At the end of a January cold snap, the Lands receive a three-cent postcard from August Schultz which in a kind of code lets them know that Davy is staying with them. He also lets them know that Andreeson had been there to see him as well, but of course couldn’t find Davy. Now they are close to ready to step into the Airstream and head west. However, they need cash, so Dad begins to sell items around the house, all the while proclaiming that faith brought them the Airstream and will now direct their travels. When Dr. Nokes asks where they’re going and what they have for directions, Dad says, “I have the substance of things hoped for. I have the anticipation of things unseen.” (pg. 130) Dad laughs aloud with his anticipation and continues to sell and prepare. Reuben says they are infected with something: how can they not believe that the Lord will guide them? Their foundation has been laid in sorrow and prayer. He tells us as the narrator that we know this is true and if we don’t know, it is he the witness who is to blame.
They pull out on January 22nd. As Reuben looks back on the house with its chimney a heap of dead bricks and its windows glazed with ice and dirt, he thinks it looks like it is already close in spirit to those weedy barns you see all gray and forgotten and sadly available to anyone who will pay the taxes. They are extremely cold and wrapped in blankets, because the heater in the car still doesn’t work and Dad wants to preserve the propane in the Airstream. As they drive through Roofing, the little town seems smaller and dearer to Reuben. Then they see old Mr. Finch, Israel’s grandfather, bumping up against the post office door. He is obviously quite cold and with his eyes shut and mouth slack open, he looks dead, like a man so trampled spirit he’s given over the strength of limbs. It’s the first time that Reuben thinks that someone feels real loss at the death of Israel Finch.
They head for North Dakota, eighty miles away. As they are driving, they come across a dead crow that had been struck by a car and every time the wind blows, one of the bird’s wings flops up like a thing asking for mercy. This sight is quite unusual, because the birds are most often capable of avoiding vehicles, especially on country roads. In fact, Dad has never seen one in all his years of driving. Then, as they drive on farther, they see another to which Dad can only say, “Imagine that.”
They arrive at August’s house in the late afternoon just as Reuben snaps himself out of a dream in which Swede’s character, Valdez, has entered the Airstream and crawled into his bunk. This feeling from the dream sticks to him as he goes inside the house, but also attached is his fear of where they will go next. The night before, he had asked Dad where they’d go, and Dad just said they would go forth like the children of Israel who had packed up and cameled out of Egypt. However, Reuben knows he’s weak, but he’d rather just have a map!
There is an old saying that anticipation is greater than realization. However, for the most part, Dad, Reuben, and Swede disregard this statement as they plan on leaving in the Airstream to find Davy. The postcard, selling things they don’t need, packing, and even just pulling away from home keeps their adventurous spirits high. However, there some ominous signs like the empty, forlorn house, old Mr. Finch, and the dead crows. These leave the reader with the sense that the Land family still has sorrow and prayer ahead of them.
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Peace Like a River".
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