In the first two chapters, you’ll find three reasons why Sam Gribley left his home in New York City to run away to the Catskill Mountains. Near the end of Chapter One, titled “In Which I Hole Up in a Snowstorm,” Sam shares some details about his family life. He has four sisters and four brothers; so together with his parents, they total eleven people living in one apartment. It must have been a tight and uncomfortable space.
And not one of us liked it, except perhaps little Nina, who was too young to know. Dad didn’t like it even a little bit. He had been a sailor once, but when I was born, he gave up the sea and worked on the docks in New York.
Sam evidently wanted to get out, to a place where he could be on his own and could breathe. Then we learn that Sam’s ancestors once owned property in the Catskills. His father told him:
“That land is still in the family’s name. Somewhere in the Catskills is an old beech with the name Gribley carved on it. It marks the northern boundary of Gribley’s folly – the land is no place for a Gribley.”
Sam lets us know that he has since found the beech tree and the carved name, and that he thinks the area is just the right place for a Gribley to live.
In the second chapter, titled “In Which I Get Started on This Venture,” Sam tells us that his father once ran away from home but chickened out and was back before nightfall. Sam wanted to do likewise, but instead go off to the famous Gribley land.
Everybody laughed at me. Even Dad. … He had roared with laughter and told me about the time he had run away from home. … Then he told me, “Sure, go try it. Every boy should try it.”
So Sam did. And he found success living on his own, on or near the Gribley land. And part of him wanted to prove especially to his father that he could do it.