In "The Old Man at the Bridge," what was the old man doing in his native town?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The old man is a native of San Carlos; he tells Hemingway that he has been taking care of some animals (two goats, a cat, and four pairs of pigeons) in his native town. The old man only left San Carlos when a Captain warned him that enemy artillery fire was on its way. He laments the fate of the goats and the pigeons, but is convinced that the cat would be able to take care of itself.

Hemingway suggests that the old man move on as soon as he feels a little rested; he is concerned that the enemy will advance over the Ebro river that very day. He suggests to the old man that he should take the opportunity to get on one of the trucks that is heading toward Barcelona. However, the old man states that he doesn't know anyone in Barcelona and sits down again. Meanwhile, Fascist forces are coming and will almost certainly rain death upon Spanish civilians. Historically, the Battle of the Ebro was the Spanish Civil War's longest and bloodiest battle.