The narrator returns to Green Lake as it was one hundred and ten years ago. Sam the onion man sells onions and remedies made from onions to the town. He has a donkey named Mary Lou who pulls his cart of onions. Sam rows his boat across the lake to get to his secret onion field where the water runs uphill. He claims that onions are essential to a person's health and while the towns-people go to the doctor for medicine, they also buy onion remedies from Sam. One day Miss Katherine asks Sam to fix the hole in the schoolhouse roof in exchange for some of her spiced peaches. Sam fixes the roof and he and Miss Katherine enjoy their conversations about poetry and other things. Sam cannot attend school because he is black. Miss Katherine continues to find things for Sam to fix because she likes their conversations. When the schoolhouse has nothing left to fix she tells Sam her heart is broken and he kisses her. One towns person, Hattie Parker, sees them and points at them, whispering, " God will punish you."
When Green Lake still had water, one hundred and ten years ago, the news spreads that Miss Katherine and Sam have kissed. At this time it is against the law for a black man to kiss a white woman and the angry town comes to the schoolhouse to attack Miss Katherine and her books. She runs to the sheriff for help and finds that he is drunk and preparing to hang Sam. When she asks him to help her he says, "Kiss me You kissed the onion picker. Why won't you kiss me?" Miss Katherine runs to find Sam and they climb into his boat. Sam is sad to leave Mary Lou behind but Katherine tells him they must hurry. Although Sam is strong, he cannot row faster than Trout Walker's motorized boat. Walker crashes into Sam's boat and Sam is shot and killed. Katherine is brought back to shore where she finds Mary Lou has been shot. After that day, not one drop of rain has ever fallen on Green Lake. The narrator addresses the reader by writing, "You make the decision: Whom did God punish?" Three days after Sam's death Katherine Barlow kills the Sheriff and then applies lipstick before kissing his dead face. Then Katherine Barlow spends twenty years as a dangerous outlaw in the West, known as Kissin' Kate Barlow.
Stanley continues digging holes but now he rations his water carefully because he knows that if Mr. Sir comes with water he will not fill Stanley's canteen. One day Mr. Sir fills Stanley's canteen but takes it where Stanley cannot see it before returning it. Stanley pours it out because he fears that Mr. Sir has put something horrible in it. When Zero spends an hour digging Stanley's hole the other boys mock Stanley for having a slave. X-Ray says, " Same old story the while boy sits while the black boy does all the work." Stanley continues to teach Zero, who is a fast learner. One day Zero writes his name and tells Stanley that his real name is Hector Zeroni.
After twenty years of being an outlaw, Kate Barlow returns to Green Lake. There are two oak trees growing near a cabin and she lives there, imagining that Sam is with her. After three months there, Trout Walker and his wife, the redhead Linda Miller, tie Kate up while she is sleeping. Trout has lost all his money and demands to know where Kate's outlaw loot is. Trout and Linda make Kate walk barefoot across the hot sand until Kate dies from the bite of a yellow-spotted lizard. Kate never tells them where the money is.
The weather gets hotter at Camp Green Lake. One day Stanley sees that the sky is dark near the mountains in the west. There is thunder and lightning but no rain. During a flash of lightning Stanley thinks one of the mountains looks like a giant fist with a thumb sticking up. He thinks of how his stranded great- grandfather said he had found refuge on God's thumb.
Holes is a novel which asks the reader to sympathize with characters who have been deemed unacceptable by society. With the exception of Stanley, the boys are all criminals, and yet they are the heroes of the story. In this section, the story of how Kate Barlow becomes an outlaw allows us to feel sympathy for a woman who was initially presented as a dangerous criminal. Her cruelty as an outlaw is a direct result of the cruelty that she and Sam faced from the racism of the law and the racism of Green Lake's citizens. Kate is presented as having no options other than the path of an outlaw if she is to avenge the death of Sam. This obvious example of cruelty causing more cruelty reflects the situation at Camp Green Lake, where the boys who are treated harshly by adults act cruelly towards each other as a result.
In addition, the revelation of Kate's story provides definite proof that the Warden is seeking Kate's long lost treasure under the ground. It seems very likely that the Warden, with her red hair and freckles, is a descendent of Trout and Linda Walker who tried to torture Kate into revealing where the buried treasure was. The Warden has inherited not only the physical characteristics of red hair and freckles from her ancestors, but also their cruel personalities. The fact that Zero's real name is Hector Zeroni reveals another relation: Zero is a descendent of Madame Zeroni, the gypsy who may have put a curse on Stanley's great-great-grandfather. Although neither Stanley nor Hector is aware of the connection that exists between their families, the reader can put together the pieces and form almost the entire puzzle of Stanley's history. Once Stanley realizes that a mountain in the distance looks like a big thumb, it is evident (at least to the reader who has the benefit of an omniscient narration) that Camp Green Lake is very close to the site where Kate Barlow robbed Stanley's great-grandfather.
The way that the author mixes the past and present in the story reinforces the idea that the stories are parallel in many ways. Not only is Stanley digging on the same ground where his great-grandfather and Kate Barlow once walked, but he is digging with the relative of his great-great-grandfather's friend Madame Zeroni. The situations and characteristics of the people in one era are similar in many ways to the situations and characteristics of the people in another era. Just as Stanley's family curse has followed his family for generations, so personal traits and problems are passed down with successive generations. While Zero and Stanley are becoming friends and helping each other out, they are also threatening X-Ray's system of control. The boys are jealous that Zero digs part of Stanley's hole each day but the issue that really upsets them, especially X- Ray, is that Zero and Stanley no longer care what the other boys think of them.