Study Guide

The Man Who Was Almost a Man

The Man Who Was Almost a Man Summary

Seventeen-year-old Dave Saunders gets no respect.

After yet another long day of working in Mr. Hawkins's field, teased by his coworkers and treated like a kid, Dave is desperate to prove his manhood. And how exactly does he plan to do that? By buying a gun, duh. He'll have to ask his mom for money, of course, but don't pay that fact any mind.

He stops by Joe's store on his way home to check out the merchandise. Joe gives Dave a gun catalog to bring home, but also offers him a cheap old gun for a mere two dollars. And that's right in Dave's price range. Dave convinces his mom to give him the two dollars, with the caveat that he brings the gun right home and gives it to Daddy Saunders.

Dave does no such thing. He rushes to Joe's store and buys the gun, staying out late so his mom won't take it from him. Alrighty then. The next morning, he heads into work early, eager to pop a few caps before he starts his day. Unfortunately, though, Hawkins is already there and asks Dave to plow the field with Jenny the mule.

Once Dave gets out of earshot, he loads the gun and gets ready to fire into the forest—bam. Suddenly, Jenny collapses; she's been hit. In a panic, Dave buries the gun and comes up with a quick, quite unbelievable cover story. Hawkins doesn't buy it, though, instead telling Dave that he owes fifty dollars for Jenny. That'll take Dave over two years to earn.

Annoyed by this mistreatment, Dave digs up the gun but doesn't return home. He takes a few more shots, his aim steadier this time, before hitching a ride on a train and leaving home for good.

  • Chapter 1

    • Young Dave is walking home in a bum mood. The guys who work in the fields with him keep teasing him and Dave wants to get even. His best idea so far? He wants to "get a gun" (1).
    • Unfortunately, he's only seventeen years old and his parents will not be down with this idea. Still, Dave's going to stop by Joe's store to check out a gun catalog anyway. A guy can dream, right?
    • Dave convinces Joe to let him bring the catalog home. Joe has another proposition, however: He offers Dave an "old [...] pistol" (28) for a mere two dollars. Only two dollars? What a steal.
    • Dave arrives home just as dear old mom is putting dinner on the table. When she notices the catalog, she suggests using it as toilet paper—we bet it's extra soft.
    • Just then, Dave's dad gets home and joins them at the dinner table. All the while, Dave is reading the catalog in his lap.
    • After dinner, Dave sidles up to his mom, catalog in hand, begging her for two dollars.
    • Dave throws a fit until his mom agrees. She has one request: that it be "fer Pa" (106), and that he bring it straight home after buying it. Yeah, fat chance.
    • That night, Dave buys his precious gun. He stays out late so his mom will be asleep when he gets back—you know, so she can't take the gun from him—and he even sleeps with it under his pillow.
    • The next day, Dave heads into work early, gun in hand. Hawkins gets him right to work as soon as he arrives, though, sending Dave out to plow the fields with the lovely Jenny. Jenny is a mule, by the way.
    • Now that he's out of earshot, Dave finally decides to use his gun. He closes his eyes, turns his head, pulls the trigger and… BLAMMO!
    • Shooting a gun hurts a lot more than Dave expected. Jenny didn't like it either, as evidenced by the fact that she's currently "whinnying and galloping over the field" (130).
    • When he finally gets close to her, Dave is shocked to realize that Jenny is bleeding. He must've shot her… Gulp.
    • That night, Dave watches as Hawkins and his helpers bury Jenny. Everyone is skeptical of Dave's story—that Jenny went wild and accidentally impaled herself on the plow. He just better hope that no one from CSI: Farm Victims Unit is on the case.
    • Finally—after plenty of prodding from his parents—Dave admits that he accidentally killed the mule. The crowd starts laughing, much to poor Dave's embarrassment.
    • Although Hawkins doesn't seem angry, he tells Dave that he has to pay off the mule to the tune of fifty dollars in total. To do so, he'll be losing two dollars from every paycheck. Which is his entire paycheck.
    • Dave's dad is mad. He threatens to beat Dave, demanding that he get the gun and sell it back to Joe (Dave buried the gun after the accident).
    • That night, Dave sneaks out of his house, "stumble[s] over the ground" (209), and locates the gun, still in working condition with four bullets in the chamber.
    • Impulsively, he empties the clip, his eyes wide open this time. He feels manly and wishes he could take some shots at Hawkins's big old house, too.
    • Suddenly, a train approaches on the nearby tracks and Dave hops on. So long.