Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Perseverance

By Richard Peck

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Chapter 1

I'd have bet money Grandma wouldn't let Mrs. Wilcox in for a quick look, let alone overnight. But of course Grandma was putting on the best show possible to pull wool over the reporter's eyes. (1.63)

Grandma might find Effie Wilcox insanely annoying and gossipy, but she's not going to let that bad blood get in the way of her ruse. She'll tolerate Mrs. Wilcox if it means that she can give the reporter the best show (and story) ever at Shotgun Cheatham's wake.

The cat in the coffin gave Grandma Dowdel her chance. She didn't seem to have any time for Effie Wilcox, whose tongue flapped at both ends, but she had even less for newspaper reporters who think your business is theirs. Courtesy of the cat, she'd fired a round, so to speak, in the direction of each. (1.86)

Grandma has her reasons for firing into the coffin—she wants to put both Effie Wilcox and the reporter in their place. And she'll go so far as shooting up a corpse if it means that she can teach them a lesson about nosing around in other people's business.

Quicker than it takes to tell, Grandma was back, and already raised to her aproned shoulder was the twelve-gauge Winchester from behind the woodbox. She swung it wildly around the room, skimming Mrs. Wilcox's hat, and took aim at the gauze that draped the yawning coffin. Then she squeezed off a round. (1.79)

Unlike everyone else in the house, Grandma isn't spooked by the moving gauze over the coffin. She just gets on up, grabs her rifle, and fires right into the coffin—because she's a woman of action, and not one who gets frozen by fear.

Chapter 2

Grandma examined her catch. Now she moved the trap into position over the mouth of an empty bottle. She eased up the spring, and the mouse dropped straight in. He hit the bottom of the bottle with a soft thump. (2.63)

It's clear that Grandma will do anything that she can in order to make the Cowgill boys pay for blowing up her mailbox and wrecking Effie's privy. She'll even plant a dead mouse in her own milk. Gross.

Chapter 3

Before the Rod & Gun Club was out of sight, Grandma had regained control of the oars. She towed on as if none of this had ever happened. The sun was beating down, so she didn't push herself. After all, the sheriff couldn't chase us downstream. We were in his boat. (3.89)

Astonishingly, Grandma Dowdel isn't terrified by the fact that the sheriff has seen her floating by in his boat—the very boat she's stolen.

Grandma Dowdel

"Lift that wire so I can skin under," Grandma said.

The lowest wire was pretty close to the ground. But Grandma was already flat on her back in the weeds. She'd pushed the cheese through. Now she began to work her shoulders to inch herself under. (3.30-31)

Grandma Dowdel isn't the kind of old lady who's afraid to get dirty or break the rules. In fact, she shows a ridiculous amount of determination when it comes to feeding Aunt Puss every week, and she goes so far as to trespass on private property and steal the sheriff's boat.

Chapter 4

It took three big members of the American Legion and Barnie Buchanan to get Grandma into the front cockpit of the plane. Eventually, the sight drew a crowd. The Legionnaires would invite Grandma to step into their clasped hands, then boost her up. That didn't work. (4.108)

Grandma certainly isn't the type of lady to ever give up. She doesn't let her loss in the pie contest keep her from getting a plane ride, and she is unfazed by the fact that the plane can barely accommodate her wide frame.

Chapter 6
Grandma Dowdel

"Do that," Grandma said. "And one more thing. You give Effie Wilcox back her house, free and clear. It wasn't worth nothing anyway—apart from its historical value."

"Mrs. Dowdel, that's not business," the banker said. "That's blackmail."

"What's the difference?" Grandma said. (6.130-132)

Even the banker can't tell Grandma what she can or cannot do. In fact, she straight up blackmails Mr. Weidenbach into giving Effie Wilcox her house back…and doesn't act scared of him at all.

Chapter 7
Grandma Dowdel

A rounded figure with a head cocked like a bird filled the screen door. It was Mrs. L.J. Weidenbach, the banker's wife.

Grandma looked up from her breakfast, scrapple and corn syrup with sides of bacon. "Only ten after six," Grandma muttered, "and she's already girdled and gallivantin'." (7.59-60)

Grandma is stubborn as a mule, and she refuses to give in to Mrs. Weidenbach's plans for her. She will not be one of the helpers at the Centennial Celebration, and she won't give the Weidenbachs the satisfaction of sweeping all the awards, either.

"I didn't know he could dance."

"Dance?" Mary Alice sniffed. "He can barely walk. What do you think I've been doing all week? I've been giving him ballroom dancing lessons. And the big clodhopper tramped all over my feet. I'm crippled for life." (7.183-184)

Looks like Mary Alice got her perseverance and stubborn nature from her grandma. She manages to win the talent show with some ballroom dancing…even though her partner has no experience whatsoever.

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