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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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The camping trip gets shortened to one night after Will tells a string of stories about dead relatives coming back to life and decaying bodies being transported in the very wagon they are using. Their adventuresome spirit is further damped when a couple of bears raid the camp and damage some of their food. They go directly to the cousin's house the next day, get the horse and head home. On the way back, the four boys accompanying Will start talking about Love and Rucker and arguing about whether she is too old to have babies. In her defense, Will blurts out that they are sleeping in separate rooms.

To change the subject, Will asks if they ever heard the story about Aunt Loma nursing a pig. It had never actually happened-Will merely heard his mother and Loma telling a story they had heard about some similar incident-but it makes a good story and keeps the boys' attention. Following that, he tells a story about Loma purchasing inflatable busts for her wedding. According to his story, she pays him to blow them up, but he sticks a pin in one so it is flat before the ceremony is over.

A true story he could have told was that Loma was eternally angry with Camp, her husband, because he had said he was taking her to a nice hotel near Tallulah Falls for their honeymoon. Instead he chose to save money by staying with his aunt who had 10 children and lived in a dirty, run-down cabin on a turkey farm. Loma had tried to at least get a honeymoon picture in front of a hotel, but the photographer mixed up the photos and sent them pictures of a different couple.


Will's stories are additional examples of his ability to think fast; he hates Loma and doesn't care if the boys say bad things about her, while he not only likes Love, but is in her confidence. He is successful in changing the focus of the story, but unable to resist the urge to blurt out the sleeping arrangements. His intention is to defend Love, but he soon realizes that he shouldn't have told them. Although it is probably the least harmful of his stories, he knows that married people sleep in the same bed; for Love to do otherwise is simply to create an additional source for people's imaginations to run wild.



As soon as the boys get away from Will, they repeat all of his stories. Mrs. Gordy reports on him, which gets him a lecture and a whipping. His father tries, unsuccessfully, to scold him and finally just tells him to make sure his stories don't involve people that everybody knows. Later Grandpa Blakeslee also scolds him, explaining that even though Loma is mean and ornery, she lives a decent life and doesn't deserve to have such stories told about her.

Blakeslee also talks about the treatment Miss Love has received at the hands of the church ladies. Since she could not very well go to church in the face of such animosity, he and Love begin to hold their own church service at the house.

Will wonders why Grandpa scolds him for telling lies about Loma, but says nothing about his breaking the confidence Love had placed in him regarding the living arrangement. He later discovers that Love herself had informed the town that she and Blakeslee were not sleeping together.


The adult, eight-year-later voice, is apparent in this chapter. Although Will tells about the scoldings he receives, he also describes the adults with words that show the humor in the situation. It was improper for him to tell such stories about a lady, but Loma has not made herself very well liked in the town, so it is funny when she becomes the victim of stories so outrageous that no one could believe them. Thus, the stories really don't cause any harm to Loma. Instead they focus in on Will's wild imagination.



Will and his mother are sitting together on the front porch. Mary Willis starts proclaiming that she hates "that woman," especially after what happened at the store. While Will was on his camping trip, Love went to the store, dressed in red, and was criticized for that in the same way she was criticized for wearing black at Mattie Lou's funeral when she wasn't really a part of the family. Love tried to be friendly to Mrs. Predmore, but Mrs. Predmore turned on her and accused her of having no respect for the family or the dead. Angrily, Love announced that she isn't going to be taking Mr. Blakeslee's name because she isn't really married to him except legally.

When Mrs. Predmore taunted her about refusing her "husband's" name, Love explained that she is only there to cook and clean house, and that in return Rucker has deeded the house to her. Love rode away with her head high, but Mama seems to find satisfaction in the news from Effie Belle that Love was later seen crying.


The camping trip that took Will out of the town solved the problem of revealing Love's sleeping arrangements and provided an opportunity for Love to confront the ladies on her own. She probably could not, or would not, have said the things she did if Will were present, yet the reader knows such a "secret" is a smoking gun that must go off at some point. It is a minor incident in the "rising action" that has its own climax and resolution.


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