Bert Breen's Barn Summary
Bert Breen builds a barn and a house up on a hill. (At least the title's out of the way early). Mr. Breen and his wife keep to themselves and drive the local bank president crazy by not telling anyone where they keep their money. Everyone knows they have money, because they use it to buy property, but no one knows where they've stashed it. And secrets like that drive these people batty.
The Breens occasionally get visits from the Hannaberrys, a family made up of a father (Chick) and five daughters. The father moves the family around from broken-down home to broken-down home, and they scrape together an existence by foraging and peddling. Not too glamorous.
The oldest Hannaberry daughter, Polly Ann, marries a guy named Nob Dolan. He has a small farm, but he soon proves to be as useless as her father. He leaves her after five years of marriage with three small children, a boy named Tom and twin girls. Now you know: watch out for guys named Nob.
When Tom is only eight, he observes how hard Polly Ann works to provide what little they have. He decides he wants to improve their lives and have a good farm like their neighbors the Masseys. Pretty big idea for a small kid, huh? Tom talks to Birdy, the old man who does the mowing for Polly Ann, about the idea, and when Tom is thirteen, Birdy takes him up to see the Breen barn, which Birdy helped to build. Title alert, again.
Tom loves the barn, and that's where a building becomes a dream. He gets the idea of one day moving it to his property. By this time, Bert Breen has died; however, his wife is still alive. She catches Tom creepin' on her barn and points her shotgun at him, but when she sees he's with Birdy she invites them in for tea and cookies. That's definitely the better end of the shotgun.
Mrs. Breen has an old habit of reading cards (a method for telling fortunes), which she does for Tom. She tells him what she sees in his future: he will quit school, get some money, and then get a lot of money.
Just like the cards said, Tom quits school. He gets a job as a mill hand at Ackerman and Hook. He learns quickly and begins to have new experiences in town such as going to the pharmacy and Christmas shopping for nice gifts for his mother, sisters, and Birdy. He makes a good impression on the other men who work at the mill, especially Mr. Hook. Good going, Tommy boy.
Meanwhile, Tom continues to keep his ears open for any news about the Breen barn, and he even goes to visit the Widow Breen one Sunday in February. She is much frailer than she was the first time Tom met her. Tom restocks her firewood and asks if she needs anything else, like food, visitors, or a ride to town. Mrs. Breen scoffs at the offers, saying that she wants to be left in her house with her memories.
She gets her wish: at least, for a little while. Mrs. Breen dies. Tom was the last person to see her alive, so he has to give statements to the sheriff and coroner, and he has to drive up there with them and the undertaker. It freaks him out a little, but it doesn't change his mind about wanting the barn.
Birdy explains that when there are no relatives to claim property after a death, the county will usually put the property up for sale for the price of the taxes owed on it. Tom does some calculating, and he actually thinks he could afford the property, especially if the county waits a year or two before putting it up for sale. Tom works hard fixing up his family's shabby home so that it will look nice next to the new barn, studies from a carpentry book Mr. Hook gives him for Christmas, and makes construction plans with Birdy.
But before enough time passes for the property to go up for county sale, Mr. Armond snatches it up. It borders on his property, after all. Tom consults a lawyer named Billy-Bob Baxter, who says Tom can make an offer to Mr. Armond to purchase just the barn and move it off the property.
In a stroke of luck, Mr. Armond accepts Tom's offer, and even knocks $25 of Tom's price on the condition that Tom destroy the Breen house in addition to moving the barn. BTW $25 in Tom's time would be around $700 today. Not too shabby. It's a done deal, and Tom is now the barn's owner. Woot woot!
Tom continues to work at the mill, only to turn around and work on taking down the barn in the evenings and on Sundays. That's one busy schedule. Birdy offers Tom invaluable guidance in the labor, as well as moral support. Occasionally Tom gets grief from the Flanchers, folks who keep poking around for Bert's hidden money in the old house, but Tom doesn't let that faze him too much.
While he and Birdy are taking the barn down, Tom begins to notice a few unusual things. An oddly shaped hook. A weird box of sand. What to make of it? One day, Polly Ann tells a story about once peeking into the Breen barn to see what Bert was doing in there at night. And with that clue, Tom puts the mystery together: Bert's money is hidden beneath a section of the barn's floor. Did you see that coming?
Tom and Birdy get the barn down and the new foundation built, and everyone knows what that means: it's time for a barn raising at the Dolan place. Hang on to your hats, y'all!
Seriously, the barn raising is excitement for the whole community. Neighbors and the guys from the mill come to help, bringing acquaintances for extra assistance. Polly Ann gets help from some of the other ladies to turn out cakes, pies, and hundreds of sandwiches. Even Mr. Ackerman, head honcho at the mill, comes to watch. The barn raising goes off perfectly under Birdy's expert leadership.
The one hiccup is that Yantis Flancher (you know he's no good with a name like that) turns up, asking a few of the men about Tom's plans for his barn floor. Tom decides he better go to the Breen place that night to look for the money. Good thinking, Tom. He takes Polly Ann with him because he wants to take back roads and trails in order to be as sneaky as possible, and Polly Ann knows those kinds of routes well from her days of foraging as a young girl.
Lo and behold, they find two chests under the floor, which they get loaded safely into their wagon. But the suspense isn't over: Tom sees the Flanchers approaching as he's replacing the floorboards. Run! Polly Ann and Tom take the chests to Billy-Bob's in case the Flanchers turn up at their house looking for them. At Billy-Bob's, they find over $9,000 cash money in the chests—that's a cool $250,000+ today. Jackpot!
What do you do when you're rained on with money? Duh: you set up a savings account at the bank. That's what Tom does, at least, making accounts for himself and Birdy (with help from Billy-Bob). Tom spends some of the money on the supplies he needs to finish the barn, but his plans don't end there. He tells Mr. Hook that he plans to buy land so that he can get more cows and turn the Dolan place into a paying farm, and Tom's buds help him get a new team of horses and a new wagon. He's going up in the world, and fast.
Meanwhile, Tom and Birdy have gone up to the Breen place one last time. To stand and admire it against the sunset? Nope. To burn the house down. That's what Tom promised he'd do when he bought the barn, after all.
Tom and Polly Ann drive up to the Armond place looking spiffy in their best clothes with the new team and wagon. Tom pays the rest of what he owes for the barn, and Polly Ann gets the satisfaction of visiting the Armond house with her successful son. Yep, that's a huge change from when she had to go up to the house as a girl, peddling berries for her father. When they get home, Tom takes in the sight of his barn on his property.
American dream coming true: done and done.
- Once upon a time, Bert Breen builds a barn and a house.
- Bert Breen's property is surrounded by mostly useless farmland, so he buys that too.
- Where's he getting the money? Mr. Breen has no account at the bank, so the banker is stumped about where these transactions are coming from.
- When Bert Breen dies, he leaves everything to his wife, Amelie. She mostly keeps to herself except for a few neighborly exchanges with the Hannaberrys, a poor family of five daughters and their no-good father, who does a bad job of providing for them.
- Four of the Hannaberry daughters marry and move away. The other one, Polly Ann, marries and stays local.
- Her husband, Nob Dolan, proves to be a bad husband and provider. He spends his time and money in bars and then disappears five years after his marriage to Polly Ann.
- Maybe he just wanted to turn "Nob Dolan" into "Bob Dylan" and ran off to try to get himself a Nobel Prize?
- Probably not. He's pretty no-good.
- With Bob Dylan out of the picture, Polly Ann is all alone with a boy, twin girls, and a run-down farm and home.
- Polly Ann brings her son, Tom, up on stories of the past: some are about Tom's namesake, her successful uncle. Neither she nor Tom ever meets him, but he sounds pretty cool.
- Other stories are about her childhood, when she had to pick berries and sell them to the rich Armond family. It wasn't quite begging, but it didn't feel much better.
- Even as a young boy of five, Tom has chores to complete: bringing the cows in from the pasture and feeding them and the family's horse, Drew.
- When he turns eight, he's old enough to have the chore of milking the cows. Way to go, big boy.
- Tom notices how small and run-down their farm is compared to their neighbor's farm (the Masseys), and he notices how hard his mother has to work even to provide what little they have. She takes in washing, cleans other people's homes, churns butter, and gathers eggs and berries to sell.
- Looks like the present isn't that much better than the past, after all.
- Tom talks to Birdy, a local old guy and generally helpful character, about wanting to help his mother more.
- Birdy and Tom agree that Tom can't do much to improve his family's life without having a better barn.
- Tom knows it will be a long time before he can afford materials for a barn, but he also thinks it might be cheaper if he can find the timber somewhere rather than buying it all new.
- Birdy tells him that really the only good option for used timber is Bert Breen's Barn. He even offers to take Tom up to the property to look around.
- Birdy comes around sometimes and teaches Tom to fish, catch rabbits, and do other helpful things, but it isn't until four years later when Tom is thirteen that Birdy drives him up to the Breen place.
- Birdy and Tom drive Birdy's old horse team and wagon through the countryside and village, past farms, and up to the lonely land where the Breen place is. Wow, that sounds far.
- It used to be good farmland, but the dirt gave way to sand (sand = bad news for long-term farming), and so the people who lived there abandoned their homes.
- Except for the Breens, that is.
- One of the old abandoned houses is where the Hannaberrys lived before Polly Ann got married.
- Tom wants to ask Birdy about his father, but he feels too shy.
- That's okay, Tom. It's only Chapter 4.
- They arrive at the Breen place. The house is a pretty shabby sight, but inside the barn, Tom can see that it's a well-made structure and, more importantly, good-quality timber.
- Tom begins to imagine what he might do with such a barn back at his home.
- Sure, he knows it's farfetched for a boy his age, with no money and no resources, to even think about taking the barn apart, moving it seven miles to his home, and putting it back up. But that's the seed of the American Dream.
- An old woman calls out to Tom from the porch. Uh oh. She's pointing a gun at him and demanding to know what he's doing in her barn.
- The old woman is Mrs. Breen, and Birdy explains that he and Tom have just come to see the barn.
- Mrs. Breen invites them in for tea and cookies.
- Oh. Guess the gun thing wasn't so scary after all.
- Birdy tells her Tom is Polly Ann's daughter. Mrs. Breen knew Polly Ann when she was a younger girl.
- But enough about the past. Mrs. Breen can read cards to see into a person's future.
- Okay, one more thing about the past: Mrs. Breen read Polly Ann's future and warned that there was in a man in the cards who would do no good. But Polly Ann married Nob Dolan anyway.
- Guess what? He turned out to be no good.
- Mrs. Breen reads cards for Tom, and sees that his life is about to change. She predicts he will quit school, make a little money, and then, later on, will have a lot of money.
- The cards don't tell Tom how he'll get the money, but Tom is definitely struck by the prediction. Sounds like a better life than Polly Ann's with Nob, anyway.
- Tom thinks over Mrs. Breen's prophecy for him, and he tells his mother that he has decided to quit school and get a job. He tells her his plan to improve their property and one day move Bert Breen's barn to their place.
- His mother says she can make enough to support them for now if Tom wants to continue on with school.
- Tom says that school isn't doing him any good for the time being. He's determined to start saving money in case an opportunity comes up that would let him buy the barn. So school is out.
- Kids, don't try this at home.
- Tom's mother drives him to town on the way to one of her cleaning jobs. He goes to the mill and asks for a job.
- He's nervous but determined. Just like a good hero.
- Mr. Ackerman at the feed mill hires Tom for twenty-five cents a day (cha-ching!). Since Tom is so young and has no experience, he says they'll try the situation out for a week and then decide whether to keep the kiddo permanently.
- Tom starts that day. A man named Ox shows him how to bag the meal and grain.
- Doesn't school sound like a step up from scooping grain into bags?
- At first, Tom is confused by his new job, but Ox kindly shows him around and gives him tips about how to do the work efficiently.
- Mr. Ackerman sends Tom on his first errand into town to get cigars.
- The pharmacist Tom goes to purchase the cigars from doesn't recognize Tom, so he doesn't let Tom charge the cigars to Mr. Ackerman's account.
- Mr. Ackerman goes back into town with Tom, they get the cigars together, and Mr. Ackerman vouches for Tom in the future.
- Tom feels good, like for once in his life he belongs somewhere.
- Not because of the cigars, but because someone is vouching for him.
- After his first day at work, Tom walks the three miles home and tells his mother about the job and pay. He also tells her that Mr. Ackerman remembered Polly Ann's father and that she was a very pretty girl. That pleases Polly Ann.
- Tom does some math to determine how much he can make in a year at his current salary (and with a few raises, for good measure). He figures he should give half to Polly Ann for the family's upkeep and that he will be able to save half for the barn in case the Widow Breen ever sells it.
- Tom wakes up at 4:45 the next morning (yawn!) so he has enough time to eat breakfast, get the cows, and help with the milking before walking three miles back to the mill (double yawn!).
- Tom gets used to his new job and he keeps his ears perked for any news about the Widow Breen when clients come in to gossip as their orders are filled. He just hears that she goes on living her solitary life, coming into town only once a month to trade for groceries and other essentials.
- Christmas approaches, and Tom notices he has $13.25 saved up.
- It's hard for Tom to take any money out of savings, but he decides to spend $2.25 on Christmas presents for his mother and sisters.
- Tom goes shopping for gifts on his lunch break.
- He goes to the millinery, which has ladies' clothes and accessories. Not only has Tom never had money to spend on gifts before, but he finds himself to be the only guy in the whole place. Talk about awkward.
- Luckily, a nice saleslady turns up and helps him select a shirtwaist (what's a shirtwaist?) for his mother.
- He buys hair ribbons for his sisters, and even has 8 cents leftover from his $2.25 Christmas budget.
- Mr. Hook happens to be passing by the store as Tom comes out from his shopping. The two walk back to the mill together in the snow that has been falling since morning.
- Mr. Hook approves of Tom's Christmas shopping. After that, they walk mostly in silence. Sounds awkward.
- But as they approach the mill, Mr. Hook surprises Tom by saying he is welcome to stay the night at his house in town anytime the weather is too snowy for Tom to walk home.
- Tom thanks Mr. Hook, though he says his mother will worry if he does not return home. Mr. Hook says the offer stands for the future.
- It's a slow afternoon at the mill. Snowstorms can do that.
- Mr. Ackerman lets Tom off a little early so he can start the walk home. Three miles is even longer in the snow.
- Tom buttons his presents up in his coat and sets off.
- The wind from the storm picks up as Tom walks home. After the lights from the houses in town fade away, it's pretty much pitch black. This was back before the time of GPS, so Tom wonders whether it would be smarter to turn back and stay at Mr. Hook's. But the desire to get home with his presents spurs him on.
- There's the sense that Tom is in real danger from the weather, but he knows he has to keep going. Let's hope he knows the walk by heart, or at least can rely on his other senses to make up for what he can't see.
- He keeps going, but there are some rough patches.
- He has to fight frustration at floundering through snow drifts.
- The light from the Quarrys' house looks super welcoming. They might even invite him in for a cup of hot cocoa?
- No. Power through.
- Tom can't even move his arms to stay warm, because that would make him drop his packages. Shoot.
- The worst part is banishing from his mind the scary stories Birdy had told him about a man freezing to death.
- Oh, the suspense!
- Suspense is over: he makes it home. Whew!
- Before going inside, Tom goes to the barn to hide the presents for his family in the feed bin.
- Inside, Tom is greeted by his mother, sisters, and Birdy, who had stayed for dinner.
- Tom's mother lavishes him with attention trying to get him warm and dry, which makes Tom feel happy that he got her such a nice Christmas gift.
- Polly Ann, Birdy, and Cissie-Mae and Ellie sit with Tom while he eats dinner. They already ate, since they didn't have to walk three miles through a snowstorm.
- Birdy commends Tom on a job well done navigating home.
- By now, the storm is so bad that Birdy agrees to spend the night and offers to drive Tom to the mill in the morning.
- The next morning, while doing his chores, Tom worries about how to get his presents from their hiding spot in the barn into the house. He has Polly Ann smuggle in the girls' presents, and then he has the girls sneak in Polly Ann's present, while Birdy creates a distraction.
- The girls and Polly Ann plan to go cut a Christmas tree that day, and Birdy and Tom start out for town.
- On the drive, Tom thinks he should get a Christmas present for Birdy as well.
- Tom asks Birdy if he has seen Widow Breen recently. He says he saw her in November when he followed a deer he was hunting up to her place and that the barn looked as good as ever. He also mentioned that she had asked after Tom and seemed pleased to hear he quit school and got a job.
- He thinks about the other part of his fortune from the cards, the part about getting a lot of money. He wonders when that will be. In case you forgot, he really wants that barn.
- Back at the mill, there's a debate going on in the office about whether to put in a telephone.
- Mr. Ackerman is very confused about how the telephone would work (newfangled technology!). Plus, he rants about the cost, remembering the telephone numbers, even about how women are employed as the operators. He's an old-fashioned kinda guy.
- When Mr. Ackerman finds out that a business competitor has a telephone, he stops his grumbling and demands they get one as well.
- A crew comes to install the new telephone on Christmas Eve, earlier than Mr. Hook had thought they would be able to get there. But then, Mr. Erlo is a man who gets his way.
- Shortly after the phone is installed, the office receives its first call: Mr. Erlo's wife, Aggie, worrying about why he didn't phone at noon like he said he was going to and telling him to hurry home for dinner after stopping by the pharmacy.
- Mr. Erlo proclaims the phone "a great thing." (16.37).
- Tom thinks he would love to have one at his home, too, so that he could reach his mother if he needed to.
- One thing at a time, Tom. You've still got a barn to save up for.
- At the end of the workday on Christmas Eve, Erlo calls all the men (Mr. Hook, the Moucheauds, Ox, and Tom) into the office for a small celebration.
- The men drink scotch and whiskey, with Tom getting a small pour of whiskey with lots of water. He doesn't care for the taste.
- Mr. Ackerman passes out envelopes as he does every year. Tom gets one too even though he has only been at the mill less than four months. Tom isn't sure what the envelope is or what to do with it, so he observes the other men and puts it in his pocket without opening it as they do.
- Once the men are outside, the Moucheauds open their envelopes right away and each pull out a five-dollar bill.
- Tom waits until he is alone to open his envelope, and he finds a half-dollar piece inside.
- Tom is disappointed that he did not receive as much as the Moucheauds.
- Ox notices Tom's disappointment and reminds him gently that Tom is "at the bottom of the ladder" for now, having joined the mill only a few months ago with no previous knowledge about how mills work (22). He's also not even through puberty yet.
- Tom is able to accept the half-dollar for what it is: a gift to be appreciated, even if it's not the same as what others have gotten.
- Metaphor alert!
- Still thinking about Ox's words, Tom realizes that even though he's at the bottom of the ladder, he's at least starting to climb his way up it and that he and his family are "better off than they had been last summer" (18.1).
- On the way home, Tom stops at the pharmacy to buy tobacco for Birdy's Christmas present.
- At home, Tom sees the tree Polly Ann and the girls had cut and decorated, and he notices his presents stowed safely beneath it. Polly Ann wraps and adds the present for Birdy to the pile.
- Christmas day arrives, and the family enjoys a big dinner (lunch/brunch to us) that Polly Ann has worked hard on. Then they open their presents.
- Polly Ann loves her gift from Tom, and he notices how young and pretty it makes her look when she puts it on. The girls put on their ribbons from Tom right away as well.
- Tom gets new mittens from Polly Ann and matching knit wristers (it's what they sound like) and a scarf made by his sisters.
- Birdy gives Tom snow shoes that he got secondhand, though they were made by an excellent craftsman (Old Broken-Crow Redner), so they are good quality, and Birdy has varnished them to make them like new. It's a very thoughtful gift because the shoes will help Tom get to and from work safely and quickly in the winter weather.
- Birdy proclaims the tobacco he gets from Tom to be the best in the world.
- Birdy teaches Tom how to use the snowshoes. They work so well that Tom doesn't worry about getting to or from work anymore.
- One day at the end of February, Tom goes out to the Breen place to check on the barn.
- The barn looks exactly the same, confirming what Birdy had said about it being well built.
- Everything is still around the house. Tom wonders if the Widow Breen has left or died (though he doesn't say as much), but then he notices a small stream of smoke rising from the chimney.
- Since no one answers the front door when Tom knocks on it, he goes around to look in through the kitchen window.
- Tom sees Mrs. Breen inside wrapped in blankets. She recognizes him and moves sloooowly (we're talking turtle speed) to let him in.
- She says she's glad to see him, and that she knew his mom back in "livelier" days. She also says she would offer him tea, but she's just about run out of wood for the fire, and she can't get down to the barn to fetch more because of all the snow and because of how stiff she's been feeling.
- Tom offers to bring more wood up from the barn.
- Tom worries about Mrs. Breen's situation in that house all alone. She refuses his offers to help, insisting she has plenty to think about and plenty of food. She wants to stay in the house she's been here for so long.
- They have tea, and then Tom heads back home.
- No one ever sees Mrs. Breen alive again. Say what?!
- Tom had thought about going back to see her or telling Mr. Hook about her situation, but he remembered how insistent she'd been about wanting to stay as she was in her house, so he forgot about it.
- Joe Hemphill went up to the Breen place on April 1, something he did every year, to take Mrs. Breen into town for her spring trading. When he got there, he found her dead, sitting on the settee in the kitchen wrapped in the blankets, as she was the last time Tom had seen her. (Well, aside from being dead this time.)
- Though Joe Hemphill hadn't seen signs of a break in or other trouble, he goes to see Billy-Bob Baxter, a lawyer, to report the death. Billy-Bob says that it is standard to send the Sheriff and the Coroner in such cases. Then Joe gets mad when Billy-Bob says he'll represent him if there's a murder investigation.
- Tom is concerned about how much wood Joe had seen left on the porch, since he had stacked some there when he went to visit in February. No doubt he is thinking about when she died in relation to the last time he had been there.
- Tom is worried that he should have done more, but he doesn't know what exactly he could have done.
- While the men continue to talk about the events at the Breen place, Tom goes off alone to think about the wood. Based on Joe's description, he figures she used about two weeks' worth of the wood he stacked, which would mean she died around the middle of March.
- He wonders if she had been afraid, but then he thinks she was the sort of woman who would have known death was coming and faced it head-on.
- Ox notices that Tom seems to be affected by the death, and he asks if Tom had seen her recently. Tom nods and tells him all about how he had seen her in February and worried about her loneliness.
- Ox thinks Tom ought to repeat the information to Mr. Hook, so he does. Mr. Hook asks if Tom had gone up just to see Mrs. Breen, and Tom feels that the only way to explain it is to tell them about his plan to get the barn, even though he doesn't want to because it seems like such a farfetched plan for a young teen with hardly any money.
- Mr. Hook thinks Tom probably should have told someone about the state Mrs. Breen was in at the end of February, though he doubts it would have do much good.
- Mr. Hook says Tom will have to give the information to the Sheriff and Coroner as well, which alarms Tom, but Mr. Hook says he will go with him.
- The next day, Tom goes to Hulbert House, the nicest and biggest hotel in Booneville, to see the Sheriff and Coroner.
- Joe Hemphill is there being interrogated, but when Sheriff Purley and Dr. Considine hear that Tom was the last one to see Mrs. Bree alive, they let Joe go.
- Dr. Considine, the largest man Tom has ever seen, asks Tom to give his "testimony." In other words, the last time he saw Mrs. Breen.
- After Tom gives his testimony, the men review the plans to go up to the Breen place and collect the body. Dr. Considine wants Tom to go with them since it seems he knows a lot about the Breen place.
- Mr. Hook tells him it's okay if he takes the rest of the day off to go with them.
- FYI, days off work are more exciting when there's not a dead body involved.
- Tom, Sheriff Purley, Dr. Considine, Joe Hemphill, and the undertaker (Mr. Vance) set out for Mrs. Breen's. Tom rides with the undertaker and feels weird looking at the box that will be used to carry Mrs. Breen's body.
- Tom observes that everything on the property looks just the same as it had the last time he'd been there, but without the snow and less lonely.
- He works up the courage to look at Widow Breen's body. He doesn't think it looks much different either, except that her skin seems a bit grayer and that "her face looked very far away, and a little as if she were watching them all from that distant spot" (24.13).
- That's only sort of creepy.
- Sheriff Purley asks Tom to go upstairs with him after Tom confirms to him and the Coroner that everything downstairs looks the same as last time.
- Upstairs, Sheriff Purley and Tom sense that something is "off." They find that all the drawers have been messed up, as if someone had been hastily rummaging through the contents.
- Tom knows this is unusual because Birdy had told him that Mrs. Breen was a very neat housekeeper.
- Sheriff Purley and Tom speculate about who might have been there, when, and what they were looking for.
- The Coroner says that there is no sign of violence and that Mrs. Breen seems to have died of natural causes.
- With Mrs. Breen's body secured in the back of the undertaker's wagon, the group starts back for town.
- Tom and Joe Hemphill have to give their testimonies one more time at the formal inquest.
- Mr. Lambert, the banker, also speaks at the inquest, saying that the Breens never had an account at his bank or at any banks in the surrounding county.
- Tom asks for time off to go to Mrs. Breen's burial. He and Birdy are the only ones there, along with the gravedigger and the priest.
- Tom begins to wonder what will happen to the Breen property. Some people say that the house is now haunted, with Mr. Breen's ghost returned to get his money. Other people trek to the house to look for the money themselves. They did some damage to the house, but the barn was mostly left alone, since there didn't seem to be likely places to hide money in there.
- Tom tells Birdy he still wants to buy the barn one day. Birdy says it doesn't seem likely that someone will buy the land because it's too small for a farm. He explains that if no one buys the property, the County will "put it up for taxes."
- That means that whoever pays the taxes due on the land and continues paying them for two more years will own it if no one comes forward to make a claim on it.
- Birdy says the taxes would come to around eight or ten dollars. Not bad for a whole property. Tom begins to think maybe he could afford to get the land after all, though he only wants the barn, not the land itself.
- Tom asks if he would be able to move the barn in the first year of paying taxes. Birdy says he better ask Billy-Bab Baxter, the lawyer, about that.
- With the dream of purchasing the barn seeming to be in reach, Tom starts to imagine how it would look on his family's property, which makes him realize how rundown his family's home is.
- Tom decides it would be a good idea to fix up the house before putting the barn up.
- Tom's no-good father, Nob, never made any effort to make repairs on the house, so there are no tools lying around for Tom to use. That means he has to buy them.
- He gets advice from Birdy, who says Tom will need a ladder for the house repairs, and he'll need at least two to put up the barn. Ladders are expensive, so Birdy finds good quality secondhand ones for Tom. Even those cost $14, and it is really difficult for Tom to take the money out of his savings for the barn.
- By the time Tom purchases all the supplies he needs, he has used all his savings, plus two weeks' wages.
- Once Tom gets started with the repairs and painting, though, he feels really proud about the improvements, and he stops worrying about the money for the barn.
- Conveniently, he gets a raise at the mill. That means he'll be able to rebuild his savings and afford the barn. Woohoo.
- Tom goes to see Billy-Bob Baxter about how to put a bid in on the Breen property.
- Billy-Bob remembers Tom's grandpa, and Tom feels like he can trust him for advice.
- Billy-Bob says he will look into the cost of taxes on the Breen place, and reminds Tom that a relative might still show up to claim the place, though he doesn't see why anyone would want the property.
- Tom also asks about the possibility of moving the barn off the place after the first year of paying taxes on it, and Billy-Bob says he will have to check on that too, but that it wouldn't hurt to wait until the second year, especially if the barn is in good shape.
- Billy-Bob tells Tom not to worry too much about the people who have been rummaging around on the property looking for money. He adds that Bert Breen wouldn't have hidden the money anywhere people like that could find it.
- After promising again to look into the details, Billy-Bob ends their meeting by saying he thinks Bert Breen would be happy about Tom's plan for the barn because he "set a lot of store by it."
- It's a compliment.
- Some time passes before Tom hears from Billy-Bob again. When Billy-Bob calls over to the mill to tell Tom to stop by, Mr. Hook asks about Tom's business with him. Mr. Hook says he would have been glad to look into the property for him without charging a fee, which Mr. Baxter might.
- Billy-Bob says that the barn might go on the County list in April (it's just after Thanksgiving at this point), or maybe a year from April. It depends on some things.
- Tom says it would be better for him if the barn became available a year from April (to have more time to save), but Mr. Baxter tells him not to worry about that and to go about his normal life/schedule/business.
- Tom asks Billy-Bob about a fee for his time. Billy-Bob says not to worry about that either because the inquiry had taken very little time. He says he'll let Tom know if he owes anything after he gets the barn.Tom thinks that's very fair. It is, and super nice too (as far as lawyers go).
- Christmas comes around again. Tom buys the same gifts for his sisters (ribbons) and Birdy (tobacco) as he had the year before. He doesn't think he can afford another shirtwaist for his mother because he spent so much fixing the house. After much searching, he settles on a secondhand teapot. Both she and Birdy admire it, but Tom feels bad for giving his mother a secondhand gift.
- Birdy gives Tom an old, but good-quality saw that he has fixed up. The saw works better than any modern one would, and Tom knows that Birdy was thinking it would help with the barn.
- Mr. Hook stops by with something for Tom: an old book on carpentry that will be helpful to Tom with his barn. Mr. Hook's father had the same one, and Mr. Hook hunted down a secondhand copy in Syracuse.
- Polly Ann admires the book, and the girls offer to help Tom with the figures and reading since they are still in school while he is not.
- Tom feels relieved knowing that it must have been okay for him to give his mother a secondhand teapot if Mr. Hook gave him a secondhand book.
- Tom spends his evenings that winter studying from the book and practicing.
- By the time winter ends, Tom has replenished some of his savings, but he is still relieved when Billy-Bob tells him that the Breen property wouldn't go up for sale that year. That way he has more time to save.
- Tom goes up to the property to measure the barn foundation.
- An angry man comes out of the Breen house and asks what Tom is doing. Tom explains that he is just measuring the barn because he wants to put one up on his place.
- The man says he doesn't like people snooping around the property, even though he doesn't own it.
- He says that when he's done, Tom can have the barn, but that he doesn't want to see Tom until he's done.
- Not the nicest guy. Guess it's time to leave.
- On the way home, Tom realizes the man must have been Yantis Flancher, the ringleader of the three Flancher brothers. Birdy told Tom about how these guys take whatever they want from others. Tom figures the Flanchers are looking for the Breens' hidden money.
- Tom and Birdy scope out the best place to construct the barn on the Dolan property.
- Tom worries that it's foolish to imagine the barn there since he doesn't own it yet, but Birdy says never mind that. If for some reason Tom doesn't get the Breen barn, they'll find timber elsewhere.
- They decide to build the barn against a small hill, which means they will need stone for the part of the barn that will touch the hill. Birdy knows of several abandoned farms where they can get stone from the old buildings.
- Throughout the summer, Birdy and Tom work every evening and on Sundays to get the stones.
- In October, Tom and Birdy drive up to the Breen place to check on the barn and continue planning. When they get there, they see that the Flanchers have been digging around the house looking for the money.
- Tom realizes how much he has learned about carpentry from his book as he and Birdy are in the barn discussing how to construct the proper support to connect the stone parts of the new barn.
- They pass the Flanchers on the drive back. Birdy has brought his gun for just such a meeting. Whoa. A gun? This is more serious than we thought.
- Birdy stands up to the Flanchers, telling them they have no claim to the Breen place and that Tom's going ahead with his plans to take the barn down.
- Birdy tells Tom not to go up to the Breen place alone, but he also reassures Tom they won't let the Flanchers stop them.
- Major bummer alert: Tom doesn't get the title to the Breen property.
- Billy-Bob tells Tom that someone has bought the barn before it could go up for auction for the taxes. He says Ab Lambert, the cousin of the banker Oscar Lambert, bought the property, but he suspects that he bought it for someone else because he can't see why Ab would want the property.
- But Billy-Bob's got an idea: he can find out who Ab bought the land for, and Tom can make an offer to that person for the barn. Billy-Bob says that Tom is better off without the land anyway and that all he really wants is the barn.
- Tom feels like his dreams are crumbling around him. Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but he's pretty disappointed.
- Tom's mother sees he is upset. Tom realizes he hasn't told his mother about his plan to buy the barn. Kind of surprising, considering he's been pretty much obsessed with it for years now. But it's because he'd wanted to surprise them when it was officially his.
- Polly Ann sympathizes with him, but tells him not to linger on might-have-beens.
- Polly Ann repeats the idea that he might still be able to get the barn from whomever bought the property. Tom laments that it probably won't be as cheap as if he had gotten it for the price of taxes, but she says she has the feeling "you're going to buy it all the same" (33).
- Tom's not so sure, but it's sort of comforting, at least.
- Around Christmas, Tom finds out from Bancel Moucheaud that Mr. Armond, a rich lawyer who splits his time between New York City and the country, bought the Breen place.
- Mr. Parker, who runs the Armond farm, told Bancel that the Flanchers were still hanging around the Breen house. He's pretty angry about that.
- Billy-Bob isn't surprised to hear the purchaser was Armond because the Armond property is adjacent to the Breen property.
- Billy-Bob says Armond paid $100 for the property, twice what it would have gone for for taxes by the county. Billy-Bob suggests that Tom wait until spring when Armond will be on his farm and offer him $50 down and $50 after the place is built.
- Tom worries about the cost, but Billy-Bob thinks it will be okay. He even offers to take him to the bank for a loan if need be.
- Ho ho ho! Christmas again. Birdy joins the family as he has for the past couple of years, and Mr. Hook stops by like he did last year. He brings candy for Polly Ann and Tom's sisters, and for Tom, a set of carpentry tools that had belonged to his uncle.
- This time, the Dolans persuade Birdy to stay when Mr. Hook shows up, and soon the two men are swapping stories like two old son-of-a-guns. Polly Ann enjoys hearing the old stories too.
- By the end of February, close to spring when Tom intends to make his offer to Mr. Armond, Tom begins to feel overwhelmed about how much work it'll be to take the barn down, move it, and rebuild it. Now that it's almost real, the dream is getting daunting!
- Polly Ann gives him a pep talk. She says he's held fast to the dream for three years, and points out how much it has changed him; he started work at the mill, he fixed the house, and he's improved all their lives. She tells him to go make the offer.
- Everyone has last-minute advice for Tom: Mr. Hook, who has by this time stopped by the Dolan house many times, which Tom can see makes his mom happy, tells Tom just to be himself. Polly Ann tells Tom not to be bashful.
- Tom still feels nervous the whole drive. He has to talk to a professional man from the city. That doesn't happen every day in Boonville.
- The Armond place has two barns (one three times the size of the Breen place), a big main house, and several other buildings. Yeesh. Tom can tell Mr. Armond is the type who likes things grand.
- Tom feels very out of place, even "insignificant," when he pulls up to the well-manicured house and puts his horse and old wagon in Mr. Armond's fine barn with way flashier rides. He's got a surrey, a wagonette, a buggy with red wheels, and a cutter. Basically the 1900 version of Lamborghinis and stretch limos.
- Tom introduces himself to Mr. Armond and explains his purpose for the visit.
- Mr. Armond asks why Tom wants the barn. For the answer, you can go back and start the book from the beginning.
- In short, Tom gives his life story about how his father left, how his mother worked hard for them, and how he got the idea to buy the Breen barn.
- Mr. Armond asks about the Widow Breen, so Tom tells him about the two times he visited her.
- Then they talk money. Tom offers $50 down and $50 more in a year, maybe two if he has to buy a lot of lumber to replace roof boards or siding broken during the move.
- Mr. Armond says he can see Tom has thought about this a lot. He says he will take $50 down and $25 next year.
- Pretty generous, huh?
- Two conditions: Mr. Armond stipulates that Tom has to leave little mess and he also has to tear the old house down.
- Mr. Armond takes Tom's money, gives him a receipt, and introduces him to Parker Munsey so that he will know Tom has permission to be on the property taking down the barn and tearing down the house.
- Parker is not a friendly dude, and he makes it clear he is the boss. But he doesn't hamper the business transaction.
- Tom's got himself a barn!
- The reality sinks in on the drive back. Tom got his barn!
- He's thinking he'll go and see Birdy to discuss beginning the job.
- Once he's home, Polly Ann is thrilled to see the note. She imagines Tom paying $50 dollars on the spot. She can't get over the difference he's made in three years.
- Polly Ann asks what Mr. Armond was like, so Tom describes him as best he can, and he sees her nodding when he describes the buildings. He remembers how she used to have to go up to the Armond house to peddle berries for her father when she was a little girl.
- After talking with Polly Ann over dinner, Tom drives to Birdy's.
- Birdy says Tom got a good deal, and that knocking down the house won't be too much extra work.
- Birdy and Tom make a plan to work every day after Tom finishes at the mill. They figure that's about two working hours, plus all day on Sunday.
- Tom wonders whether the Flanchers or Parker Munsey will cause any trouble. But now that Tom has the signed receipt it's hard to see what any of them could do.
- The next day, Mr. Hook is surprised to see Tom arrive driving with his horse and wagon since he usually walks. (Today's one of the days Polly Ann doesn't need the wagon; the other days, he'll walk as usual and meet Birdy to drive the rest of the way.)
- Tom explains (drum roll please) that he bought the Breen barn and that he and Birdy will start taking it down that evening.
- Tom puts in a full day at the mill, and then he and Birdy drive up to the barn. Once there, Tom doesn't see the point in starting so late in the day, but Birdy insists that they'll get as many shingles off the roof as they can before dark.
- Birdy tells Tom to go slow and steady (remember the saying about the tortoise?) until he gets the hang of the work and of being up on the roof. Birdy, on the other hand, moves like it ain't no thang (in fact, Tom likens him to a boar raccoon).
- They work until the light is completely gone. There's a tense moment when Tom can't find his ladder to get down (could the Flanchers have gotten it??), but he finds it and all is well.
- Tom arrives home totally wiped. But the task is begun. Pretty exciting, no?
- Tom drags through his work at the mill the next day. Birdy says the long work days will get easier as he becomes used to it.
- The Flanchers are up at the Breen place when Tom and Birdy arrive. They don't speak to Tom and Birdy, but just creep on them silently for a while.
- Okay, weirdos.
- Tom and Birdy work until close to nine, load up, and start the drive home. When they get to one of their turnoffs (Buck's Corners), Tom tells Birdy he can walk the rest of the way home (half an hour walking…after walking to the mill in the morning and three miles to meet Birdy in the afternoon). Not exactly fun, but it'll save Birdy almost an hour travel time.
- They don't see the Flanchers for the rest of the week, and they finish stripping the shingles from the roof and start taking off the boards.
- Tom breaks a lot at the ends at first, but he watches Birdy and gets better.
- They take each day's boards down to the Dolan place at night and pile them up on spacer sticks collected by Cissie-Mae and Ellie.
- Birdy and Tom keep up with their hard work. Tom begins to feel like they actually will be able to get the whole barn taken down. The barn is half-gone, and the glass is half-full.
- One Sunday while Birdy is driving a load of rafters to the Dolans, Tom stays at the barn to continue work. That's when the Flanchers show up.
- Uh oh.
- Yantis climbs up Tom's ladder to where he is working and asks if he has come upon "anything" (a.k.a., the money). Tom says they've only been focused on taking the barn down.
- He holds his own pretty well, even when Yantis tells him that he and his brothers have been watching Tom and Birdy, and will keep at it, too.
- The Flanchers leave, and Birdy returns. All is well.
- Tom thinks over the hidden money for the next week when he has free time to let his mind wander. Given how thoroughly the house and surrounding ground have been searched, Tom figures it must be in the barn somewhere.
- But where?
- He forgets about it when he and Birdy start a difficult part of the job: taking down the frame. It's painstaking work, so they only do it on Sundays so they can see properly. On weekdays, they take down the old Dolan barn to make room for the new barn.
- When taking down the last part of the Breen barn, the front, Tom notices something weird about the entrance's hook, which keeps the door closed.
- He asks Birdy if he notices anything off. Birdy can't say that he does, though he recalls Bert did have it made specially. Birdy asks Tom what's on his mind, Tom starts to tell him but then changes his mind.
- The text doesn't explain what Tom is thinking (but we can guess…).
- Polly Ann and Mr. Hook drive up unexpectedly to have a picnic lunch with Tom and Birdy.
- Polly Ann does most of the talking, telling stories about her family, about getting lost in the swamp near the Breen place when looking for raspberries, and about how she and her sister had once gotten whipped for looking into the Breen barn one night to see what Mr. Breen was doing in there.
- Polly Ann laughs remembering the barn story, and Birdy and Mr. Hook just chalk it up to the Breens' strange habits. But Tom begins to think that what Mr. Breen was doing in the barn at night could have something to do with his idea about that unusual hook.
- Intrigued yet?
- Mr. Hook and Polly Ann leave so that Tom and Birdy can get back to work. As they drive off, Birdy notes that Mr. Hook and Polly Ann seem to be getting along very well.
- Yeah, we noticed.
- They load timbers in Birdy's wagon, and he starts off for the Dolans'. Tom stays behind to load his own wagon with boards left from the siding.
- While Tom is working, he thinks over Polly Ann's story about Mr. Breen going into the barn at night with a pinch. He realizes that the hook was positioned to keep people from coming inside the barn while Mr. Breen was in there, and that pinch bar could be used to pry up a board.
- Eureka! Mr. Breen must have hidden his money in the barn floor.
- Tom wants to look for it right away, but knows he shouldn't. Parker Munsey walks up while he is thinking about the money. Good thing Tom wasn't poking around the floorboards.
- When Munsey asks what he is thinking, he lies easily, saying he's thinking about how he wants a cement floor instead of a timber one in his new barn.
- Munsey wants to know when Tom will finish taking up the barn floor and when he will tear down the house. Tom, somewhat sassily, says he and Birdy will do it after they've built the foundation for his barn and gotten the frame up and roofed.
- You tell that city slicker, Tom.
- Tom drives home, feeling that both he and his horse will be happy when the work at the Breen property is over.
- Back home, Polly Ann tells Tom she's been thinking about the time she saw Mr. Breen in the barn since telling the story over lunch. Like mother, like son.
- Tom tells her they better wait until after supper to discuss it so that no one overhears them.
- Tom knows he will need someone to help him get the money, so that night, he tells Polly Ann that he figures it's in the floor underneath the cow stalls.
- Polly Ann is impressed with his brains.
- Tom explains that rather than getting it right away, he should wait until they finish tearing down the house in November. He figures by then the Flanchers will see there is nothing in the house and that they won't be likely to be waiting out in the cold and dark anyway. He also worries about Parker Munsey showing up, which is why he needs Polly Ann to go with him. He wants to take a route that no one will be watching.
- Polly Ann readily knows a route they can take from her berry-collecting days. She's not worried or afraid about taking the route at night.
- Tom asks if Polly Ann had talked to Mr. Hook about all this. She hasn't, just as Tom hasn't talked to Birdy.
- Tom suggests Mr. Hook might ask Polly Ann to marry him. She blushes and says she would refuse if he did because "A person from as poor as we are has no right to marry a wealthy man like him" (42.48).
- Now that's no way to talk for believers in the American Dream.
- Tom worries that reconstructing the barn on his place will take way longer than tearing it down, but it doesn't seem too bad after they lay the stone foundation. Birdy especially loves the stone work. Tom thinks laying that stone must have been one of the happiest times in Birdy's life.
- Well, to each his own.
- We get the nitty-gritty of constructing the new barn: laying stone, putting down sills, securing posts and beams, raising the girt, laying the floor. We're ready for our honorary construction badges now.
- By the end of August, they're ready to schedule their barn-raising. They'll need at least eighteen men to help them get the walls up, so they need to schedule the raising for a Sunday.
- Tom doesn't know how they'll get that many people to come help, but Birdy explains people love coming out to a good barn-raising because 1) it's up to the host to provide free food (and how many times have you been bribed to do something for free pizza?) and 2) there's the possibility of someone getting hurt, and no one wants to miss out on that excitement.
- The next day at the mill, Tom asks Ox and the Moucheauds to help at the barn-raising on September 16. They're happy to come, and the Moucheauds reassure Tom that they can bring several lumberjacks with them. These are dudes who will do any manual labor as long as there's plenty of food.
- Turns out a barn-raising is a downright exciting affair. By the end of the day Mr. Hook has caught wind of it. He figures the best way he can help is to help Polly Ann get enough food for the men and the crowd.
- Tom still doesn't see the big deal. Mr. Hook explains that barn-raisings don't happen often and that people like the thrill of seeing something that could either go impressively well or cause an unexpected accident.
- Hang on folks: time for more barn-building lessons from Birdy: how to assemble bents.
- Moving on. Polly Ann and the girls are planning the food, though Polly Ann is both overwhelmed and "appalled" that so many people will turn up expecting free food.
- Mr. Hook comes down a couple of times to help her, and he brings Mrs. Conroy, his housekeeper, to assist.
- Mrs. Conroy takes an immediate liking to Polly Ann. She says they'll need to get help from some other women as well to bake enough pies in town. Polly Ann worries about paying for it all, but Mrs. Conroy says Mr. Hook will gladly help.
- Polly Ann worries about ever being able to pay him back.
- We think it'll pan out okay.
- The week before the barn-raising is a flurry of women coming and going. Food, food, food, and final prep. It's kind of like Christmas, but with more flour.
- Tom goes down the road to the Masseys' to borrow sawhorses to use for food tables. He "looked enviously" at Massey's Holstein cows and concrete floor, thinking how long it will be until he can afford those things.
- Mr. Massey says he's heard Tom has a "real good barn" and that he'll be at the barn-raising the next day.
- On the walk home, Tom thinks about the first time he went to the Breen place and got the inkling to buy the barn. And now his idea has actually panned out. Crazy, huh?
- Tom and Polly Ann stay up late together, sharing a cup of tea and worrying about the money they'll owe for food (and probably other things as well). When Tom finally goes to bed, he has a nightmare that a big mouse destroys his barn's wood.
- He wakes from the nightmare, but then worries about rain. Take a chill pill, Tom.
- It's barn-raising day, y'all! Tom wakes to the sun shining.
- Birdy comes driving up, in a new shirt no less, and soon after, Mr. Hook and Mrs. Conroy arrive as well.
- Though it's Tom's barn, he actually feels pretty out-of-place in the hustle and bustle of morning prep. Mrs. Conroy directs the setup and she, Polly Ann, and the girls have command of the kitchen.
- Before long, people start to arrive: Massey and his men; Ox Hubbard: the Moucheauds and their relations; the lumberjacks; two wagons with three men, three women, and seven children from Leyden; a wagon with three single men from Potato Hill. The list goes on.
- Mr. Massey introduces Birdy to the newcomers as the man who'd helped build the barn the first time, and it's agreed that he'll be the boss of the raising.
- Under Birdy's directive calls of "Hee-yo—HEAVE!" up goes the first bent.
- Erlo and Mrs. Ackerman arrive. Tom greets Mr. Ackerman, who tells Tom: "You got things going good […] I'm sorry we're late, but don't pay attention to us. The barn's what's important, Tom."
- After the second and third bents go up, they all break for the lunch Polly Ann has worked so hard on. Sandwiches, cheese, pies, cakes, coffee, switchel…whatever switchel is. Where can we get a plate?
- Tom feels shy, but he still tries to circulate as the host.
- Mr. Massey and Mr. Hook compliment Tom on the barn, and each man offers additional help: Mr. Massey says he'd be glad to come another Sunday to help with the roof, and Mr. Hook says that he and Erlo would have no problem with Tom taking a week or two off to work on the barn after the frame is raised.
- Sure, those weeks would be unpaid, but Mr. Hook also offers to give Tom a loan if he would need it. What a nice boss. Tom says he'll think about it.
- Tom sees Yantis Flancher talking to Ox. Ox and Mr. Massey say that Yantis was asking why Tom hadn't put his cattle floor down yet. It seems he's still nosing around about the Breen money.
- What a moocher.
- The rest of the frame goes up without a hitch. Too bad for the folks who showed up hoping for an accident.
- Louis Moucheaud ties a basalm tree to a top post for luck, and the men toast to the barn's future.
- The men begin to leave. Mrs. Conroy, Polly Ann, and the girls clean up the food and kitchen. Mr. Hook and Tom break down the makeshift tables.
- Mr. Hook and Tom find Birdy in the middle of the barn, admiring it and thinking back to the first time it was raised.
- Tom, Mr. Hook, and Polly Ann thank Birdy and praise him for his leadership. Birdy shrugs it off: there's still plenty of work to be done.
- Polly Ann says it's been a long day, so she calls for milking, a simple meal, and then bed.
- But Tom has another idea: to go to the Breen place and look for the money.
- Tom explains that Yantis was asking about Tom's barn floor, and that he might catch on before too long. Tom also thinks the Flanchers wouldn't expect to be on the lookout for him at the Breen place after such a long day.
- Polly Ann rallies. Field trip!
- Tom and Polly Ann set off from their place, instructing Cissie-Mae and Ellie to say that Tom took Polly Ann to the doctor if anyone should stop by looking for them.
- They drive in total darkness to be as stealthy as possible, and in the few places where there are lights from buildings or intersections that others might be driving along, they just depend on luck that they won't be noticed.
- Luckily, they don't pass anyone or seem to draw attention.
- As they get to the remote Irish Settlement road, Tom notices that it smells like old bathrooms ("privies" back then), and Polly Ann recalls how poor the people in the area are.
- As she describes the people and the place, it's clear to Tom that Polly Ann considers the Dolans to be better off than they used to be. That gives Tom even more determination.
- Polly Ann and Tom round one of the corners near the Armond property. They're getting close.
- Tom is still trying to orient himself in the dark, but Polly Ann is a guide extraordinaire.
- They leave the horse tied to a tree and wade through Cold Brook (and, yes, it is chilly water) to the Breen place.
- Tom thinks that Bert Breen would most likely have hidden the money under the flooring in the middle, but he starts from the beginning and works his way down so that he won't lose his place.
- As Tom works, he begins to doubt whether he'll ever find anything, and Polly Ann gets nervous when she hears the owls stop hooting (there might be someone around).
- Finally, Tom finds the loose boards he's been looking for. Polly Ann finds two heavy chests inside.
- They carry the chests to the wagon, and Tom tells Polly Ann to lead the horse and wagon with the chests back to the corner of the Armond property while he puts the floorboards back the way they were. If there's any hint of trouble, Polly Ann is supposed to drive the wagon home, and Tom will walk.
- Tom returns the boards easily to their original locations, and then he goes to scatter the chaff and sand over the boards as Bert Breen had done so they would look undisturbed. Though Tom's learned a lot, he forgot to bring a tool to carry the chaff and sand from its box to the flooring, so he has to use his hat.
- While he's doing that, he sees a light coming toward the Breens' place on a wagon. Gotta be the Flanchers. Time to vamoose.
- Tom finds Polly Ann waiting for him, and they lead the horse quietly until Tom feels it's safe enough to light a lantern and climb in the wagon to make better time. With the lantern lit, Polly Ann sees Tom without his hat and chides him for not turning it inside out. Moms will be moms.
- They decide to take the money to Billy-Bob's, even though it'll be past midnight by the time they get there. They think it's likely the Flanchers stopped by their house earlier and would probably go back, so it's better to find a different spot for the cash.
- The office light at Billy-Bob's is still turned on. What a night owl.
- Tom knocks at the window and explains their reason for arriving so late. They bring the chests in and put the horse in the barn.
- Billy-Bob tells Polly Ann he remembers her from when she was a girl and how pretty she was then and still is. That's nice, if not exactly relevant.
- The two of them move the chests into the office and pull the shades over the windows while Tom is putting Drew in the barn.
- They open one chest to find it full of bundles of money. But there's no way the second chest will be the same, right?
- Wrong. Bundles.
- For a sinking moment, Tom wonders if his family will be allowed to keep it.
- They come up with a system for counting the money.
- Billy-Bob tallies up their totals: $8,779, not counting the loose silver pieces. Jackpot!
- Billy-Bob asks what Tom will do with. The question indicates that the Dolans will be able to keep the money. Doubts be gone.
- Tom is overwhelmed, and doesn't know what to do. Billy-Bob says they need to get the money to the bank. Tom doesn't want to keep the money at home overnight in case of those pesky Flanchers, so Billy-Bob says he will keep it and meet Tom with it at the bank at 9 am sharp.
- For once, a trustworthy lawyer.
- Billy-Bob advises them not to tell anyone where the money came from, including Oscar Lambert (the banker), though he suspects Mr. Lambert will guess. They plan to say simply, "Tom came into money" (39).
- They lock the chests, put them into a closet, and agree Tom will keep the keys overnight.
- On the way home, Polly Ann declares, "it's going to be so different for us now!" (40).
- Tom has never been in a bank before. Neither had his father or grandfather. Tom feels strange walking in and observing the tellers and cashiers behind their counters transacting business.
- Tom, Billy-Bob, Oscar Lambert, and Mr. Wynn (another banker) go into the vault where the trunks are.
- Tom thinks that based on the bankers' looks, they've guessed where the money came from, even though Billy-Bob gives no details.
- The bankers count the money much more quickly than Billy-Bob, Tom, and Polly Ann had done the night before. The count the silver coins, and even find gold coins hidden in the bottom of one trunk.
- The total comes to $9,240.00. That's a lot of dough, especially for back in the day.
- The bankers set up a savings account for Tom, even though Billy-Bob says Tom will want to make two or three large withdrawals soon.
- Tom can't imagine what those sums will be for, except maybe his lawyer's fee. He's been trustworthy so far, but lawyers will be lawyers.
- While they're waiting for Mr. Wynn to get Tom's bankbook and paperwork, Mr. Lambert again says how weird it is to inherit money in two dusty trunks. Tom can't think of what to say, so Billy-Bob just says it doesn't matter how he got the money just that he has it now.
- Sounds fair, since we know Tom's an honest dude, but a bank robber would never try that kind of line.
- Mr. Wynn gives Tom his new bankbook, and he leaves with the book in his pocket and the account number already memorized.
- Billy-Bob wants Tom to go back to his office to discuss some things, but Tom says he has to get back to work at the mill and that he will stop by after work. How could he think about the mill at a time like this?!
- Billy-Bob urges him not to tell anyone except for Polly Ann about the amount of money.
- At the mill, it's normal and busy day, though Tom has a lot of other things to think about. There's his new money and his worry about the Flanchers, for example.
- Turns out the Flanchers did stop by the Dolans' house the night before. Creepers.
- Cissie-Mae told them that Tom took Polly Ann to the doctor, just as she was supposed to. Tom figures they went to the doctor's, found he was out on a birthing case, and then drove to the Breen place.
- Tom knows they can't get the money in the bank, but he remembers stories about them taking revenge on people by burning down their barns and beating them up. The Flanchers aren't nice dudes.
- Joe Hemphill comes into the mill to get an order filled and shares the news that there's trouble at the Breen place. A neighbor reported to Parker Munsey that the Flanchers ran him off the road on their way to the Breen place. Parker got mad, and he and two farmhands confronted the Flanchers.
- The details aren't all clear, but it sounds like there was a fight because both Parker Munsey and one of the Flanchers went to the doctor with injuries.
- The Sheriff is out of town for the day, but when he returns, he's set to arrest the Flanchers for trespassing and assault.
- Mr. Hook notes that even if the Sheriff can't find the Flanchers to arrest them, they won't be causing trouble anytime soon because they won't want anyone to be able to find them. That eases Tom's mind.
- After work, Tom goes to see Billy-Bob, who asks Tom about his plans for the money. Because Billy-Bob has helped Tom so much, he tells him of plans to buy shingles, siding, and a cement floor for the barn, clothes for his mother and sisters, heifers from Mr. Massey, and eventually machinery for his farm.
- Billy-Bob says it's quite a wish list. Tom figures everything on it will cost about $3,000.
- Billy-Bob says he hopes Tom doesn't plan to spend that all at once, and he also notes that Tom seems to have left some expenses out. Tom thinks Billy-Bob is referring to the lawyer's fee, but Billy-Bob says he was happy to help. Billy-Bob was thinking of Birdy.
- Tom realizes he's taken Birdy for granted. Billy-Bob agrees to meet Tom at the bank during lunch the next day to set up a savings account with $500 in it for Birdy.
- Tom figures Birdy won't take the money if Tom just offers it, so this is a way to make sure he's still provided for.
- With money in the bank and the Flanchers more or less out of the way, Tom starts to have a different outlook on the future. It doesn't seem so bleak and scary anymore, because the things that used to seem out of reach are looking more and more possible.
- Tom and Birdy continue to work hard putting up the rafters and the roof boards.
- Tom tells Birdy he plans to order new shingles and siding, and that he'd like to have Birdy meet him during lunch to help him order the stuff.
- Birdy asks where the money for that will come from. He says from the bank, and Birdy guesses he's found the Breen money. Birdy smiles and says he's glad.
- Tom tells Birdy about the account he opened for him. Birdy is obviously touched by the gesture, and he finally agrees to accept it after some protesting.
- They make their plans to meet at Garfield's mill the next day to order the shingles and siding.
- At Garfield's, the order comes to several hundred dollars ("high up in the three figures"). Mr. Garfield comes out and is polite enough, but remarks to Tom that the price seems "kind of large for a man like you" (56.2).
- Birdy sticks up for Tom, and Tom tells Mr. Garfield to call the bank to confirm Tom's ability to pay.
- Mr. Garfield calls the bank and returns, kind of shocked, to say that Tom's credit is good and that his business is always welcome. He eagerly finishes up Tom's order and promises next-day delivery on his lumber.
- Back at the mill, Tom hears that the Sheriff has arrested the Flanchers. This will give Tom time to finish his barn without worrying about them.
- Tom asks Mr. Ackerman for two weeks off to finish the barn before winter. Mr. Ackerman acknowledges that that's a good idea, but he emphasizes that Tom will not be paid for the time off.
- Okay, big whoop. Tom's rolling in it now. Does he even still need his mill job?
- Tom and Birdy finish shingling the roof with a little help from Massey and his men, as promised. When that's done, Tom thinks it's one of the most "impressive" things he's ever seen.
- But putting the siding on turns out to be even better.
- When that's done, Tom really feels like the barn is finally his because it no longer looks like the Breen barn on the outside.
- Every once in a while, Tom still finds himself taking Birdy for granted, so he brings him up to the barn to finish getting Birdy's savings account in order.
- Birdy and Tom discuss plans for the barn floor. Tom still wants a cement floor, but Birdy says there is not enough time before winter to get that done. Birdy advises him to use the Breen flooring and lay the cement floor one section at a time during the winter.
- They go up to the Breen place to get the flooring, and Tom tells Birdy about the night he and Polly Ann had gone to look for the money.
- When Tom and Birdy come upon the hole, they fill it up with dirt and stomp it smooth so that it doesn't look like anything was ever buried there.
- It takes Birdy and Tom three trips to move the floorboards, timbers, and stringers from the Breen place to Tom's, but they finish that by the end of the week.
- Tom hires the Moucheauds to help him and Birdy with the hay for his barn.
- Tom notices that the amount of hay looks sparse spread over the new barn floor, but that it would have filled their old barn to the brim. He'll have to get more meadowland in the future if he wants more cows.
- Drew, the horse, gets to move into his new stall in the barn first, and the cows are moved in the next evening. Turns out, it's really hard to introduce cows to a new place, especially at night, because they are easily spooked.
- Who knew? There's an icebreaker for your next party.
- Tom asks to leave the mill an hour early to get the cows set up, and it ends up going more smoothly than he thought, with the cows acting right at home in their new digs.
- Polly Ann and Tom milk the cows together, and the girls get the hay for the animals.
- Tom feels proud because he knows it was his idea that made this all possible. Polly Ann says she's never milked in such a nice barn.
- Polly Ann suggests that Tom forget about putting in the concrete floor until next summer because the barn is already nice as is.
- Tom still wants the concrete floor. It seems once you get one thing you want, there's always something else.
- It's Birdy who finally convinces him to hold off, noting that Tom will need a lot of water to mix the cement. The pump is currently across the yard, but Birdy figures they can put a pipe into the spring on the hillside to run water into the barn, and even into the house. Good thinking.
- That kind of task can't be done in winter weather, so Tom, at last, decides to hold off on the floor until later.
- After all, he still has to tear down the Breen house, which was part of his contract with Mr. Armond.
- Tom and Birdy go to the Breen house to take it down.
- Oh, hey. The place has already been ripped apart by those searching for money. That makes both Birdy and Tom notices how different it seems than when Mrs. Breen was alive.
- They set fire to the house to finish its demolition. The deed is done.
- Christmastime comes again. In some ways, it's just like old times.
- But there's new stuff, too. There are more presents, and the girls wear new dresses. Polly Ann prepares a turkey for the holiday, and she insists that Tom take his place at the head of the table and carve it, despite his hesitation.
- After dinner when Birdy has left, Mr. Hook says that pretty much everyone knows Tom has come into money. The cat's out of the bag!
- But Mr. Hook is very polite as he inquires about Tom's plans for it.
- Tom wants to be honest with Mr. Hook, so he tells him where the money came from. He also tells him that he wants to put in a concrete floor like Mr. Massey's, and get better cows, a team of horses, a lumber wagon, and machinery.
- Mr. Hook says that he will need more land for more cows. Tom has considered that. He plans to make an offer to Walt Sweeney for eighteen acres along the river near the Dolan property.
- Mr. Hook asks if Tom is sure about pursuing farming because that would mean eventually giving up work at the mill. Tom says he is. He wants to change people's perception of the Dolans and Hannaberrys by building up a successful, paying farm.
- Hearing that Tom's mind is set, Mr. Hook offers to take him to see a team of horses just about to go on sale.
- Tom and Mr. Hook take the train to Utica the next day to see the horses. It's Tom's first time on a train.
- Tom loves the horses, Dan and Molly, and the seller gives him a deal because he is friends with Mr. Hook. Tom pays $100 down and he arranges to meet the train on Saturday to get the horses and pay the rest of what he owes.
- Tom takes Ellie with him to pick up the horses because she has a calm way of dealing with animals.
- Tom thinks they're the best-looking team of horses ever, and Polly and the girls admire them, too. Polly Ann can't wait to get a wagon so they can show off the new team.
- Ox helps Tom find his wagon by giving him a Sears and Roebuck catalog with a selection of wagons. He knows right away that the one with green sideboards, yellow striping, and red wheels is the one for his family.
- The girls agree.
- Tom waits until the end of February to order the wagon (because of the winter weather). When it is delivered at the end of March, he takes his new horses to pick it up from the freight office at the depot.
- The freight agent notes the good quality of Tom's horses. The compliments just keep a-comin'.
- Tom goes to work at the mill where Ox, the Moucheauds, Mr. Hook, and Erlo Ackerman discuss his new team and agree that Tom has done well.
- Tom has to drive up to the Armond place to pay Mr. Armond the $25 balance owed on the barn.
- Tom prefers to go by himself, but Polly Ann says she would like to go and see the Armond place for once without having to peddle berries. There's upward mobility for you.
- Tom is grateful for how much Polly Ann has supported him through all his plans, so he agrees to bring her with him.
- Polly Ann wears her best dress and a hat and coat. Tom thinks how dainty and ladylike she looks, while also knowing how strong she is.
- Tom wears a suit for the first time.
- When they pull up to the Armonds' with their new team and wagon, Tom can see Mr. Armond doesn't recognize him at first. Wearing a suit for the first time can throw people off.
- When he realizes it's Tom, he's surprised at the change.
- Mr. Armond accepts the rest of the payment and invites Polly Ann in for tea with Mrs. Armond, but Polly Ann declines, saying that Sunday is Tom's busy day on their farm since he works at the mill during the week.
- Mr. Armond admires Tom's horses and compliments Mrs. Dolan on her "fine son" (63. 28). Aw.
- When they arrive back home, Tom remembers seeing the barn for the first time with Birdy, meeting the Widow Breen with her shotgun on the front porch, and hearing her prophecy that his life would change.
- A few years, a barn, and a nice suit later on, it's clear that he's changed his own life and boosted the condition of everyone close to him. Not bad.
- Just let the you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to moral sink in for a minute.