What are the five special rocks Bud keeps with him in Bud, Not Buddy?

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Bud, in Bud, Not Buddy, carries five rocks that he inherited from his mother after her death. These rocks, marked with coded inscriptions representing dates and city names, are physical reminders of his mother. It's later revealed that these rocks are mementos from each band performance of his father, Herman E. Calloway. The realization of this connection confirms that Calloway is Bud's grandfather.

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It takes readers most of the book to figure out what these rocks are that Bud hauls around with him and why they are important. We first read about them in chapter 5, but readers get very little information about them at this point. It's not until chapter 8 that we find out the rocks are a physical reminder for Bud about his mom. They were somehow important to his mom, and Bud took them after her death.

I picked up the tobacco pouch that had my rocks in it and pulled the drawstring open. I shook the five smooth stones out and looked at them. They'd been in the drawer after the ambulance took Momma away and I'd had them ever since.

We also find out that there is some kind of "code" written on them. Bud doesn't know what the code is at this point in the story.

Someone had took a pen or something and had writ on all five of them, but it was writ in a code so I couldn't understand what they meant. One of them said "kent land in. 5.10.11." Another said "loogootee in. 5.16.11” then there was "sturgis in. 8.30.12" and "gary in. 6.13.12" and the last one said, "flint in. 8.11.11."

Savvy readers are likely to recognize the numbers as dates, and the words are cities.

Then in chapter 18, Calloway has Bud pick up a stone for him, and Bud recognizes the similarity in shape and structure to his own stones.

"Make yourself useful, boy, and hand me this one."

"This what, sir?"

"This stone, this one."

Right at the end of Mr. C.'s shiny brown shoe was a little roundish rock. I bent over to pick it up, blew some dirt off of it and turned it over a couple of times in my hand to try and see why Mr. C. thought it was so special. The only thing that I could tell was that he'd picked a perfect throwing rock, the exact same kind of rock I'd use if I was about to chunk someone in the head. I dropped it into his hand.

Bud tells Calloway about the similarity, but Calloway isn't interested at all. Bud is finally forced to put a rock right in front of Calloway's face to force Calloway to look at it. Calloway's first response is to accuse Bud of stealing his rocks. Jimmy finally points out that the dates on the rocks are from 25 years earlier, and the entire group puts the pieces together. Calloway picked up the rocks at each gig he played at, and his daughter kept some of those rocks. The rocks confirm that Bud and Calloway are related. Calloway is Bud's grandfather.

Mr. Jimmy was still crouched down right in front of me. He said, "Bud, he's not your father."

"Yes, sir, he is. That's why he run off like that, he got caught lying after all these years!"

Mr. Jimmy said, "Bud, that's enough. Herman is not your father. But Angela Janet is his daughter's name. If what you're saying is true, Lord help us all, it looks like Herman might be your grandfather."

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The reader finds out near the end of Bud, Not Buddy that the rocks Bud keeps in his suitcase (inside a tobacco bag) “with writing and numbers on them” are actually mementos from each band performance of his father.   His mother kept these rocks as special memories because Calloway himself had inscribed them with the date of the performance as well as the city. 

When Bud is riding in the car with Mr. Calloway, Bud finds a large collection of similar rocks in the glove box.  When Bud shows Mr. Calloway a few of his own rocks, Mr. Calloway gets angry and accuses Bud of stealing them.  Bud finally convinces Mr. Calloway and the other band members that the rocks aren’t stolen, but were given to Bud by his mom (Angela Janet).  This is the altercation that makes Mr. Calloway realize that Bud is truly his grandson.  It is at this point that the reader finds Herman E. Calloway crying in his bedroom due to the magnanimity of this information.

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