Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Competition

By Richard Peck

Competition

Chapter 2
Grandma Dowdel

"I'll leave this wire stretched till morning. Watch your step on the way to the house," Grandma said. "I'll be along in a little while."

She meant she was going to use her privy, and she spoke with some satisfaction because it was still there to use. (2.35-36)

Ten points to Grandma Dowdel! She has managed to thwart and humiliate the Halloween pranksters. Plus, she's kept her privy standing. This has been a good night for Grandma.

Chapter 3

The thought of five dollars for a cup of cooling burgoo made Mr. Weidenbach's eyes water. The line jostled him from behind, everybody all ears. He jammed two thorny fingers into his watch pocket and came up with a silver dollar, as high as he'd go. (3.60)

Mr. Weidenbach may not like it, but he always has to concede to Grandma Dowdel—who is a force to be reckoned with. She'll never let him get away with being cheap, especially when he has so much more than most of his neighbors in town.

An awful thought struck me. A turkey shoot? What if Grandma took part? I remembered Grandpa Dowdel's old twelve-gauge double-barreled Winchester behind the woodbox. (3.17)

It's no wonder that Mary Alice worries that her grandmother will want to take place in the turkey shoot, even though it's just for men and boys. Grandma Dowdel has never been one to let anything stand in the way of her winning…but thankfully, this time she's just going for the burgoo. Yeah, right.

Chapter 4

Twisted in it were tiny tin stars, cut from cans. A day's work to make. Grandma stood back, her hands clasped, a little eagerness in her eyes. "Watch out them stars don't dig your scalp."

She'd made me a halo so Carleen Lovejoy in all her tinsel wouldn't outshine me. (4.85-86)

Aww, how sweet! Mary Alice thought that her grandmother was completely uninterested in her school nativity play, but she should have known better. Grandma Dowdel would never let her granddaughter be outshone by a snobby girl like Carleen Lovejoy.

Chapter 5

Ahead of me, Carleen gripped herself. "Be still, my heart," she murmured loudly. Then she leaned across to Irene Stemple and said, "Hands off. He's mine." (5.49)

Whoa, talk about possessive. As soon as Carleen Lovejoy sets her sights on Royce McNabb, she claims that tall drink of water for herself. Too bad Mary Alice isn't one to be easily intimidated.

Chapter 6

Before I could think, Arnold Green stepped up behind us. His horn-rims flashed, and my brain buzzed. Miss Butler was so refined, even prim. And there was talk of running Arnold Green out of town for ruining Maxine Patch. And Grandma had invited him to supper. Oh, Grandma, I thought, what are you up to? (6.147)

Grandma Dowdel isn't just competitive when it comes to her own life; she places bets on other peoples' personal lives, too. She decides that she wants Miss Butler to win Arnold's attention—not Maxine.

"I was giving him fair warning," she said. "Maxine Patch found him on the first day. She'll be up at The Coffee Pot this minute, layin' in wait. She's thirty-six and man-hungry." Grandma's lips pleated knowingly, and the toothpick pointed out at this truth. "And there hasn't been an unmarried man around here since the last chain gang went through." (6.61)

Grandma isn't going to let poor Arnold Green carry on without warning him about the dangers of small town life—namely, desperate women who are trying to sink their claws into him before someone else does.

I thought I'd better come clean, never an easy decision at sixteen. "Grandma, Carleen Lovejoy's set her cap for him. And I want to make my move before she makes hers."

That was talking her language. "We'll squeeze some lemons for a pitcher of lemonade," she said. (6.68-69)

Carleen Lovejoy may be the most well-dressed and most made-up girl in school, but Mary Alice isn't intimidated by her "claim" on Royce McNabb. If anything, Carleen's possessiveness only spurs on Mary Alice's determination to nab Royce for herself. And it definitely sways Grandma Dowdel.

Then I had to get up the nerve to invite Royce, and we'd scarcely spoken two words to each other. And I couldn't just barge up to him. Carleen watched him like a hawk all day long, and I didn't want to show my hand. Finally, I wrote him a note. (6.75)

Well, now Mary Alice has Grandma's blessing to go after Royce and bring him over for a "study session." But she still has to take the terrifying next step…which is to actually talk to the cutest boy in school. Good thing competition tends to stimulate adrenaline production. That's just the boost a girl on a mission needs.

I expected Grandma to be a target. Old people in big houses were. But then Grandma wasn't just any old person. What the Halloweeners didn't know was that Halloween was her favorite holiday. And being mostly boys, they didn't seem to remember this lesson from year to year. (2.3)

Mary Alice fears that the teenage boys will target Grandma Dowdel for their Halloween pranks, but she needn't worry. Grandma Dowdel can certainly hold her own, and takes pride in tormenting those boys right back.