Six years ago, life was looking bleak for Ralph Williams.
The Navy veteran from Harrisburg, with impaired hearing and an amputated right leg, could not find a job, and sitting around the house all day was beginning to drive him crazy.
Williams knew he needed something to keep him busy and one day, out of the blue, he decided that he wanted to begin peddling produce.
"My wife laughed at me," Williams recalled. He didn't know the first thing about selling produce, just that he was going to do it.
"I spent two weeks down here (at the Harrisburg Rural King Parking lot) and didn't make enough money to pay for gas, let alone produce," he said.
Williams resolved to give it an additional two weeks before throwing in the towel. But then something incredible happened.
"It started picking up and they began to swarm in," he said.
Williams realized that there was true potential in selling produce, so he named his stand Ralph and Shirley's Produce, got a business license from the state of Illinois, and bought business insurance.
Then, a year and a half ago, Williams had a heart attack. He was forced to stop selling but he had no way of contacting his customers. Many worried openly about him.
Once Williams recovered, a friend posted on Facebook post that Ralph was back.
The response was astonishing - a parking lot full of loyal customers and friends.
"I pulled in and they were sitting here waiting on me," he said. "You couldn't ask for a finer bunch of people."
Business has been booming since Williams' recovery. He operates out of the Rural King parking lot Monday through Saturday from the second week in March until after Christmas. Tomatoes, which are supplied by the Amish in Kentucky, are Williams' best sellers, averaging 1,300 pounds a week in the summer.
He assures the public, though, that his selection is by no means limited to tomatoes.
"If they grow it, I can get it," he promises.
In fact, for the first time, Williams is selling jícama, a Mexican root vegetable. He began stocking them last month, starting with a single case. He now goes through two bushels a week.
Williams' customers are incredibly loyal. Linda Adams lives in Indiana, but she makes a point to buy from Williams every time she is in town visiting her mother.
"We always look for his red truck," Adams said.
Juanita Pickford, 92, of Harrisburg, also frequents the produce stand, coming by two to three times a week.
Williams said he adores his customers.
"I want to thank my customers for their faithfulness for six years. Without them, I would not be here," he said.
Williams will deliver produce to homebound customers in Shawneetown and Harrisburg.
Now, he says, the simple act of selling produce "has changed my life 100 percent."
"I was a disabled veteran caged in my house, (with) nothing to do," he said.
Now, he'll tell you he lives a full life. He loves his job, particularly on Saturdays when he is accompanied at the stand by his granddaughter, Morgan.