break, gentlemen. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of the future here at B & B’s. When winter comes we cut our workforce in half. Don’t have much choice, really. No produce to ship for eight months, and during the winter we really just repair equipment and make sure we’re ready for the next season, so don’t need as many men.”

I wasn’t likin’ the direction of this conversation but managed to keep my mouth shut and let Armstrong deliver the news.

“That being said, a man would be a damned fool to let go two hard workers like you two, so I’m here to let you know you’ve got jobs over the winter. If you want them, that is.”

I looked at my son and he was smiling back at me. He nodded then I turned back to Otis.

“We’re mighty appreciative, Otis, and we accept. Thank you kindly!”

I could hardly wait to get home, even though that meant Evelyn telling me she told me so with that devil smile on her face.


Meanwhile, at Appleby’s

The last two weeks had been a time of mercy for Evelyn and Emma. Without a plan being made or a hand being shook, it just became common for the two women to show up at Appleby’s about opening time and help out at the store. Evelyn would usually help Victor (Mr. Appleby) get the store ready for customers and Emma would go to the back room to take care of Mrs. Appleby (Rose). Little Timothy would help out where needed and he was a particular blessing with Mrs. Appleby, she with no children of her own and finding great comfort in that little boy with the blessed smile.

Rose had a weak heart, for lack of a better description, and she was weak most the time, her breath short, her color poor, but she was a loving woman who adored her husband and she was weighed down with guilt over the worry her health was causing her good man.

And yes, he was worried, so much so that he decided, after discussing matters with his wife, to approach Evelyn with a proposition one late-September morning. He found her sorting through sundries with the help of little Timothy.

“Evelyn, might I have a word with you?”

She wiped her hands on her apron and stood.

“Of course, Victor. What can I do for you?”

“It’s what you’ve done for us, Evelyn, you and Emma and this wonderful boy. I was talking to my Rose last night and we feel we are the luckiest people on earth. In two week’s time your family has entered our lives and helped us so much, and we want to repay that kindness if you’ll allow us to do so.”

“My goodness, Victor, kindness is not done with expectations of repayment. You know that as well as I do. We’re just happy to help you kind folks.”

“Be that as it may, Evelyn, but Rose and me still want to extend a hand of help to you. We have some acreage outside of town, out on Haymaker’s Road. At one time, when we first moved here from Pennsylvania, back in ’18, we had visions of owning us a farm and growing apples, but then this opportunity came up and we bought this store and the farm, well, it just sits there unattended. We were wondering if your family would like to live on that farm. It’s only got a two-room cabin on it, but it’s just short of seventy-five acres up on the bluff, good soil, the kind of soil if treated right will produce for a man. And it’s got a barn and a stream on it and, well, Rose and me would be honored if your family lived there and worked it in your spare time. One stipulation, though: I could still use some help here at the store.”

There wasn’t much needed to be said to all that. Evelyn’s tears said it all.

Looking west from Wenatchee
Looking west from Wenatchee | Source

At the End of the Day

Peter Junior and I were just wrapping up the day at the warehouse. The sun was fading fast, cutting into the heat, allowing a man to breathe, when Evelyn, Emma and Timothy appeared outside the warehouse in our old pickup truck. I kissed my wife and felt her love and strength flow through me.

“You and Junior hop in the back, husband. We have a surprise to show you.”

Twenty years of marriage to Evelyn taught me to not ask questions when her jaw was set and she had that devilish look in her eyes, so we did as instructed and held on as Evelyn drove us north out of town along a road named Haymaker’s. We’d been driving for about fifteen minutes when she turned off on a driveway that led under a canopy of elm trees and finally came to an end at a weathered cabin.

There was a barn a hundred yards out back and what looked to be several hundred apple trees in various stages if neglect, their branches weighted down with unpicked fruit. Evelyn shut down the engine and got out of the cab. We all did the same and stood looking at the cabin.

“What’s this, Evelyn?” I asked.

The smile returned. With glistening eyes she looked at me.

“This is home, husband, and all around us is love.”

See You Next Week

Judging from your comments you are enjoying this family, the Harpers, and you are enjoying them for the same reasons I have enjoyed my family over the years. They are good people, simple people, people who believe in the power of love and the importance of kindness and respect.

So, for them, I thank you, and I’ll see you next week with another installment of the Harper story.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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Comments 62 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 months ago from New York, New York

Aw, love that this is home and that love is indeed all around. And you are right truly just enjoying the Harper's story here. Happy Friday now Bill and have a wonderful weekend ahead, as well!! :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Happy Friday, Janine. I just knew you would enjoy a story about family values and love. Have a great the nineties here.

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 months ago from Rural Arizona

What a great story Bill with a real feel-good theme.

What this story tells me is that even though this was a long time ago, there is still opportunity for those who are willing to work for it. But many have never learned the rewards that can come from hard work. They refer to their neighbor who has been successful in life as "lucky".

I recall a story about a professional golfer who made a magnificent hole-in-one shot. A fan commented to him that he "sure was lucky". The golfer replied, "I find that the more I practice the luckier I get".

The family in your story are obviously not afraid to work hard and are more than willing to help most anyone.

You sir, would make a great life-coach for those who just can't seem to get started with their own lives.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I needed a jolt of love this morning. Not that I am not surrounded with it in my home and friends. But sometimes I just don't feel the juice. Well Dr. Bill this was just the medicine I needed. It touched my heart and now the juices are flowing. Your stories are a gift. Thanks.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Mike, my head will swell if you keep talking like that. LOL Thank you so much. I happen to believe in those things you just mentioned. I must since I've been working now for over fifty years and have no plans on retiring. I guess the lessons of the father stuck with his son.

Thanks my friend!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Eric, you are too kind, but thank you very much. Now get out there and spread the love, Mister!!!!

Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 4 months ago from Missouri

Bill, is this your real family history? Someone you know? It sure feels real to me, and reads like a charm. Just an absolutely wonderful story here. I love it!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Mike! It's based, in part, on my family, and in part on stories I've heard from other families.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

An inspiring tale.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so much, Larry! Have a great weekend!

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 months ago from Southern Illinois

I loved this! Good people deserve a helping hand. It seems that everything is coming up roses for the Harper family. Your story telling is so natural. Thank you for sharing. See you next time..

MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 4 months ago

This is a really great story of a loving family, Bill. I hate to say it, but those days are over for most people unless we have some kind of revival of spirit. (I’m not talkin’ religion here, you know what I mean.) There are so many people who would be rich if they worked half as hard at working as they do to get out of work. Have a good weekend, my friend, and think up something else good for the Harpers to get into. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 4 months ago from Hollister, MO

Tears of joy, for sure, Bill. Thanks! ;-)

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 months ago from Massachusetts

Really a great story Bill. I love it when hard work and perseverance pay off. I do suspect that the Harper's have some difficult times ahead of them but ultimately I think they will prevail and prosper. Have a great weekend.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 months ago

I always feel better after I visit with the Harpers. Thanks, billy.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 months ago from southern USA

Bill, I love this series of hope and the Harpers' life of love and hard work. This series certainly provides a great moral to life, which needs a jumpstart in today's world.

Blessings all around here kind of story! One can never go wrong when we place our faith in the good Lord, coupled with taking proactive steps in helping ourselves in not being afraid of hard work and lending a helping hand of love to those who are hurting around us. The best way to live in my book.

So glad the series will continue.

Peace and blessings always

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 4 months ago from london

Cool, soothing and loving too. A matter of every day living. Well done, Bill.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Ruby! It just goes to show that there is still a place in the literary world for stories about love.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

MizB, I hate to agree, but those days are over for most people, and that saddens me. We are all just too busy chasing our tails.....maybe one of these days I'll retire and stop the chase.

Thank you my friend and Happy Sunday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Bill, I so appreciate you being here. Thank you sir!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Bill, you and the other Bill have an uncanny ability to comment at the same time. How do you two do that? LOL

Thanks my friend and Happy Sunday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well, Pop, they appreciate it, as do I! Thank you so much.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Faith, this was meant to be a feel-good story about love and determination and family, and I'm so glad so many of you are enjoying it. Thank you dear friend, and blessings on this hot Sunday.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Manatita, if we look close enough, we see families like the Harpers all around us. We just have to open our eyes and get rid of the jaded view of life....and I know you know this very well.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 months ago from Dubai

The Harper's are blessed with a place to live. Love the way the story is going and the sun shines once again in the Harper's family. Looking forward to reading more.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

`A time when work-ethic and kindness was recognized, appreciated and rewarded~~two good families meet. Two families lives are changed for the better. Out of goodness comes goodness. What a wonderful thing.

The new life for the Harpers has a welcome boost for their fresh start. I'm anticipating so much for all of them. Their strength and love through their series of misfortunes brought them out of the darkness into brightness.

The struggles and sadness behind them now, we get to move forward with this amazing family while they show us just how it's done. This story is a world of life's lessons, your readers will take with them and treasure forever. We're ready now for how the Harpers do what they do best. Survive against the unavoidable obstacles and pitfalls of life, without missing a beat, by holding on to one another, their love & determination.

These lessons are sorely needed by every one of us.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 months ago from The Beautiful South

I just love it Bill and it is things daydreams are made of that really do sometimes come true!

I can't wait to start farming...well this has kind of been a lifelong daydream of mine!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

I like the way the story is going, Bill. It's great that the Harpers have found happiness, at least at the moment. They deserve it.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 months ago from The Caribbean

I love the positivity despite ideal circumstances. That last line is one that many people wish they could say or hear.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Vellur, thank you! I am so happy that people are enjoying this story. See you next week? I hope so!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Hey Sis, how ya doing? Hotter than hell here and I'm about fed up with it. LOL

Thank you so much! This family is close to me, and I love the reaction to them. I don't know if this country is capable of reversing trends and going back to simpler times and a set of principles, but in this story it is not only possible but the norm...and I think we all need to at least read about that type of life.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Me too, Jackie, although I'm so busy on this small urban farm, I wonder how I could handle actual acreage. LOL

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Alicia! I think their lives will be good from here on....they deserve it!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Very true, Dora, and I'm so glad you are enjoying this story. Thank you!

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 months ago from United Kingdom

It's so nice to read a gentle story of love and courage. A welcome break from the high-action, high-drama, low-standard dross that seems so popular these days.

It must do you the world of good to know that there is still a place for stories like these.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Zulma, I had my doubts, but I was watching a rerun of an old Waltons show, and I thought you know, if people are still watching this show after all these years, then why not a feel-good short story with that same vibe to it?

Why not indeed!

Thanks my friend.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 months ago from Texas

And kindness prevails yet again. Now I'll wait patiently for the next chapter.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Shannon, thank week for that I need to go see what you've been up to lately.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 months ago from Texas

Unfortunately I haven't been up to much here lately. I prefer creative writing, but I've mostly been focusing on boring web content articles outside of HP. Gotta make a little extra. Dang bills. They just won't stop. Which reminds me, your last mail bag hub had a question about where to sell articles. . .I've found Constant-Content to be the best place thus far. Textbroker pays only pennies. Here, I set my own prices, but they keep 35%.

Anyway, don't keep us waiting too long or we will worry about the fate of the Harper's. ;)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks for the tip about constant content. I'll pass it along to the guy who asked about you, too busy doing things that pay bills but don't move me too much. The Harpers assure me they will return next week.

DDE profile image

DDE 4 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Your story gets better and better each time.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 months ago from Riga, Latvia

Loved the ending. Home is where the heart is.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

That is music to my ears, DDE...thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It is for sure, Rasma! It is for sure!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 months ago

Twenty years of marriage ... now that is a fact that holds water. Love the relationship between the Harpers.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Dee, the Harpers are the kind of people I wish I had for neighbors. LOL Thanks so much!

Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

"...and profits are being made up top the ladder." What a clever metaphor (like Appleby's Store). When reading I wondered if October harvests of apples for cider might tide them over for a bit when Otis showed up on the riverbank and saved the day. And Victor's offer of working their farm was the deserving kismet of love, hope and kindness for our beloved Harper's. I am so enjoying this beautifully written series, and look forward to the next chapter.

Congratulations on having a number of your stories published in LetterPile! Kudos. :-)

Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 4 months ago from Florida

Yes, you are so right. I do enjoy this story. It's peaceful to me, and like today when I had such a hard time making it through the stressful day, your story relaxes me back to a more simple time, a time of unconditional love without possession, to when love had no stipulations, it was just felt and appreciated. Thanks Bill.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Genna, thank you so much. As for LetterPile, I had no idea. Is that a good thing? LOL I'll have to check it out.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Missy, that is very sweet of you. Thank you so very much. Now I must go read your latest.

Deb Hirt 4 months ago

Sounds like a mailbox is up and coming.

vkwok profile image

vkwok 4 months ago from Hawaii

I'm glad I decided to finally catch up on the hubs I missed. This is a wonderful chapter, Bill!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It does for sure, Deb. Thanks as always!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I'm glad you did too, Vkwok...thank you so much.

Lawrence Hebb 4 months ago


I don't know about Evelyn having a tear in her eye on hearing about the farm but I had a lump in my throat!

There are some characters you just want good things to happen to and the Harpers are those kind.

That reminds me, I've got a big juicy green Granny Smith apple in my bag. Maybe I'll enjoy that now!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Lawrence, thank you for the kind words. You are right, it's hard not to cheer for the Harpers. Enjoy that apple, my friend.

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

What a feel good installment, dear Bill. Even though I'm running late, you and the Harpers always make me feel welcome.

Decency and hope is a winning combination in this series. Love, Maria

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Maria, you are never late when visiting the Harpers. They will always leave the light on for ya! LOL



bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 months ago from Central Florida

Kindness begets kindness and love fills the gaps. I was so excited when Mr. Appleby offered the cabin and land to the Harpers. Life just couldn't be more perfect. And to think - not too long ago, Peter Harper was looking at no viable means of supporting his family, thanks to the swarm of grasshoppers that destroyed his crops.

There is indeed a silver lining in every dark cloud.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

There is for sure, Sha, and I'll probably end this series on that note. I see no reason to continue. They have found happiness and they deserve it.

Michael Milec 6 weeks ago

Kindness is rewarded by kindness in honest hard work where humans continue to to be ordinary people, and you my friend have picked up a real life story as my memory reminds me of a similar happening in my lengthy journey on this good old planet earth. You made me feel at home with Harpers, at certain point suggesting an idea they might have been a Slovak descendants. ( ha ha). A very pleasurable read.

Be blessed and prosperous. Good night.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Michael my friend, thank you! A good writer will tell a story that others can relate to. That is my goal, for my characters to be very recognizable to my readers, so thank you.

blessings always

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