Study Guide

Cold Mountain Chapter 12

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 12

Freewill Savages

  • Someone gets caught in the corncrib trap. It's Stobrod Thewes, Ruby's father.
  • He's been stealing the corn to make liquor. Ruby is not surprised. She does feed him breakfast, though: biscuits, grits, eggs, and meat. It's getting all Waffle House over here.
  • They learn that Stobrod is living with a bunch of deserters in a cave hidden in the mountains. Ruby shoos him off after breakfast and warns him that she may take after him with the shotgun if he steals any more corn. It's hard to tell how serious she is.
  • Stobrod comes back that night and has dinner with Ruby and Ada, who are sitting outdoors. Ruby offers to chase him off, but Ada says they have plenty, and he stays.
  • Stobrod has a new fiddle that he made himself. It's got a huge snake whittled on it: very rock and roll. He actually fought a giant rattlesnake to get its rattles for the fiddle.
  • Stobrod tells the ladies how he discovered he actually cared about music and began to work at it. He says he's different after the war, and so is his music.
  • What changed him? It's a sad story, but a moving one. In 1862, pretty early in the war, he is in the army camp, when a man comes looking for a fiddler. His daughter is dying after a tragic accident, and she wants to hear some music.
  • Stobrod comes to play for her, and rapidly goes through all six of the songs he knows. They're dance songs and don't really fit the sorrow of the occasion. The girl asks for more when Stobrod finishes. He doesn't know any more, but the girl asks him to make one up, and he tries.
  • Stobrod tries, and the girl and her family find it deeply moving. The girl dies not long after, and her father says that Stobrod eased her passing.
  • Stobrod is deeply moved, and starts to take music seriously for the first time in his life. He's been working away at it for quite a while by the time he sees Ada and Ruby again in 1864. He now knows 900 fiddle tunes, and he's even written some of them.
  • He plays for them, and golly, he does sound like a man who's been practicing. It's beautiful. He's like somebody who went from scraping out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to backing up Alison Krauss and Union Station.
  • Ruby's not that softened, but Ada impressed that even Stobrod can find some sort of redemption.

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