With such gentle hosts as August and Birdie, fear and hope flee at least for awhile. Their most nourishing offerings to the Lands are the details about Davy. He had walked into the yard just before midnight, causing their dog to bark his head off until he saw it was Davy. He looked the same to August, except a little more grown up. He had a shaving cut under his ear, was underdressed and awfully thin, but well nonetheless. August says that itís like having no sun in the sky for Davy, who misses his family that much. He had thumbed a ride to August and Birdieís home and had allowed to retired upstairs to sleep. The two older people heard him actually laugh twice in his sleep, which gratified them all to know.
Reuben and Swede love staying up and listening to the adult conversations, but Dad soon sends them to bed. However, Swede knows about the ventilation grates that allow them to listen to the older people talking in the kitchen. Of course, there is no heat in the bathroom, so the two kids have to tough it out in the cold to hear what else August and Birdie have to say. They hear August tell Dad that Davy doesnít seem to know just how much trouble heís in. He didnít even know who Andreeson was. Dad admits to August that Davy did exactly what the newspapers said - he shot the two boys down. He also says that in spite of having witnessed this, Reuben is doing well and Swede is standing up much better than Dad has. Reuben is confused by this, wondering how you are supposed to act after witnessing a tragedy. He is only sad that his brother had gone away. He misses Davy.
Birdie tells Dad that she tried to talk Davy into giving himself up to the law, because in public repentance, he has his best chance to live a fruitful life. ďThis . . . brought a great smile to Davyís face, and in that smile the Shultzes saw the truth, that turning himself in would be the very last thing Davy would do in his life, however long it lasted.Ē (page 140)
The next morning, Reuben awakes to a strange smell that August tells him is fog. It makes everything smell like April. August tells Reuben that heís getting dressed and taking the boy on a ride. They lead the horses out and August helps Reuben up onto Laurie, a gentle horse that August says will respond well to just being told, ďEasy, Laurie, easy.Ē They end up on the bank of the George River and head upstream. August doesnít speak until the fog begins to lift and then he asks Reuben if he guesses that his Dad is on the mend. Reuben assures him he is, but August is worried, because heís never seen Jeremiah so thin. Then, he takes Reuben to a small house and barn, asking him if he knows where he is. Reuben is not sure and then, August tells him itís where his father grew up. He and Jeremiah had grown up together and August now tells Reuben stories about his Dad and his grandparents.
Reuben then asks August how long he thinks it will take them to find Davy. Hope is like yeast . . . rising under warmth (page 146). August has no answer for him so directs his attention to a little boy coming out the door of the house. His name is Gerald and he is carrying oatmeal to the barn for a litter of kittens. The two watch Gerald who then faces a bigger battle with an old Tom turkey whoíd like the oatmeal as well! The Tom ambushes the little boy from behind and Gerald has to drop the pan and run for the house. The turkey dances around in victory for a little bit until the door opens again to release a little black and white collie. The dog doesnít even have to give chase. The turkey just runs for its life. Itís a satisfying and comfortable moment for both Reuben and August.
Back home again, Dad takes prodigious enjoyment from the fact that August
had taken Reuben for a ride alone, calls him Natty Bumppo, grins at August,
and elbows Swede who is a little nettled that she didnít get to go. Reuben
however, doesnít enjoy the attention heís receiving, because he is distracted
by how his father looks. August has made him see that Dad isnít just skinny.
He has lost flesh and muscle to his illness and Reuben feels as if heíll
never get it back. August sees his concern and diverts his attention by
having him tell the story of the Tom turkey.
Whatís important in this chapter is Reubenís realization that his father will not ever be the same after his terrible bout with pneumonia. It has irreparably weakened him. Also, he comes to the realization that Davy will never allow himself to be taken or give himself up.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Peace Like a River".
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