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.