Cold Mountain Chapter 9
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To Live Like a Gamecock
- Inman and Veasey discover a substantial hickory tree felled next to their path. There's a well-maintained saw lying next to it. Veasey wants to steal the saw and sell it, but Inman says that it's not abandoned, and the woodcutters will be back as soon as they eat to work on the tree.
- Veasey disputes that and takes the saw anyway. More proof he's not that bright, and not that trustworthy.
- They debate for a while, then Veasey asks to see Inman's pistol. Inman refuses. Not so surprising, really. Veasey asks for his own pistol back, and Inman says he's not planning to give it back until they part. Doesn't look like they'll be making a buddy movie about the two of them anytime soon.
- As they continue, they see a man in a field, looking at a dead bull. He asks for their help. Turns out the bull is in the water source used by the man, and since its body is decomposing he really wants to get it out. No kidding.
- The man and Veasey come up with several impractical plans involving pulling the bull's body out with a rope and moving it with levers.
- Finally Inman solves the problem by cutting the bull into smaller pieces and moving those. It works, though it isn't very pleasant. Another example of Inman's smarts.
- The man invites Inman and Veasey to have supper with them as a way of saying thank you for the help, and he also offers to let them sleep in his hayloft.
- Inman says they'll come if the man will take the saw off their hands. Veasey asks for two dollars in Federal or fifty in Confederate money, which shows how bad the exchange rate has gotten by this point in the war. Inman says they won't charge.
- As they're walking back to the man's house, he shares some liquor he's been hiding in a hollow tree with them. Then he starts telling stories about when he was a young man working on the cockfighting circuit.
- The man's name is Junior, and we learn that he's unhappily married and that his wife isn't very faithful. After their marriage, his wife had a child with someone else.
- It seems fair for Junior to be upset about this.
- But it's totally unfair that he's prejudiced against the child because her father happened to be African-American.
- They arrive at Junior's house, which is in poor repair. Inman feels threatened by a dog on the property and kicks it. It is stunned, but not dead.
- The floor of the house is on a tilt because it's so poorly cared for, and this makes doing normal things in the house a bit awkward.
- Junior serves up more alcohol. He's not exactly an advertisement for good health.
- Veasey wants to use levers to even out the house, but Junior says he thinks it would seem weird to live in a house with normal angles after getting the hang of this one. Metaphor alert! Is Junior as crooked as his house?
- A little girl arrives, apparently the one born to Junior's wife. Inman thinks he's rarely seen a prettier child, but Junior describes her using racial slurs. It's becoming obvious that Junior is a terrible guy.
- Veasey passes out about this time, probably from alcohol consumption.
- We learn that Junior and his wife are fighting over what the child's name is. Her mother calls her "Lula," but Junior calls her "Chastity."
- The men go out to the porch, and Inman realizes it's fall. Not so great if you're still miles and miles from home.
- A girl comes, apparently Junior's wife. She seems to be named Lila.
- Junior tells her to bring him a light for his pipe, not very politely, and she does. He also appears to have pinched her hard. It even draws blood. Did we mention that Junior's a lousy guy?
- Junior says the women can feed Inman (very rudely), and that he has to check on a horse.
- The rest of the household appears, including Lila's sisters and their children. They give Inman a strange drink he's never had before, then feed Inman some food, which consists of bread shaped like people, sort of like gingerbread men, but not as sweet.
- All in all, everyone behaves pretty oddly, showing off a lot more of their bodies than would have been considered appropriate in the time period, and walking around in paths on the dirt that seem like they should be giving some sort of sign. But Inman can't really figure it out if there is one.
- Lila talks with Inman, and he is confused as to what he's supposed to say. He asks what the light on a hillside is, and she tells him a creepy story about how her husband killed a man and his dog there, and now some nights it glows, and you might feel something touch you there on nights that it does.
- Inman wants to know why Junior killed the man, but Lila doesn't know. She says he's quick-tempered and shot his own mother to death. Junior apparently claims that his mom was wearing an apron and he mistook her for a swan. Lame. Can't he even come up with a good excuse? And if a guy will shoot his own mother, what won't he do?
- They talk a bit more, and then they're called for dinner. Lila takes Inman's pack off and sets it down. Inman thinks that a mistake is being made (it's not clear exactly which mistake, but probably leaving his pack sitting somewhere). He hides the pack between stacks of wood on the porch.
- They begin dinner, and Inman tries to carve up a meat he doesn't recognize. Lila flirts with him pretty dramatically. Her sisters try, but she insists that he's hers.
- Inman starts to get sleepy and disoriented, and wonders if what the women gave him to drink earlier made him drunk in some strange way.
- Lila shoos her sisters out, then propositions Inman enthusiastically. She's partially undressed and pulling him toward her when her husband comes in with the shotgun (we don't write this stuff, we just summarize it).
- Junior aims his sawed-off shotgun at Inman while Lila rapidly covers up. Awkward.
- Inman thinks this would be a lousy place to die. Inman is also paralyzed, unable to take much action, probably due to whatever he drank earlier.
- Junior says that there's either a marriage or a killing coming, which means basically that he'll shoot Inman if he doesn't marry Lila. Wait, isn't Lila married to Junior? This can't be legal.
- Things are looking bad for our hero's chances with Ada. But actually, they're looking even worse for his chances at all, because it turns out that Junior has called the Home Guard.
- He gets paid $5 a head for turning in deserters, and he's turned in Inman. In literature, never trust a man with a crooked house. Too likely to be a symbol. Unless it's Jack Skellington. Then you're okay.
- The Home Guard has a string of men tied up, and they grab Inman and also Veasey, who isn't even a deserter. They shove them all into the smokehouse, where most of them fall asleep. Inman and Veasey stay awake, checking the ropes and trying to get out of them, just like the Hardy Boys.
- The guards don't seem especially vigilant. They start playing music, drinking, dancing, and flirting—or possibly more—with the women of the house.
- Junior gets pretty drunk and decides to play wedding organizer for Lila and Inman.
- Veasey is the only preacher they can think of, so they untie him and Inman. Inman is finally alert enough to think a bit, and he points out that Lila is already married. Junior says that maybe the old law says so, but he doesn't care.
- As if it isn't bad enough that he's just been illegally married to somebody else's wife, Inman is also threatened with a pistol. One of the Home Guard wants to blow his brains out. He doesn't do it, luckily.
- After all that, they tie Veasey and Inman up again and keep marching with them, leaving the whole crazy house behind. So Inman doesn't get prosecuted for bigamy, but he might well get shot.
- Things get pretty grim. The prisoners include old men and young boys, and they're accused either of deserting the army or sympathizing with the North.
- The line keeps marching, all tied together. They have nothing to eat, and have to snatch water while crossing creeks. When the old men can't go on for weakness, they're fed a thin gruel, but that's about it.
- Inman starts noticing his wound again, and he feels weak and dizzy as he's hauled back in the direction he came, away from Cold Mountain and Ada.
- Finally one night the guards decide they're spending too much time on the prisoners and threaten to kill them on the spot. A boy starts crying and an old man objects.
- One of the guards says that he didn't sign up to kill old men and young boys, and the leader tells him to prepare to fire or join the prisoners.
- Inman looks into the pinewoods and thinks about his last resting place.
- The firing begins. Veasey makes one last appeal to the goodwill of the guards, and then is shot several times.
- The bullet that hits Inman is slowed down because it first hit Veasey. It hits Inman's head but doesn't go through his skull. He falls down and can't move, but he's not dead.
- Lucky for him, the Home Guard is lazy when it tries to bury them and just lightly scatters a small amount of dirt. Inman can breathe. He kind of thinks maybe he will just die there, since it seems easier.
- Boars come and root up the ground, and Inman finds himself face to face with one. Inman makes a noise and stands up, and the boar leaves him alone.
- Inman is able to cut the ropes off his arms by slowly rubbing them against a sharp stone. He finds Veasey's dead body and wants to make a kind gesture toward his dead companion, but has no way to do very much; he doesn't even have a shovel to bury him. Finally he turns Veasey over, facedown, as the best he can do.
- Inman starts walking west again. He gets stuck at a crossroads and has no idea which way to go. A slave who is driving a wagon takes pity on him and gives him a melon.
- Inman tries to read the pattern of drops the melon juice makes in the dirt road. That's how desperate he is for guidance. Finally he looks up and thanks the man who gave him the melon. The man invites him to ride on the wagon with him, and Inman does.
- When the man gets to the farm where he lives, he tells Inman to hide in a barrel, and then finds him a place to hide in the hay in the barn. The slaves on the farm feed him.
- When Inman feels strong enough to walk further, he tells his rescuer that he has to do some business, and then get home. The man warns him that a group of Federals escaped prison near there and will probably catch him if he's not careful. The man recommends to go North first, then West. He gives some other helpful travel tips.
- Inman's rescuer gives him food to take, and also a beautiful hand-drawn map he's made on the spot. Inman tries to pay him, but realizes he has no money, since he left his haversack in Junior's woodpile. He says he wishes he could pay him, and the man says he might not have taken it anyway. The man is a good example of the hospitable stranger, another idea from the Odyssey.
- Inman sneaks back to Junior's house, bribes the dog with meat, and finds his haversack. Everything is still in it except for Veasey's pistol, which is lucky.
- Inman finds Junior rubbing salt on a ham in the smokehouse. Inman clubs junior with the butt of the pistol until he's lying on the floor bleeding. It's not totally clear whether he's dead or just injured and unconscious when Inman leaves.
- Inman starts moving north, and realizes that the guy who rescued him was right about the escaped Federals, because he can hear horsemen. He manages to dodge them, though.
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