Study Guide

Out of the Dust Chapter 100

By Karen Hesse

Chapter 100

Something Lost, Something Gained

  • A stranger gets into Billie Jo's boxcar, which is a little bit creepy. Clearly, he's been on the road for a while—his clothes are rotting off his back and he could use a bath and a shave. The one thing he carries is a photograph of his wife and three children, all boys.
  • Billie Jo shares the biscuits she took from the kitchen before she left, but after eating two of them, the man begins to cry with guilt over taking food from another child.
  • He explains that back home, he couldn't provide for his family because nothing would grow. Their land was eventually repossessed and they moved in with his wife's family—evidently, he left to try to find work.
  • Billie Jo tells him about the circumstances that led to her own journey, including Ma's death, her father's difficulties with the farm, and giving up the piano. She realizes that both she and her father are scared of being alone, and by leaving, she's done to him the thing that frightens her most. Eventually, she falls asleep.
  • When Billie Jo wakes up, she finds that the man is gone. He took the rest of her food and left behind the photograph of his family in exchange. Your first reaction here might be that the guy's a creep, but Billie Jo doesn't really react that way—she speculates that he left it as a trade for the biscuits. Not sure if you know this, but you can't exactly eat a picture, so we're not sure this was a good deal. But whatever.
  • On the back is the family's address in Moline, Kansas. Billie Jo decides to send it to his wife as soon as she can to let his family know he's okay.
  • She makes another decision, too. Billie Jo gets off the train in Arizona, where a lady from the government gives her food and water—then Billie Jo calls Mr. Hardly's store from her office and tells him to let her father know she's coming home.