Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Under the supervision of Fate Turner, the high sheriff of Sevier County, a farm is being auctioned off for nonpayment of taxes. When the owner, Lester Ballard, threatens the auctioneer with a rifle, one of the men assembled at the auction hits Lester in the head with an ax and takes him away. From that time on, Lester has difficulty holding up his head. The blow might have affected his mind. Because of Lester’s behavior, many local people are afraid to bid on the land, and it goes to John Greer, an outsider. Lester is determined to kill Greer.
Lester has no home and no way to support himself, without even enough money to buy whiskey; but he is not defeated. Deep in the woods he finds a deserted house, cleans it up, brings his few possessions to it, and moves in. He survives by stealing food and shooting game. He has no way, however, to fulfill his sexual needs. One night he relieves himself while watching a couple having intercourse in a car, but when they see him, they flee. Sometimes Lester visits Reubel, in hopes that one of his nine promiscuous daughters will help him, but they only laugh at him.
Lester has always been mean, but after he loses his farm, he seems to go crazy. It is inevitable that he will get in trouble. One fall morning, while he is hunting, Lester finds a woman lying on the ground, where she evidently passed out drunk. They fight; then Lester rips off the nightgown she is wearing and carries it away with him, leaving...
(The entire section is 1051 words.)
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