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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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Papa introduces the camping trip at supper. Mama agrees to let Will go, although she doesn't understand why Grandpa needs a horse when he has a perfectly good mule. She sarcastically assumes that he probably wants it for Miss Love who would find it demeaning to ride behind a mule. Privately, Papa sympathizes with Will and explains that Mama is just angry with Grandma for dying.

In the morning, Effie Belle shows up with her load of gossip. She can't wait to report the kissing incident. The gossip soon reaches every woman in Cold Sassy. The women show their displeasure in the Methodist church where Love plays the piano. This morning, she plays all eight verses of a hymn and all but two people simply refuse to sing. The preacher avoids a repeat performance by simply eliminating any further singing.


In being caught kissing McAllister, Love has gone beyond the bounds of simply marrying Blakeslee. It never occurs to them to ask for an explanation, which is a reflection of the narrowness of the people. Although the women do not yet vote, they have a lot more control in the town than people realize. Their action in church effectively turns nearly everyone against her, forcing her to drop out of church altogether.

Mary Willis' reaction is more indicative of the real reasons that some in the town are upset. They are all angry at Mattie Lou for dying. They depended on her to set the town rules of propriety, to prepare their dead for burial and to nurse their sick back to health. In dying, Mattie Lou upset the equilibrium of the town, and the only one they can take it out on is Love.



Mr. Lias Foster is the rural delivery postman. He accepts eggs for stamps, which he then trades at Rucker's store. Will and his friend Pinky Predmore ride in the mail wagon as far as Grandpa Tweedy's place where they will borrow Tweedy's wagon and mules. Tweedy owns his farm, but has lost hope in his ability to run it successfully. The place is rundown and Grandpa Tweedy himself looks seedy and unkempt. Nevertheless, he tells his housekeeper Mrs. Jones to put some extra plates on the table for lunch. The Tweedys catch up on the Cold Sassy gossip. Grandpa Tweedy is at first grouchy and reluctant to let Will take the wagon. His mood changes when he recalls a boyhood trip of his own on which he and his father General Tweedy drove 35 head of cattle through the mountains. He helps Will hitch up the mules and wishes him luck on his camping trip.


This chapter gives a comparison between Grandpa Tweedy on Will's father's side and Grandpa Blakeslee on his mother's side. Will doesn't have much respect for Grandpa Tweedy because he is lazy and lives like "white trash" even though he owns his own land. Will notes the difference between the farmers and store keepers; they had to contend with high taxes, high freight prices and worn out land. Still Tweedy was better off than most farmers due to breaks Blakeslee gave him at the store, but he didn't use the opportunity to his advantage. Although he calls himself a farmer, he is "like the lilies of the field" in that "he toiled not, neither did he spend his own money." He spent more time sitting on his porch bemoaning the weeds and the insect pests than walking behind a plow.

Tweedy does take advantage of every opportunity to teach "catechism" to Will, which doesn't win any affection from Will either. Will had long disliked him because he wouldn't let him fish on Sunday. One time Will set the hooks on Saturday, reasoning that if a fish was caught, it wouldn't be a sin to take the hook out of his mouth on Sunday, but Tweedy made him leave the fish there until Monday, and by then it was gone.

Tweedy's own morals are questionable even for his day, as he is known to have deliberately brought about the injury of a tenant farmer's child. Tenants had been stealing his wood, so he drilled holes in some of the pieces, filled the holes with gunpowder and sealed them over with wax. When the wood was put in the stove, the gunpowder exploded, ruining a stove and seriously injuring the child's hand. Tweedy's response was that they wouldn't be stealing his wood anymore. Such vengeance on people who struggle just to survive every day is beyond Will's tolerance and the primary reason for his disrespect of Grandpa Tweedy.


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Ruff, Dr. K.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Sassy Tree". . 09 May 2017