Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs don't want their son to marry Vandelia Eubanks because they feel that the Eubanks family is socially inferior to their own; additionally, they also fear that Vandelia's mother is a lunatic ("half-cracked") and that their future grandchildren may just inherit Miz Idella Eubanks' mental deficiencies.
In the book, Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs make their way to Grandma Dowdel's home to demand that she stops facilitating the relationship between their son and Vandelia. However, Grandma doesn't let Merle and Lula Stubbs intimidate her; she proclaims that their son, Junior, is old enough to decide who his bride should be.
In the end, Grandma Dowdel plots with Joey and Mary Alice to help Junior and Vandelia elope. Accordingly, the word is that the couple will elope on the 8:17 Wabash Cannonball locomotive. So, both families gather at the train depot in order to talk the couple out of their plans. However, in the midst of the waiting, the phantom brakeman apparently decides to make his appearance on the tracks, far ahead of the train. During the supposedly eerie moment, all eyes are on the phantom ghost, and this provides Vandelia and Junior the opportunity to slip their way into the back of the locomotive. When the train leaves the station, both are on the locomotive.
At the end of the chapter, it is revealed that it was Joey who dressed up in his grandfather's old, black overcoat in order to impersonate the brakeman's ghost.