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True Grit is narrated in the first-person by a woman (who we soon learn is Mattie Ross).
Some people don't believe that "a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood" (1.1). (Uh, like us.)
But back in those days (the 1870s) it wasn't so strange.
See, Mattie's Papa was shot and killed by a man named Tom Chaney in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Chaney also robbed Mattie's father of $150 and two gold pieces, a wedding present from Mattie's grandfather.
Okay, okay, let's back up a little. See, Mattie and her family live on the Arkansas River in Yell County near Dardanelle, Arkansas. They own almost five hundred acres of good land, which means that life is pretty good for Mattie and her peeps.
It's not so good for Tom Chaney, an unmarried twenty-five year-old with a strange black mark on his face. Mattie's father employs this guy as a hired hand around the farm, but Mattie doesn't think too much of him.
In November Papa, Frank Ross, rides his horse Judy the seventy miles to Fort Smith to buy some ponies. Chaney badgers kindhearted Papa until he lets him come along.
Papa pays a neighbor named Yarnell Poindexter to look after the family while he's away. (The guy's black. We wouldn't bother mentioning it, but the book seems to think it's important.)
Papa and Chaney get a room at the Monarch boarding house in Fort Smith. Papa buys the ponies from a man named Colonel Stonehill and plans to leave the next morning.
Meanwhile, Chaney goes to a bar and loses his paycheck playing cards. Ugh, hate when that happens slash we spend our allowance buying extra moves in Candy Crush.
He goes back to the Monarch and drinks a bottle of whiskey. (Can you guess where this is going?) Soon enough, he gets his gun and starts talking the talk about how he was cheated and how he's heading back to the bar to get his money and blah blah blah.
Papa's outside talking to some drummers (traveling salesman who "drum up" business) and tries to talk Chaney out of his bone-headed plan. Chaney shoots him and he dies.
Well, that escalated quickly.
Instead of doing anything useful like, we don't know, grabbing the guy, the drummers book it. Chaney disappears into the dark night.