Now that I have been showing my colors—I believe that during and after the peak oil crises we can only save our white skins by returning to bucolic farming—, my initiative of adding excerpts of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ masterpiece might start to become apparent. But in fact it’s far more than that, as I will disclose in subsequent excerpts. For the moment suffice it to say that in the novel father and son visited grandma again:
In the morning, Penny said, „We got to agree now, will we stay with Grandma Hutto tonight or come home. Do we spend the night, Jody’s got to stay here to milk and feed the dogs and chickens.“
Jody said, „Trixie’s near about dry, Pa. And we kin leave feed. Leave me go, but please let’s stay with Grandma Hutto.“
Penny said to his wife, „You want to stay there tonight?“
„No, I don’t. Her and me don’t never swop much honey.“
„Then we’ll not stay. Jody, you kin go, but no teasin‘ to stay after we git there.“
„What must I do with Flag? Cain’t he foller along so Grandma kin see him?“
Ma Baxter burst out, „That blasted fawn! They ain’t never been such a nuisance on the place, even countin‘ you.“
He said with hurt pride, „I reckon I’ll jest stay here with him.“
Penny said, „Now boy, tie up the creetur and fergit him. He ain’t a dog, he ain’t a young un, though you’ve near about made one outen him. You cain’t carry him places like a gal would a play-dolly.“
For sheer jealousness that a blonde married grandma’s son the Forresters (pic below) committed a mean act:
Penny said, „Must be a woods fire some’eres. Oh, my God.“
The position of the fire was unmistakable. Around the bend of the road, down the lane of oleanders, flames were shooting high into the air. Grandma Hutto’s house was burning. They turned into the yard. The house was a bonfire. The flames showed details of the rooms within. Fluff ran to them, his tail between his legs. They jumped down from the wagon.
Grandma called, „Oliver! Oliver!“
It was impossible to approach within yards. Grandma ran toward the blaze. Penny pulled her back.
He shouted above the roaring and crackling, „You want to git burnt to death?“
„Oliver’s there! Oliver! Oliver!“
„He cain’t be. He’d of got out.“
„They’ve shot him! He’s in there! Oliver!“
He struggled with her. In the bright light the earth was plain. It was cut and trampled with the hooves of horses. But the Forresters and their mounts were gone.
Ma Baxter said, „There’s jest nothin‘ them black buzzards won’t do.“
Grandma Hutto fought to break free.
Penny said, „Jody, for the Lord’s sake, drive back to Boyles‘ store and see kin you find somebody seed where Oliver headed when he left the boat. If there’s nobody there, go on to the doin’s and find out from the stranger.“
Jody clambered to the wagon seat and turned Cæsar [the horse] back up the lane. His hands seemed wooden and he fumbled with the reins. He was panicked and could not remember whether his father had told him to go first to the doings or first to the store. If Oliver was alive, he would never be unfaithful to him, even in his mind, again. He turned into the road. The winter night was bright with stars. Cæsar snorted. A man and woman were walking down the road toward the river. He heard the man laugh.
He cried, „Oliver!“ and jumped from the moving wagon.
Oliver called, „Now look who’s drivin‘ around by hisself. Hey, Jody.“
The woman was Twink Weatherby.
Jody said, „Git in the wagon, quick, Oliver.“
„What’s the hurry? Where’s your manners? Speak to the lady.“
„Oliver, Grandma’s house is a-fire. The Forresters done it.“
Oliver tossed his bags into the wagon. He lifted Twink and swung her to the seat, then vaulted the wheel and took the reins. Jody scrambled up beside him. Oliver groped with one hand inside his shirt and laid his revolver on the seat.
„The Forresters is gone,“ Jody said.
Oliver whipped the horse to a trot and turned down the lane. The frame of the house stood revealed around the flames, as though a box enclosed them. Oliver caught his breath.
„Ma wasn’t in it?“
Oliver stopped the wagon and they climbed down.
He called, „Ma!“
Grandma threw her arms in the air and ran to her son.
He said, „Easy, there, old lady. Quit tremblin‘ now. Easy.“
Penny joined them.
He said, „No man’s voice was never more welcome, Oliver.“
Oliver pushed Grandma aside and stared at the house. The roof crashed and a fresh blaze leaped to the moss in the live oaks.
He said, „Which-a-way has the Forresters gone?“
Jody heard Grandma murmur, „Oh God.“
She braced herself.
She said loudly, „Now what in tarnation you want o‘ the Forresters?“
„Jody said they done it.“
„Jody, you fool young un. The idees a boy’ll git. I left a lamp burnin‘ by a open window. The curtain must of blowed and ketched. Hit worried me all through the evenin‘ at the doin’s. Jody, you must want a ruckus mighty bad.“
Jody gaped at her. His mother’s mouth was open.
Ma Baxter said, „Why, you know–“
Jody saw his father grip her arm.
Penny said, „Yes, son, you got no business thinkin‘ sich things of innocent men is miles away.“
Oliver let out his breath slowly.
He said, „I’m shore proud ‚twasn’t their doin‘. I’d not of left one alive.“ He turned and drew Twink close to him. „Folks, meet my wife.“
Grandma Hutto wavered, then walked to the girl and kissed her cheek.
Grandma had to say goodbye to Florida and move to Boston with her son after the destruction of her homely, country cottage:
„Good-by, Grandma! Good-by, Oliver! Good-by, Twink!“
Their voices trailed away. It seemed to Jody that they were moving away from him into another world. It was as though he saw them die. There were rosy streaks across the east but the daylight seemed even colder than the night had been. The ashes of the Hutto house glowed faintly.
The Baxters drove home toward the scrub. Penny was wracked with sorrow for his friends. His face was strained. Jody was swept with so contradictory a tumult of thoughts that he gave up trying to sort them and snuggled down on the wagon-seat between the warmth of his mother and father.
But there still was consolation:
The cabin waited for him, and the smoke-house full of good meat, with old Slewfoot’s carcass added to it, and Flag. Above all, Flag. He could scarcely contain himself until he reached the shed. He had a tale to tell him.