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HOME > Classical Novels > Tobacco Road > Chapter Fifteen
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Chapter Fifteen
Jeeter drank his third cup of chicory and cleared his throat. Dude had already left the kitchen and gone to the yard, and Sister Bessie was on the back porch combing her hair. Jeeter went down the back steps and leaned against the well. "It would be a pretty smart deal if I was to take a load of wood to Augusta to-day," he said. "Me and Dude's got a big pile of it all cut and ready to haul. Now, if we was to pile it in the new automobile it wouldn't take no time to haul it to the city, would it, Bessie?" She finished combing her hair, stuck half a dozen pins and the rhinestone comb into it, and walked with Jeeter over to the automobile. "Maybe it would hold a load," she said. "There ain't so much room in the back seat, though." "Mine holds a fair load, and it ain't no bigger than that one. They is the same kind of automobiles. The only difference being that yours is near about a brand-new one now." Dude turned on the switch and raced the engine. The motor hummed perfectly. The tightness that had bothered Dude the day before had gone, and the engine was in good running order. He blew the horn several times, grinning at Jeeter. "I'd sort of like to take a trip to Augusta, all right," Bessie said. "Me and Dude was going there yesterday, before we changed our mind and went down to McCoy instead." "It won't take long to put a load of wood in the back," Jeeter said. "We can leave pretty soon. Dude-you drive the automobile out across the field yonder to that pile of wood we been cutting the past week. I'll get some pieces of baling wire to bind the load good and tight so it won't drop off." Bessie got in beside Dude, and they started out across the old cotton field towards the grove of blackjack. The field had grown up into four-foot broom-sedge in the past few years. Once it had been the finest piece of tobacco land on the whole farm. The rows of the last crop of cotton were still there, and as the car gathered speed, the bumps tossed Dude and Bessie up and down so suddenly and so often that they could not keep their seats. Dude grasped the steering.. wheel tightly and held himself better than Bessie could; Bessie bobbed up and down as the car raced over the old cotton rows and her head hit the top every time there was a bump. They had gone about a quarter of a mile, and were almost at the edge of the grove where the pile of blackjack was, when suddenly there was a jarring crash that stopped the car dead in its tracks. Dude was thrown against the steering-wheel and Bessie shot forward off the seat and struck her head against the wind-shield. Where her forehead had hit the glass there were a hundred or more cracks, branching out like a wet spider-web in the sunshine. None of the glass shattered, though, and the windshield was still intact. She did not know what had happened. "Praise the Lord," Bessie shouted, pulling herself out of her cramped position on the floor-boards. "What's we done this time, Dude?" "I reckon we rammed into a stump," he said. "I clear forgot about them old dead stumps out here in the sedge. I couldn't see nothing at all for the sedge. It covers everything on the ground." Both of them got out and went to the front. A two-foot stump had stopped them. The blackened pine stump, hidden from view by the four-foot wall of brown broom-sedge, stood squarely in front of the axle. It was partly decayed, and except for the heart of it, the car would have knocked it down and gone ahead without any trouble. As it was, the axle was not badly bent; actually the car was going only about fifteen miles an hour, and there had not been enough force to twist the axle out of shape. The wheels had sprung forward a few inches, but aside from that, there was nothing to worry about. The car was still almost as good as new. Jeeter came running up just then with his hands and arms full of rusty baling wire, which he had found behind the corn-crib. They did not have to tell him what had happened, because he could see just as well as they did that the front axle had hit the stump and sprung the wheels forward several inches. "It don't appear to be hurt much," he said. "Maybe it ain't hurt none at all. We has got to haul a load of wood to Augusta to-day, because there ain't no more meal and chicory in the house to eat." Bessie watched Dude start up the engine and back away from the stump. He swung around it, and drove carefully the remaining few yards to the pile of blackjack. Jeeter began picking up the pieces of scrub oak and hurling them like javelins into the back seat. "I reckon I'd better put the top down," Dude said. "It don't hold much unless the top's down." He began unfastening the set screws holding the top to the wind-shield, while Jeeter and Bessie continued to hurl blackjack into the back seat. "There won't be no room for Ada to go along, too, will there?" Jeeter said. "She'll be powerful put out when she sees us drive off to Augusta and not stopping to take her along. The last time me and Dude went up there in my car, she and Ellie May like to had a fit, but it wasn't no use, because we needed all the room for wood." "Well, I ain't going to stay at home," Bessie said. "I'm going just as big as the next one. You can't make me stay here." "I'm going," Dude said. "Can't nobody make me stay here. I'm going to drive the car." He had thrown the top back and was trying to tie it down. Most of it had been folded up, but some of it hung down as far as the rear axle. He could not find any means for making it stay folded, so he allowed it to hang down behind. "I sure ain't going to miss going," Jeeter said. "It's my wood I'm taking to sell. I'm going to be the first one to go." The scrub oak had been cut into carrying lengths the past week when Jeeter and Dude had spent a day in the grove getting a load ready to sell. Some of it was a foot in length, but most of it was anywhere from three to six feet long. The length in which it had been cut was the length of the stunted trees after they had been hacked off with an axe at the stump. As soon as a tree was hacked down, Jeeter had taken the axe and broken the limbs off, and then the wood was ready to haul. The blackjack never grew much taller than a man's head; it was a stunted variety of oak that used its sap in toughening the fibres instead of growing new layers and expanding the old, as other trees did. The blackjack sticks were about two or three inches in diameter, and wiry and tough as heavy pieces of wire or small iron water-pipes. It took them about half an hour to pile on as much wood as the back seat would hold. After that, Jeeter began binding it to the body with baling wire so none of it would drop off along the road while they were riding to Augusta. The ends of the blackjack protruded in all directions, sticking out several feet on each side and behind. Others had been jabbed straight into the upholstery, and they appeared to be the only ones that did not need fastening. The rusty baling wire broke nearly every time Jeeter attempted to fasten it to the door-handles, and he would have to stop and splice the ends, twisting them until they would hold. The task of loading the blackjack and tying it on to the car took nearly two hours, and even then several pieces of wood fell off when one of them touched the car or leaned against it. With the wood in place, Dude drove back across the field towards the house, going no faster than a man's walk, but even then the wood persisted in falling off. Jeeter and Bessie came behind, picking up the sticks and carrying them to the house. Ada and Ellie May were in the yard when they got there. The grandmother waited behind a chinaberry tree to see what they were going to do. Ada stood squarely in front of the car, waiting to find out where she was going to sit. The grandmother went to the corner of the house and stood there, all except her face hidden from view. "Where is I going to sit and ride?" Ada said. "I don't see no sitting place for nobody much, with all that wood you got loaded." Jeeter waited several minutes, hoping that Bessie would undertake to answer Ada. When she did not, Jeeter got in and sat down beside Dude. "There ain't no room for you," he said. "Why ain't there no room for me, if there's room for you and Dude and that hussy, there?" "Sister Bessie ain't no hussy," Jeeter said. "She ain't nothing like that. She's a woman preacher." "Being a woman preacher don't keep her from being a hussy. That. could help to make her a bigger one. Something acts that way, because she is a big old hussy." "What makes you say that about Bessie?" he said. "Last night she was walking all around the room with none of her clothes on. If I hadn't made you put on your overalls when I did, there ain't no telling what she might have done. She's a hussy." "Now, Ada," he said, "you ought not to talk like that about Bessi............
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