(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

After Jim Taylor’s business in the city failed, he returned to Taylor’s Grove, his family’s home for generations. Soon discontented there, he moved to Louisville, where he ran a gas station until the Great Depression brought financial ruin. Now he is home again, trying his hand at tobacco farming. As his narrative begins, he expresses his disappointment at earning only fifteen cents per leaf on his first crop instead of the thirty cents that he expected. Jim’s latest venture depends on the cooperation of other people. Although he has no hesitation about living with his grandmother “Miss Jinny” again, it is risky to approach her with his idea of using her land. He must also get permission from his uncle Phil, who he expects to teach him how to cure tobacco. Before approaching his relatives, he asks Tom Doty, a former family servant, to work with him in return for a share in the profits.

Jim calls Tom “the smartest nigger and the fastest worker I ever knew.” Their affection for each other is genuine, although the racial caste system left over from the days of slavery inhibits their relationship. Tom agrees to sharecrop with “Mister Jim” if they can keep the volatile “Miss Jinny” at bay. Notoriously difficult to deal with, Jim’s grandmother is the last person in the county who can remember growing up with slaves. The black residents in the county know her best, as virtually all of them have worked for her family. Tom started working in her house when he was a young boy.

In addition to their having shared their early years on the farm, Jim and Tom now share the desire to work for profit together, and they recognize the need to handle Miss Jinny carefully. With this end in mind, Tom introduces his wife, Frankie, to the old woman, suggesting that Frankie can help her with housework and keep the atmosphere pleasant.


(The entire section is 766 words.)