ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

When the Corn Died: Chapter Eight

Updated on April 01, 2016

A Quick Summary

Peter Junior is still in Union, Iowa, recovering from his injuries, and he is being helped by Emma, the young woman who is living with the Harpers. Meanwhile, Evelyn heads home to Charles City to help her husband fight the “infestation” of grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers or locusts? That question has been raised…..pretty much the same bug, and they have been in the past, and will be in the future, destructive under the right conditions.

And now to our story!

The cathedral of the barn, a holy place on a farm.
The cathedral of the barn, a holy place on a farm. | Source

Darkness on the Horizon

I’ve got no words to describe what it feels like to watch your crops burn, the smoke smothering the sun, filling your lungs, choking your hopes and leaving you feeling like a damned failure. This farm has been in our family for as long as I can remember….hell, it goes back through this country’s history, back to the middle of the last century, Harpers pulling up stakes in Pennsylvania and riding the Conestoga out west for a new start, and grandpappy did what he could, as did my daddy, then left to me to carry on the tradition, and that tradition was smoke rising in the sky, blackening the family name, carving out a legacy of futility and, in the end, failure.

I had no clue what we were going to do, what with our future burning to the ground and the Depression still with a death grip on this part of the country. The President says we must not fear fear itself, but it’s hard to live those words when half your crop is soot and the future looks darker than a banker’s heart when the mortgage is due.

The fire was just about out. The breaks we had dug held it in check, ninety acres burned, one-ten still standing tall, green sentries guarding against the blackened Iowa sky. It wouldn’t be enough, no matter how damned good the crop was. It just wouldn’t be enough.

Young Timothy grabbed my hand once again and looked up at me with a smile. His face was streaked with black, tears and sweat mixed with dirt and smoke. That damned smile. The innocence of youth.

I smiled back and as I did I heard a car turn off the road.

Approaching the Holocaust

Evelyn had no doubt where the smoke was coming from. You live in a place long enough and you know every mound and crease on the landscape, like you know the back of your wrinkled hand. Passing the “Welcome to Charles City” sign, Evelyn knew that half a mile down Cooper, six blocks down Main through the downtown section, then a straight shot west on twelve would land you on the Harper farm, and that’s where she was looking now, as the crow flies, west to the Harper farm, her farm, the farm of her family, burning to the ground.

And she pictured her husband, Peter, standing nearby, watching family history float to the sky in the shape of embers, and young Timothy near him, probably not completely understanding the severity of it all, but understanding enough to be supportive.

She pressed down on the gas pedal, her emotions rushing forth as the miles fell behind, past the Pitkin farm, past the water tower, past the general store, the diner, her friends and neighbors, all a blur as her eyes watered over and she turned up the driveway and there was Peter, young Timothy next to him, both so dirty, both so sad, both forcing a smile as the crops continued to smolder behind them.

She rushed from the car, rushed to her husband, the bravest man she’d ever known, the kindest man, strong, always supportive, the best friend anyone could ask for, and her heart broke when she saw his resignation, and they both held each other and their tears mixed together and young Timothy clung to her leg.

At the Hospital in Union

The nurse came in and checked his vitals once again. She seemed pleased with the results, smiled, nodded and left them alone once again.

Eighteen years old, four years her junior, but there was a seriousness to him, a maturity, that made you think he was much older. At times he seemed grave, and just when you started thinking he would never smile again, his face broke out in a big one and it seemed the room got brighter. He came from good stock. Emma greatly respected his ma and pa, kind people, good people, reaching out to help her and Timothy when they desperately needed help.

She had seen him around town from time to time, a man-child, large, quiet, slow-moving but with a purpose, like an arrow aimed at an unseen target, always moving forward, one step closer to that target, and during those times, when they saw each other, he would smile at her, shyly, and quickly look away.

He opened his eyes, looked at her, and treated her with a smile.

“You didn’t have to stay, you know,” he said.

“You’ve said that before, Peter Harper Junior, and I’m ignoring it now like I did then. Nobody should be in a hospital alone and that’s just the way I believe, so I’m here with you until you’re well enough to go home and you best get used to it.”

He seemed to weigh her words for awhile, giving them the time they deserved. He then nodded and smiled again.

“Well, I appreciate it.” He looked away, weighed some more words, looked back at her. “I do believe I’ve got the prettiest visitor in this whole hospital.”

“You hush your foolishness now, Peter Junior, and get some sleep. The sooner you get well the sooner we can get back to the farm and help your folks.”

Was she blushing? God, please don’t let him see her blushing, please don’t let him notice the attraction she felt, the growing warmth spreading through her, the thoughts she was entertaining that maybe life can be all right again.

Humility at home
Humility at home | Source

Learn to write fiction

Back at the Farm

It takes a long time for the sun to set in July, in Iowa, the land flat, no hills for it to hide behind as it fell into the distant ocean out west. Nine o’clock came and went. Peter, Evelyn and young Timothy sat on the porch and looked out over the scorched past. They all three held hands.

Neighbors had come and gone, offered condolences, brought meals, tried to smile, but not a one said the words that would be a slap in the face, the false belief that everything would be all right, no, no one said those words, for friends do not lie to friends even during the worst of times.

Evelyn squeezed my hand and I swear an electrical current spread through me.

“Tough times just got tougher, husband,” she said to me, all the while smiling that smile. There was no bitterness in her words, just stating fact, making sure the truth was out there for all to see and recognize.

“Without a doubt, Evelyn. We’re knee-deep in it now.”

She squeezed my hand again.

“But we’ve got each other, Peter, and our son is alive and will be well, and we’ve got Emma and young Timothy here, and by God we’ll make it because we’ve got love to tie it all together and make it strong.”

Tell me how a man could be luckier than me at that moment. I leaned over and kissed her. I reached beyond her and ruffled Timothy’s hair.

“I think we should go to town for an ice cream,” I declared. “Who’s with me?”

Until Next Week

And I hope you all will join me and the Harpers next week, down on the farm, back in Iowa, back during the Great Depression, back to simpler times, or so some say, back when a country was tested, families were strained and lessons were learned by us all.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 12 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Ah, well. Hope that is the end of the locust! Read about those in the Little House books and they sound like a one track mind demon! But romance in the air!

      Great story, will continue to follow.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 12 months ago from New York, New York

      Definitely will be back as I am enjoying this family's tale so far and cannot wait to see how the next chapter unfolds, too. Happy Friday and have a great weekend now, Bill! :)

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 12 months ago

      I love this extended family. They are strong and filled with courage and enough love to get them through. I love the way you weave words together to form a perfect story.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 12 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Bittersweet.....You manage to cause me a broken heart and a hopeful heart all at once. A smile with tears, which is the best way to cry....there's a soft touch of relief in the sadness...

      I couldn't help but pay very close attention to what's "going on" in that Hospital, bill, besides Peter Jr recuperating from his injuries. It's apparent he's a chip off the old block when it comes to saying the perfect words to a female. What Emma and Peter look like to me, is a repeat of the beginning of the incredible love affair between Evelyn & Pete Sr.

      Funny how this happens in life.............Eager for NINE! Love, Sis

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 12 months ago from Dubai

      Life can definitely be alright again when love is in the air. Wonder what Peter and Evelyn are going to do next, waiting for the next.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 12 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This was soo good to read. All the love surrounding this family is wonderful. I see another romance on the horizon for Emma and Peter Jr. When you ruffled Timmy's hair, he was so adorable. Your writing is so good I actually caught a glimpse of him. Thank you for sharing this story with us...

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 12 months ago from The Caribbean

      So many positives to boost the spirit during the problems at the farm and in the hospital. No doubt, Emma was blushing; I smiled a broad smile. Wish I could also get in on the ice cream party!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 12 months ago

      It's sad, but I know that most people survived the depression. They'll survive somehow, even if they have to move to Wenatchee and pick apples like a couple of my dad's siblings and their families did. Somehow I see an expansion of Peter's family coming. I love it! Keep 'em coming, Bill.

    • Ericdierker profile image

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

      Why do we have to face hardship to get a grasp of what is the importance. You teach us well through your story. Of course I am all a tearfull. I never once looked at your writing. I was lost in the story. I reckon that is damned fine writing, but what the hell do I know.

      Thank you for the blessing of your story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jackie.....locust are brutal under the right conditions....literally a cloud of them going from crop to crop....but the locust won't stop the romance you sense in the air. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Friday Janine and thank you so much. It's so different for me to write a family tale. I'm so glad you are enjoying it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always love, Pop! It will not be ignored in most of my books and stories.....thank you for the kind words. I do enjoy writing stories and it is very heartening to have all of you enjoying them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Sis, I know what you mean. I heard someone once call it "sweet melancholy" and I understand that very well....hopeful heart for sure...there will always be hope in my stories, and eventually we'll have a happy ending to this....so stay strong. :)

      Happy weekend, Sis!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Vellur, you and I will find out what happens next just about at the same time. I'm waiting for them to whisper in my ear so I can continue the story.

      Thank you and Happy Friday!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is high praise, Ruby, and I thank you! I'm just trying to grow as a writer and make the pages come alive, so I appreciate your affirmations.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 12 months ago from SW England

      For some reason I've had no notifications by email for a week, hence my silence for a while. Been busy too but not to the extent where I wouldn't read hubs. I wonder if anyone else has had the same.

      Right, let's get back to this hub! These people draw in the readers, welcome them to their lives and they make us feel compassion and interest. You have the gift of being able to convey all that.

      Why is it that adversity brings people together even more than they are already? It happens again and again, doesn't it, with any disaster in the world?

      Hope you had a good Easter.

      Have a fabulous Friday, bill!

      Ann :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 12 months ago from USA

      I'm jumping in mid-stream but will go back and read from the start. Been sidelined a bit as of late but catching up, my friend. Nice job writing. Your passion shows!

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 12 months ago from Hollister, MO

      ...go to town for an ice cream... right out of my Mom's diary... from back in those days. Your stories share the truth, for sure! Thanks! ;-)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Another wonderful chapter Bill. Despite the hardships I see some bright spots here. Looks like Peter Junior will be okay and a romance is brewing with Emma. Not sure how things on the farm will turn out but I suspect they will find a way to survive.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 12 months ago from southern USA

      When it comes right down to it, all that matters is the love of a close family, and the Harpers certainly have that going for them, so there is hope. It is during those hard times when you realize what's most important. I know they will not give up hope for a brighter tomorrow.

      Love the new love going on there at the hospital.

      I'm looking forward to where all of this will take this precious family.

      Peace and blessings always

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, a few days ago you commented that you are a feminist, and that is shining through in this story. Although all four of the central figures are strong and filled with love and respect for one another, it seems to me that Evelyn and Emma are the real backbone. When Peter Sr. is beginning to sag, Evelyn bolsters his spirit. (But then, that's what loving couples do for one another, right?) And I see a WHOLE lot of Evelyn in young Emma. I don't want this story to end.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 12 months ago from london

      Another nice installment. Charming, loving and gentle as usual. Good work.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, I'll tell Evelyn and Peter to invite you next time they go for ice cream. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh MizB, you just gave me an idea....you don't know it but you helped me immensely. I talked to my characters and they say they've always wanted to move out west. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      High praise, Eric, and I thank you....lost in the story...you said the perfect thing to me right there, my friend.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 12 months ago

      Bill, this is the sad one,

      But hope and love are still alive

      And as long as we have Hope and Love

      Most folks can survive.

      *

      Blessings and hugs

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 12 months ago

      You my friend are showing us how rich humans are even while all the earthly possession coming to naught. The Harpers along with Emma and young Timothy (perhaps most of the great depression survivors) testified to inner indestructible power of love. Love everywhere , love surpassing any words, love wholly in actions and deeds. Love, life's endless elixir ...

      Peace and blessings.

      PS, Perhaps you won't feel jealous of our new three inches of snow?!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I'm slow getting back to you. Life and all that. :) Thank you so much. That happens with HP from time to time, the notifications just seems to stop and then randomly begin again. I just figured you were busy living.

      Thank you for the kind words. I don't feel a book from these stories but I have enjoyed writing them.

      Happy Sunday my friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! What I lack in talent I hope to make up for in passion. ;) You are very kind.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I think ice cream was the great elixir back then...still is as far as I'm concerned. :) Thanks, buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, they will for sure survive, Bill! Where love is planted, happiness will grow. :) Thank you as always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Faith! This has been a fun collection of stories to write and I'm so glad others have enjoyed them.

      I hope you enjoyed your weekend. I'm heading out to do some work with the critters.

      hugs,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I do believe strongly in feminism, so I'm happy to hear that it shows in this story. Some of the strongest people I've known were women...certainly, other than my father, the most influential in my life were women...so they will always be strong in my stories. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Manatita, and Happy Sunday to you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do believe that, Shyron. Hope and love kept me alive, so I'll keep shouting them from the rooftops. :)

      blessings always, my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, I will let you keep that snow gladly. :) Thank you my friend. I believe in the power of love, as you know and as you do...so I'll keep shouting "love" in my stories and hopefully others will understand its importance.

      blessings, MIchael, and Happy Sunday to you.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 11 months ago from Florida

      A very heartwarming continuance with a bit of despair. Beautiful imagery through this story you tell Bill. I can see every character so clearly as if I'm watching a movie screen. I like this story, because for all the sad and hard times that come knocking at the Harpers door, they fight back with love and intention to rebuild and make it better.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Just like many of us do, Missy! Perhaps that is why so many enjoy this story. I'm glad you are one of them. Thank you!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 11 months ago from United Kingdom

      I love how you give us just enough tragedy to move us to tears and then lighten the mood with romance so the tears don't come spilling out. You are getting very, very good at your craft.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That means a lot to me, Zulma. Thank you my fellow writer.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 11 months ago from Cape Cod

      5 stars of 5 - this work is like a deep rooted tree pushing upwards with branches extending in all directions. Each limb leads to an exciting new adventure. You remind me of Carleton Morse who wrote, among other things, the great radio drama, "One Man's Family". It ran on the network from about 1930 until the end of dramatic radio around 1960. He also wrote "I Love a Mystery" which counted a young Tony Randall amongst its stars. The ability to take a theme and run with it for an entire series is a mystery to me. It takes a special talent.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 11 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a sad chapter in the story, but I like the element of hope that it contains. As usual, I'm looking forward to the next chapter of this interesting and enjoyable tale.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, your words are so kind. Thank you! To tell the truth, I mostly "wing it" when writing a story, or if you prefer, I set the scene and let the characters do the heavy lifting.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's music to my ears, Alicia, when a reader says they are looking forward to the next chapter. Thank you very much.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 11 months ago from Shelton

      I think I'm caught up.. I have to simply say your Corn ... so relevant, moving and eye opening.. you really play into the minds of your characters.. awesome continue the saga..:)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      High praise, Frank, and I am honored. Thank you so much. You just affirmed what I try to do...make my characters real.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 11 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Awesome, the story is awesome because it's so much like the way it must have been.

      Loving the story

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, I do try for authenticity, but since I'm not that old it's hard at times.

      Enjoy your weekend, Lawrence, and thank you!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 11 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Making do with what you have is what makes life the way it is. That's just what you do.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, I would hope that's what everyone does....never give up...find a way!

      Thank you for that insight and truth, my friend.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 11 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Tough times, indeed. But, it is good reading how the Harpers find some form of joy in any little thing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Marlene! I want this to be about hope and love, my two favorite topics.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 11 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      The simple, yet powerful, act of holding hands...I do carry much hope in my heart for the Harpers. Love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Powerful act for sure, Maria. The healing power of human touch. You know all about that, my friend.

      love,

      bill

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 11 months ago from Texas

      I've seen a grasshopper infestation just once and I've got to say, I hope I never do again. One or two is not so bad, but hundreds of big ass Texas sized grasshoppers all over everything, including the windows, is quite creepy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is creepy, Shanmarie....hard to describe to those who haven't seen it, like some horror movie but it's real. Thanks for sharing that.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 11 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      As always, your imagery is powerful; with the battle with the locusts, it is as searing as the burning corn. I am thinking that Emma and Pete Jr. will find love, but I'm an incurable romantic. “But we’ve got each other, Peter, and our son is alive and will be well, and we’ve got Emma and young Timothy here, and by God we’ll make it because we’ve got love to tie it all together and make it strong.” What remarkable courage and faith! I love this family, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love them too, Genna, and we all thank you for your very kind words.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 10 months ago from Central Florida

      "We've got love to tie it all together and make it strong." What a statement! That really struck a chord with me, Bill. The Harpers are a strong bunch. So are Emma and Timothy. Peter Harper Junior has a good woman by his side. I see them spending a good life together with kids of their own, grown and gone, as they sit on the porch in their old age, rocking to the sounds of crickets and hoot-owls. Life will be good. I just know it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I love these people and with good reason: they believe in love!!!!!!

      Thank you for loving the message! See you next week as they arrive in Washington.

    Click to Rate This Article