Study Guide

Cold Mountain Chapter 14

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 14

A Satisfied Mind

  • Ruby goes out to try to trade hard cider for beef, and Ada does chores and philosophizes.
  • Stobrod and a friend show up while Ada is burning brush. The friend, Pangle, has developmental delays and understands the world differently from those around him. He loves fiddle music, and that's why he befriended Stobrod.
  • Stobrod had stolen a banjo for Pangle on a raid. Amazingly, Stobrod is wondering if he shouldn't give up stealing. Sounds like he really is changing after all.
  • Stobrod and Pangle play as a duo now, and Pangle knows all the same songs Stobrod does. They've totally started a band.
  • Ruby comes back, having traded some cider for about four pounds of brisket, less than she hoped since the owner of the cow doesn't want to part with much beef. Still, it's enough for a good steakhouse dinner that night.
  • Stobrod and his friend Pangle are still there. Ruby prepares the meat and puts it in the ashes of the fire. Stobrod and Pangle play for them, and it sounds as though Stobrod is playing his autobiography of the war in music. He could make a fortune in Nashville someday.
  • Stobrod and Pangle conclude the playing with a song that's supposed to be religious. They take off their hats out of respect for the holy.
  • But the song doesn't speak of heaven, only of sorrow and death. That's strange, because a gospel song would usually end with a verse about hoping for heaven and a better life.
  • After dinner, Stobrod explains that the leader of his band of outliers (deserters) wants them all to be ready to fight against the government if anyone tries to bother them. He doesn't want to fight, and is hoping that Ada and Ruby will let him stay in the barn and give him food and maybe a bit of money now and then.
  • Ruby is unimpressed. She tells him to eat roots and sleep in a hollow log. Doesn't sound like Stobrod will be getting a Father's Day card.
  • A debate ensues, with Ruby giving the reasons why they shouldn't take Stobrod in and Stobrod arguing that he's her father and she should show some family feeling. Ruby reasonably points out that he never did much for her.
  • They appeal to Ada, since it's her land. Ada is uncomfortable being the judge. She sort of wants to do something for Stobrod, since it seems as though he's almost come back from the dead, but of course she owes a lot more to Ruby than to him in terms of help and friendship.
  • Ruby tells a story as a point in the debate. She talks about a time that Stobrod went off to brew liquor and left her struggling to find food alone, and how hard it was. She says he's never hit her, but then he's never showed fatherly affection either. No Father-of-the-Year-1864 awards for him.
  • Then Ruby stalks off, clearly upset.
  • Ada eventually sends the men away with some vague hope that there may be a compromise in future. Then she's alone.
  • That night there's an eclipse of the moon, so Ada watches outdoors.
  • She thinks of a song Stobrod sang that night, with the refrain "Come back to me is my request" (14.108).
  • Ada thinks that she would like to be able to say things simply and straight from the heart like that. Then she writes a letter to Inman that consists of that phrase, and addresses it to the hospital where she last heard from him.

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