Hazel Creek

Hazel Creek

by Walt Larimore


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Hazel Creek by Walt Larimore

In a new novel from award-winning author Walt Larimore, a loving rural family struggles to survive tragedy and cope with the invasion of modern ways in the 1920s.

In the Great Smoky Mountains wilderness in 1925, Nathan and Callie Randolph, with their five unique daughters, struggle to maintain their farm, forests, family, and faith against a menacing business and an evil company manager trying to pilfer their land and clear cut their forest.

As loggers invade the mountains, death touches the family, and hardship and loss confront them again and again; fifteen-year-old Abbie Randolph becomes mother to her sisters and leans on her faith to guide her through the emotional wilderness of changing times. With the march of the industrial age, the roaring twenties, Prohibition, the increasing momentum for national parks, and the onslaught of a modern world, the traditional life and ways of the mountaineers were about to change forever.

Featuring a cast of colorful characters, including independent and earnest mountain families, a murderous lumber company manager, Cherokee Indians, a band of gypsies, desperados, lumbermen, moonshiners, a world-famous writer, and Civil War heroes, Hazel Creek reveals a gripping struggle of good and evil during an eruption of violence.

A beloved family physician, Walt Larimore is the perfect author for this novel of love, loss, and injury that illuminates the enduring power of faith.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439141823
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 03/13/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 434,525
Product dimensions: 5.58(w) x 9.82(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Walt Larimore, M.D. is a noted physician, award-winning writer, and medical journalist who hosted the cable television show on Fox’s Health Network, Ask the Family Physician. He lives in Monument, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

Hazel Creek

  • May 24, 2009

    A Century

    She didn’t look one hundred years old.

    “This must be the best view from any nursing home in the country,” I said, sitting in a rocking chair next to her wheelchair. I placed a brown bag at my feet and gazed at the lush, rounded mountains, which undulated in wave after wave, stretching to the horizon over twenty miles away—where the highest mountains separated North Carolina and Tennessee.

    A wry smile slightly lifted the corners of her wrinkled lips. “To gaze across the great ridges, which like giant billows blend their sapphire outlines with the sky.”

    “Nice,” I said. “Poetic.”

    “Not mine. They’re from a writer named Christian Reid.”

    “Haven’t heard of him.”

    “Her,” she said. “Frances Christine Fisher Tiernan. But she wrote under a pen name. It allowed her to compete with her male counterparts—kinda like one of my sisters before . . .”

    “Before what?”

    “That’s all I’m gonna say ’bout that.” She turned back toward the ancient mountains, clothed in their spring coat of fresh leaves.

    I chuckled. “I guess I need to add Reid to my reading list.”

    “If you’d been taught fine readin’, like my sisters and I were, by the likes of Horace Kephart, you’d have read much more just like it.”

    “Don’t know that name, either.”

    “Sad,” she said. “One of the best-known authors at the start of the last century. He wrote famous books like Our Southern Highlanders and Camping and Woodcraft, and scads of articles for Field and Stream magazine.”

    “You read him a lot?”

    “Read him? I knew him—loved him like a second pa. He lived near where I was raised. And that’s all I want to say about that.”

    She turned back to face the peaks and valleys from which, I would soon learn, she had come—a wilderness that had shaped her past and personality as much as its view inspired us.

    “I brought you something,” I said. “It’s not wrapped very pretty, but . . .”

    “Magnolia blossoms,” she said, smiling and reaching for the bag. “Smelled ’em comin’ down the hall.” She opened the bag and placed her nose in it, taking a slow, deep breath. “Ah, just like the ones on my family’s homestead. That old tree could perfume acres at a time.” She took another sniff. “Just like I remember—a bit like heaven and summer all rolled into one.”

    She removed one and held it at arm’s length, slowly twirling it and admiring it as if it were the Hope diamond. “Just look at that, Doc. Must be nine—no, ten inches across. Looks like freshly starched linen and smells even better!”

    “They say the magnolia tree is rare in the Smokies. But your family had one?”

    “Sure did. Magnolia grandiflora, the queen of the South. Gives new meanin’ to the term white-on-white. Just look at all the shades of pure, silky white against the deep green leaves. It’s an astonishin’ and marvelous flower.” Her smile went from ear to ear as she gazed at the bloom. “What a wonderful birthday gift.”

    “Did you have a good party today? Heard people came from all over to celebrate you making it to the century mark.”

    “Said who?”

    “One of the ER nurses who had come up here.”

    “You must be talkin’ about old Louise Thomas—who claims I look as old as Seth himself.”


    “You know, Adam’s son.”


    “Adam and Eve, sonny.” She shook her head. “Louise was tryin’ to get my goat, saying I looked as old as Seth when he died.”

    She was quiet for a moment—waiting for me to ask. Finally, I took the bait. “Which was how old?”

    “The Good Book says he lived nine hundred and twelve years. Course, any fool knows Jared and Methuselah lived longer; Jared, nine hundred and sixty-two years, and old Methuselah, nine hundred and sixty-nine years. But I don’t want to live that long. Gettin’ to one hundred is hard enough. It’s ’bout wore me out!”

    “Sorry I couldn’t make it up for the party. I’ve been running since sunup.”

    She turned to look at me and patted my arm. “You doctors are always as busy as one-armed paper hangers.”

    “Well, Miss Abbie,” I said, “I’m here for a bit.”

    “You know much about me?” she asked, still gazing over the mountains as the lights of the small hamlet of Bryson City began to illuminate the valley below us.

    “Just what I’ve read on the chart. Other than all the medical stuff, I know you’re a widow. Active over at First Baptist Church. Have kids that have moved elsewhere—”

    “More important, I don’t smoke, or dip, or chew,” she interrupted, smiling, “or dance with boys who do.”

    “Well, that’s a good thing,” I said with a chuckle. “Might shorten your life.

    “Where’d you grow up?”

    “Out on Hazel Creek. Not twenty miles from here as the crow flies. But it used to take all day to drive out there.”

    “What road is it on?”

    She looked at me like I had two heads. With a laugh, she explained, “The town of Proctor was out on Hazel Creek—it’s now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But we was all forced to move out when they built Fontana Dam and the government stole our land for the park.”

    “When was that?”

    “Nineteen hundred and forty-four. I was thirty-five years old when we left our old home place. My grandpappy had homesteaded the land.”

    “Proctor musta been a hole in the wall.”

    She shook her head and looked at me once again as if I was dimwitted. “Heckfire, son, because of Calhoun Lumber Company, Proctor had well over a thousand citizens in the 1920s. It was bigger then than Bryson City is now. But our farm was a long way from town—about six miles up valley. And walkin’ those miles seemed to take an eternity back then.”

    “Well, Miss Abbie—”

    “You’ve made that mistake twice now.”


    “Callin’ me Miss Abbie. It’s Mrs. Abbie,” she corrected. “Was married nearly seventy years to a wonderful man.” She showed me her wedding band. “One of my most prized possessions. Was my mama’s . . . once upon a time.”

    “Well, Mrs. Abbie, I bet it was a unique time to live back in the Roaring Twenties.”

    She laughed. “No one accused Proctor of bein’ a roarin’ anythin’. But Hazel Creek was unique. Some called it the ‘Wild East.’ Others, like Reid, called it the ‘Land of the Sky.’ Hazel Creek had wild animals like panthers and bears, Cherokee Indians, desperados, lumbermen, moonshiners, revenuers, visitors from all over, mysterious wanderers, more than one world-famous writer, Civil War heroes, murderers, rustlers . . . even a flesh-and-blood Haint. Tarnation, without him—and the Good Lord—we would have for sure lost our farm.”

    “A Haint? What’s a Haint?

    Abbie laughed again. “It’s a term we used on Hazel Creek to describe a ghost—or a person whose soul was haunted. You know, hainted—a Haint.”

    “Sounds like an interesting person—and a mysterious place.”

    She nodded, looking back over the mountains. “It was—and so is he.”

    “The Haint?” I inquired.

    “No, the Lord. He’s mysterious and works in wonderful ways. And Hazel Creek certainly had more than her share of massacres, secrets, adventures, and whodunits.” She turned to look at me. “Got time to hear about a few?”


    She turned back toward the mountains and, with a faraway look, began . . .

  • What People are Saying About This

    Beth K. Vogt

    “In Hazel Creek, author Walt Larimore tells a story woven through with timeless themes of family, friendship, and faith. He deftly recaptures life in the Great Smoky Mountains in the mid 1920s through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Abbie Randolph, weaving in both love and loss and the occasional lyrics of songs that add a sweet touch of music to the story.”

    Julie L. Cannon

    “This captivating story took me to a simpler time when humans were closer to creation and to the creator. I found in it echoes of Christian classics—Catherine Marshall's Christy, for one—and that puts Larimore's book in the best of company. Being in the Great Smoky Mountains wilderness when it was still wild nourished my soul!

    Judy Andrews Carpenter

    Hazel Creek intertwines fictional characters with historical facts so well that they come alive in a unique way that will stir the hearts and minds of readers and will encourage them to become better people. The research given to this writing is impeccable and the sensitivity to the inward character and integrity of our beloved mountain ancestors is nothing short of inspired insight. I am simply delighted with Hazel Creek!”

    David Stevens

    Hazel Creek is an American portrait of day to day life in the early 20s. Through the eyes of Abbie, we feel the struggles, courage, determination, and faith of the Randolph family. This glimpse into the past stirs the heart and leaves us wanting more.”

    Eric Wiggin

    “A powerful, heartwarming story of courage, love, and faith, Hazel Creek is sure to leave the reader ready for a sentimental journey into an era and region that has charmed the hearts of millions.”

    Chris Fabry

    “Walt Larimore isn't just a great storyteller. He paints word pictures that linger like country wood smoke—so strong you can't get it out of your mind. Once you experience Hazel Creek, you'll never want to leave.”

    Miralee Ferrell

    “Walt Larimore’s Hazel Creek stands right along with Katherine Marshall’s Christy or Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater. This book will stir your emotions at a deep level, entertain, and open your eyes to a different time and world far back in the Great Smokey Mountains. I hated to see it end, and I’m thrilled to give Hazel Creek my highest recommendation.”

    Daniel S. Pierce

    “Larimore captures both the natural beauty and the culture of the people who once lived there that makes Hazel Creek one of the most beloved sections of the Great Smoky Mountains.”

    Augusta Trobaugh

    “A compelling story of courage and faith.”

    Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Hazel Creek includes discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. What surprised you about life on Hazel Creek?

    2. Did you have any misperceptions about mountain people? If so, what were they and how did this book change them or support them?

    3. With which character do you most closely identify and why? What do you see as his or her strengths and weaknesses?

    4. Which of the Randolph sisters did you like the most and why? Do you have any predictions about what may become of them in the next book?

    5. The lumber company believed in the right of subduing the earth and ruling over it. Was their view correct? Can you think of any verses to support that belief? What obligations do we have to wisely care for the earth and natural resources? Can you think of any Bible verses that support your view?

    6. Many of the characters in the book depended upon scripture memory as they faced various obstacles. Do you see this as a strength or a weakness, a comfort or a crutch? Do you believe you need to memorize more scripture or not? Why or why not?

    7. Could you identify with Abbie’s reluctance to be forced to give gifts to the poor family on Eagle Creek? Have you ever been reluctant to give to others in need? Does the Bible give any direction on this issue? If so, what examples can you think of?

    8. Nate decided to allow Maria and Danya (strangers to him) to stay on his farm. Do you think this was wise or foolish? Would you do the same today? Why or why not?

    9. How did Nate’s faith change as he was challenged by Callie’s death and witnessed firsthand how faith works in the lives of others?

    10. Have you encountered someone whose faith seemed so real that they inspired or challenged you? Who was that person? What attributes did he or she exemplify to you? Do you demonstrate your faith in a way that speaks to others? If so, how?

    Customer Reviews

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    Hazel Creek: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
    Kathy0 More than 1 year ago
    Hazel Creek is a great book about the life of a Christian family in the 1920's. I didn't want to put it down. It was full of suspense. It made me laugh and cry.
    Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
    If you love Little House on the Prairie Books, then you'll love this one! Hazel Creek back in 1924 was what small mountain towns should be. Where people respected the land around them, and found value in family, friends, and God. Scattered around the outskirts of a larger town, owned predominantly by the Calhoun Lumber Company. There goal since convincing the railroad line to come through town was to clear cut most of the virgin forest owned forever by the mountain people in the Southern Appalachians. If people didn't want to sell, the company found ways to obtain the land even if no one could prove their ways were less than honorable. Nathan and Callie Randolph are a few of the last true mountain families that own a considerable amount of pristine forest lands with some amazing older and more valuable trees that Calhoun wants more than anything. But since the this land has belonged to the Randolph family for generations, Nate has no intention on selling. But after many run-ins with men from the lumber company, Nate is finding himself and his family becoming the prime target from the lumber company and they will stop at nothing to ensure they get the land. I received Hazel Creek by Walt Larimore compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review. I have to say I love this book from beginning to end. I didn't want to put it down because the story and the characters are so likeable and believeable. There is Abbie, the oldest of the Randolph children that is noticing boys in a whole new light, especially the Sheriff's son, Bobby Ray. She is called upon to help her mother Callie out, who is having a difficult pregnancy and has to rest as much as she can. This puts Abbie in the position to act as almost a mother-figure to her younger sisters. This story is unique in that it begins as Abbie is in a nursing home and begins to reflect back on her childhood much like Laura Ingalls Wilder did in her books. What comes out of this novel is nothing short of perfection and makes me truly love the writing style of Walt Larimore. It's a sure bet, I'll be researching his books and adding more to this one for my permanent library. If you love books like the Little House on the Prairie books, then I know this one will find a special place in your heart as well. I rate this one a perfect 5 out of 5 stars!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    HAZEL CREEK is a powerful, heartwarming story of courage, love and faith. HAZEL CREEK is sure to leave the reader ready for a sentimental journey into an era and region that has charmed the hearts of millions since Catherine Marshall's CHRISTY. AddieRobinsonWood
    ActuaryLady More than 1 year ago
    As elderly Abbie Randolph reminisces about growing up in the 1920's, we are taken back to a time when faith, family and bone-wearying work are foremost in mountains that are full of both beauty and danger. I look forward to the rest of this series about the Randolph family and their neighbors in Western Carolina.
    Podlogic More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book. Author Walt Larrimore was a doctor first, in a small town not far from Hazel Creek. His earlier books were full of funny, and sometimes poignent, experiences from that time. His compassion--his "bedside manner"--shines through in his treatment of the characters in Hazel Creek, his first novel. You care about these people. And you care about the things, both tragic and triumphant, that happen to them. It's a good story, well told.
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I need a apprentise. Maybe i can reign in my focus then. Ill speak to Hazelstar. Waterripple.
    Annie_C1 More than 1 year ago
    This book will transport you to life in the Great Smokey Mountains in the 1920s. Walt Larimore is an engaging storyteller with wonderful attention to detail, including the local customs, speech and living circumstances of that era. The plot will draw you in and keep you turning pages. Such a delightful read with positive family values. I loved this book and highly recommend it!
    Miraleef More than 1 year ago
    Walt Larimore’s Hazel Creek stands right along with Katherine Marshall’s Christy or Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater. This book will stir your emotions at a deep level, entertain, and open your eyes to a different time and world far back in the Great Smokey Mountains. I hated to see it end, and I’m thrilled to give Hazel Creek my highest recommendation.
    KGunther More than 1 year ago
    Hazel Creek is an entertaining read that gets you involved in the lives of its characters, and they become your friends. The author doesn't shy away from hard situations. You root for Nate, Abbie, and the whole family as well as every other character except the evil lumber company. It's not unlike Jan Karon's Mitford Series with its lighthearted moments just where you need them and all its characters who would do anything for each other--and do. I love it!