Summary of Chapter Nine
At the trial Carl Heine's mother, Etta, takes the stand. She came from Bavaria and moved to San Piedro when her husband inherited the family strawberry farm. They had four children, with Carl, Jr. the second, so when Carl, Sr., died of heart failure during World War II and Carl, Jr., was at war, she sold the farm to Ole Jurgensen and moved to town. She knew the Miyamotos for years since they picked strawberries on the farm for twenty years and were hard workers.
There is a flashback to her memory of the father, Zenhichi Miyamoto, who made a deal with her husband, Carl, Sr., to buy seven acres of their land for his family. She was against it, but Carl, Sr., is a generous man. He wanted to help the Miyamotos, letting them buy the land over ten years. At that time, Japanese could not own land themselves, so Carl kept the title in his name and called it a lease. The judge points out it was illegal for Carl to do this for the Japanese. They were also denied citizenship, but the elder Miyamoto was buying the land for his son, Kabuo, who was born in the country and therefore a citizen. When the payments were finished, Kabuo would be of age and inherit the land. The Miyamotos missed the last two payments, however, because World War II broke out, and they were taken to an internment camp. Zenhichi tried desperately to make a deal with the Heines, promising to make the last payments, but it never happened, then Carl, Sr., died, and Etta sold the land. She gave all the money the Miyamotos paid back to them. This story is introduced to establish a revenge motive for the murder.
Commentary on Chapter Nine
Etta's memory flashback tells the truth about the honorable Miyamoto family, but these details do not come out at the trial. She is therefore a hypocrite. Etta has prejudice against the Japanese, but Carl, Sr., a liberal and good-hearted man, admires the Miyamotos as a hard-working and clean-living family. He feels they deserve a break, despite the law, and helps them over his wife's objections, selling seven acres and letting them pay for ten years. He is sympathetic when they have to go to the internment camp and tries to tell them it will turn out all right because they can pay later, but he dies, and Etta does not honor the agreement. This is heart-breaking because Zenhichi has been poor all his life and worked so that his son would have a better chance than he did. The war destroyed the family's chances for their own farm.
Etta is actually as close to a villain as the story allows, for she goes out of her way to block the Miyamotos and is the first to believe in and to prosecute the murder case. One of Etta's memories that she does not tell is that her son Carl, Jr., is a friend of Kabuo's, his high school buddy, who loans him his fishing rod. When he hears about the Japanese being taken away, the young Carl rushes over to the Miyamoto house to see Kabuo. Both father and son, Carl, Sr., and Carl, Jr., are sympathetic to the Japanese, while Etta sees them as the enemy.
Summary of Chapter Ten
Etta continues her testimony that after the war, Kabuo Miyamoto came to see her about the land. The elder Carl had passed away, and the younger Carl was not back from the war. Kabuo had talked to Ole Jurgensen who now owns their family plot, but Etta did not tell Ole about the agreement with the Miyamotos. Etta sent Kabuo away and claims that ever since he has been giving her dirty looks. She lies on the stand claiming that Carl Jr. was no friend of Kabuo's. Etta claims that they have a family feud with the Miyamotos. On cross-examination, Nels Gudmundson gets Etta to admit by not selling to the Miyamotos, she made more money selling to Ole Jurgensen.
Ole Jurgensen testifies that Kabuo came to him in 1945 claiming that Etta Heine stole his land. He says that Kabuo said one day he would get his land back. After Ole had a stroke this year (1954) he put the land up for sale on September 7. The same day Carl Heine, Jr., came and made an offer to buy and put down earnest money. Later the same day Kabuo Miyamoto came to make an offer on the land, but Ole had already promised it to Carl Heine.
Commentary on Chapter Ten
It really seems as if fate is against Kabuo, since once more, he misses a chance for the land because of the Heines. In this case, Carl, Jr., beats him to it, and thus, seems to be a motive for hostility between the two. It is important to note, however, that it is Carl's wife and mother who claim they are enemies. Later, it transpires they are not.