In Tony Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird," what did Granddaddy Cain do for a living?  

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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When Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" begins, Granddaddy Cain appears wearing work clothes.

I can see Granddaddy Cain comin through the woods in his field boots...the shiny black oilskin cuttin through what little left there was of yellows, reds, and oranges. 

As the story progresses, we learn that Granddaddy was once the waiter on a train, working for someone else, taking orders from customers, employer, etc. 

That was what Granddaddy Cain used to do. Things are different now: this is Granny and Granddaddy's "own place," so they are landowners, something we can infer not only in the way Granddaddy defends his wife's garden (and more so, their land), but in the pride and ownership in their voices. This is (again we can infer) the first place they have owned, as we listen to the narrator's list of places they used to live:

The old ladle drippin rum into the Christmas tins, like it used to drip maple syrup into the pails when we lived in the Judson’s woods, like it poured cider into the vats when we were on the Cooper place, like it used to scoop buttermilk and soft cheese when we lived at the dairy.

Each of these places the family left because someone who owned the property could not allow the family their privacy, but insisted—in some form or another—to show who really owned the property in Judson's woods, the Cooper place and later at the dairy: for people would invade their private living space as if they had the right—which they believed they did because they owned the property. Granny's frustration in all of those places led her to pack and move because she could not force those people to stay out of their house and her things—the places did not belong to her and Granddaddy Cain.

In general, this story addresses...

...the indignity of invading the lives of strangers for sensational or selfish reasons. 

Leaving the past behind, this part of their lives is different. They own this land, which is why Granddaddy Cain is able to break the stranger's camera and send the men away: this is their land, their home—Granddaddy says...

“You standin in the misses’ flower bed,” say Granddaddy. “This is our own place.”

Whereas people came into their lives before for selfish reasons, i.e., to show their power and right to interfere, the camera men have arrived for sensational reasons, wanting to record footage that makes an argument for doing away with food stamps for the poor.

We find that Granddaddy is a landowner, something of paramount importance to this couple who have never owned much of anything themselves, but lived on land owned by someone else—by people who held power over them for everything they had. The family has accomplished a great deal. Granddaddy doesn't work for the railroad anymore; he doesn't work on someone else's farm (making cider) or at a dairy (making cheese), but takes care of his own land. That he kills a chicken hawk infers that they must own chickens and that the hawk has been killing them. We can say with some certainty that Granddaddy is a landowner and farmer of sorts by collecting details (clues, inferences) made by the author.

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