Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Will Varner, owner of the Old Frenchman place and almost everything else in Frenchman’s Bend, Mississippi, is aging and has begun to turn many of his affairs over to his thirty-year-old son, Jody. One day, while Jody sits in the Varner store, he meets Ab Snopes, a newcomer to town, and Ab arranges to rent one of the farms owned by the Varners. Jody is then told by V. K. Ratliff, a salesman, that Ab is suspected of having burned barns on other farms where he has been a tenant. Jody and his father conclude that Ab’s unsavory reputation will do them no harm. Jody becomes afraid, however, that Ab might burn some of the Varner property; as a sort of bribe to prevent such burning, he hires Ab’s son, Flem, to clerk in the store.
Ratliff explains Ab’s grievance against the world: Ab once struck a horse-trading deal with Pat Stamper, an almost legendary trader. Ab drove a mule and an old horse to Jefferson, and, before showing them to Stamper, he skillfully doctored the old nag. Stamper accepted the doctored horse and the mule in exchange for a team of mules that looked fine. When Ab tried to drive them out of Jefferson, however, the mules collapsed. To get back his own mule, Ab had to spend the money his wife had given him to buy a milk separator. Stamper also forced him to purchase a dark, fat horse that looked healthy but peculiar. On the way home, Ab ran into a thunderstorm, and the horse changed from dark to light and from fat to lean. It was Ab’s...
(The entire section is 1130 words.)
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