By late afternoon, Josh and Joey got off the freight train. Josh was too weak to go on. One of the men who got off the train with them offered to spare meals for the two of them. They refused to join them, as they wanted to spend their grief in silence. The man tossed them a can of beans and suggested that they should just return home. Josh realized how important Joey is. Howie is no longer with them, so they would have to fend off for themselves. The boys found a bridge with a ravine to spend the night in. They both cried that night. Finally, Josh decided to man up and open the can of beans and tell Joey about how they’re going to survive now. Josh asked Joey if he wanted to go home. Joey wanted to stick by him. They awoke with the rain splashing on their faces. He started to wonder where they could find a place where they would be welcome.
The boys found a ramshackle farmhouse where they could stay. It had a kitchen range that was rusty, but was still enough to keep them warm. Josh went outside to find some found. There were no edible plants around, but he had managed to catch a rooster. It took hours for the meat to become tender. While waiting for it to thoroughly cook, they took turns sipping the chicken broth. It wasn’t the best-tasting, but it was decent enough for the two boys. The next morning, they heated more broth for breakfast. They were startled when a man and woman entered the place. Josh lied about having a grandpa in Montana waiting for the two of them. The man, Ben, was none too happy about having them around. The woman was friendlier and concerned about them. She asked if they had eaten anything. Josh replied that they ate the rooster and hoped that they didn’t own it. She promised to cook something up for the boys. Josh tried to refuse, but Ben told him that Josie (the woman) always cooked for those people that came by. The boys joined the couple and went to their house. While Josie was cooking, Ben told the boys about depressing stories and how everything was going downhill. The way he spoke reminded Josh of his father. Before Ben started speaking again, Josie asked the boys to wash up before eating dinner. They had a good dinner and were satisfied. The couple asked Josh to play the banjo while Joey sang. When Joey got tired, they decided that it was time for them to get on the road. Ben gave them half a sack of potatoes to last them a few meals. They got a ride from a cheerful farmer who reassured them of good things. They decided to not get into town until they were well rested and clean. They had already eaten plenty that day, but they gave themselves a treat and shared a baked potato. As they were relaxing, a group of boys attacked them. They knocked Joey out and took their extra clothes, the potatoes, and gave Josh a bad gash on his forehead and swollen eye. They got into town and got scolded by the police for fighting. However, he didn’t make them leave town and let them sleep in the jail for the night.
Notes: Their first few nights without Howie was difficult. This chapter highlighted one of the first instances when someone took pity on them and fed them. However, this was also the first time they saw how difficult it is for children to thrive in the open world, especially during The Great Depression.
After a few weeks of being on the road, all Josh could think of was food. Before, his mind was taken over by a myriad of thoughts. However, he just wants to eat a satisfying meal. Josh had resorted to scavenging for food inside garbage cans. Joey would eat everything his brother found with gusto, but Josh felt sick whenever he watched his young brother eat. He didn’t want to do it, but he had to, or else they would starve. The only thing he was proud of was that he never let Joey join him whenever he searched for food. However, he was ashamed of himself for not resorting to begging. That was something that he let Joey do. Joey never complained about this because he knew that people would rather share with little boys rather than someone of Josh’s age. He realized that he’s letting Joey face the humility of begging because he couldn’t. He did his share of begging as well, but he never really got accustomed to it. One night, he dropped by a house and was given a cardboard box full of food by a pretty girl. Josh couldn’t look into her eyes and say thank you. He was too ashamed with what he was doing.
Of course, there were times when he and Joey would feel that it’s time to give up. However, something always happened that makes them want to continue on. One night, they ended up at a farmhouse in Nebraska where an old lady welcomed them inside and fed them supper. The lady let them take a bath and stay the night. She washed their clothes and fed them breakfast the next morning. She asked them questions about their parents and proceeded to ask Josh to write home to his mama. Josh refused and suggested that Joey can write to them if he wanted to. The old lady said that it was better to write home because their mother could sleep better at night knowing that her boys are still alive. When they left, they were full of regret. They wanted to stay with the old lady, but they had to get going. They were in a bit of luck, ad they had found a truck driver that let them ride with him. Joey slept through the whole ride while Josh spoke to the driver about why they ran away. They continued on the road and had a bite to eat by dusk. Josh tried to refuse, saying that he didn’t have any money and that the old lady gave them a hearty breakfast. The driver told him to not worry about it, because they’re just having some soup and hamburgers. The waitress called the driver “Lonnie”, proving that they knew that truck driver. While waiting for their food at the café, they told Lonnie about Howie and the other things that they encountered since they went on the road. Lonnie asked Bessie, the waitress, if Josh could play the piano inside the café. She let them use it while they were waiting for the burgers to cook. They all watched Josh play the piano and were astounded with the music. While they were eating, Bessie handed Lonnie a piece of paper with a name and an address. It was written with the information of a Pete Harris, the waitress’ cousin. He ran a carnival in Baton Rouge and sometimes hired piano players. That night, they slept at the back of the truck. Before, Josh would stay awake because of the cold and his hunger. Now, he stayed awake because he felt excited. After a long while, he heard Lonnie speak up and told him why his son died.
Notes: This is the chapter where they meet Lonnie for the first time. Joey’s kind nature towards his brother was also explored in depth.