Green Lake was actually a lake over one hundred years ago. Each year Miss Katherine Barlow would pick peaches from the trees that lined the shore, and preserve them in jars with spices. She always won prizes for her recipe at the annual Fourth of July town picnic.
Katherine taught school in a broken down schoolhouse. She was smart and beautiful. The town children loved her, and so did the young men. One man, Charles Walker, who had earned the nickname Trout because of his awful foot odor (he had the same foot fungus that would plague Clyde Livingston generations later), tried to court Miss Barlow. He was rich, but inconsiderate, arrogant and stupid, so Katherine turned him down, much to his chagrin.
Notes: Katherine Barlow is described as a sweet, lively schoolteacher. The reader wonders what must have happened to change her into an outlaw. Being told that she lived near Green Lake gives the reader more information than Stanley has. We have background on the stories of both Stanley’s great-great-grandfather the pig-stealer, and his great-grandfather who was robbed by Kate Barlow, possibly in the same area where Camp Green Lake now stands. The question arises, how does this information fit into Stanley’s story?
In the morning Stanley sees Mr. Sir whose face is badly swollen from the Warden’s scratches. When one boy asks Mr. Sir what happened, Mr. Sir grabs him by the throat smashing him into an oatmeal pot.
Out on the lake Stanley does not dare talk to the other boys about what happened to Mr. Sir. When Mr. Sir comes to fill the boys’ canteens he runs the water on to the dry ground rather than fill Stanley’s.
Notes: The tension is building between Stanley and Mr. Sir. Though nothing threatening is said, Stanley’s situation has worsened.
Sam the onion man rowed his homemade boat across the Green Lake of one hundred years ago with his donkey, Mary Lou. He sold onions that seem to have incredible medicinal powers, curing everything from asthma to baldness.
Sam was a Negro, so he was not allowed to attend Miss Katherine Barlow’s school, but she talked him into making repair after repair on the old schoolhouse so they could spend time together. She paid him with jars of spiced peaches. She read him poetry, some of which he already knew by heart. He told her of his onion fields across the lake where the water runs uphill.
One rainy evening when there was nothing left to repair, Sam kissed Katherine. They were seen by a woman from the town who said, “God will punish you!”
Soon the whole town knew that the schoolteacher had kissed the onion man. Trout Walker led an angry mob into the schoolhouse where they tore things apart and set fire to the books. Katherine escaped and ran to the sheriff. He was drunk and told Katherine that Sam would be hung for kissing a white woman, and that God would punish her. He offered Katherine a deal, “One sweet kiss, and I won’t hang your boyfriend. I’ll just run him out of town.”
Katherine jerked herself free and ran out to find Sam. She and Sam tried to escape in Sam’s rowboat, leaving Mary Lou behind. Trout Walker came after them in his motorboat, smashed into Sam’s boat, shot Sam, and brought Katherine back to the shore where she found Mary Lou shot in the head.
That is when it stopped raining forever at Green Lake. “You make the decision: Whom did God punish?”
A few days later Miss Katherine Barlow went back and shot the sheriff, then kissed him leaving a red lipstick print. She would be the fearsome Kissin’ Kate Barlow for the next twenty years.
Notes: Knowing the whole story, the reader does not find Kate Barlow so reprehensible. Though she has done wrong we sympathize with her, as we did with Stanley’s great-great-grandfather, because her acts were provoked by such cruelty.
Sam’s reference to water that runs uphill, reminiscent of Madame Zeroni’s mountain, introduces another question, another missing puzzle piece, into the reader’s mind.