Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3: "A One-Woman Crime Wave—1931"

The Great Depression is in full swing when Joey and Mary Alice make their annual visit to Grandma's in 1931. Droves of men are riding the rails in search of sustenance and work, and when the children arrive in Grandma's town, they see a sign on the station platform that reads, "DRIFTERS KEEP MOVING—THIS MEANS YOU!" Grandma's house is the last one in town, close to the Wabash tracks. At night, the children can hear the sounds "of shuffling boots and sometimes a voice," as law enforcement officers carrying shotguns keep the drifters moving along so that they do not loiter and beg for food around town.

One morning, Grandma announces to Joey and Mary Alice that they are going fishing. She shoulders a gunnysack of putrid-smelling cheese-bait, hands Joey a hamper of picnic supplies to carry, and leads them on a long hike to Salt Creek. When the three of them come to a barbed-wire fence with a "NO TRESPASSING" sign tacked on it, Grandma somehow manages to shimmy under it, and she instructs the children to do the same. The arduous hike continues, until, at the creek bottom, Grandma pulls a decrepit rowboat out of a tangle of vines and whispers to the children to "climb aboard."

With amazing facility, Grandma rows out into the creek and upstream along the bank. At a predetermined point she stops, searches, then withdraws from the water a large orange crate filled with writhing catfish. Aghast, Joey, the son of a fisherman, asks Grandma, "...is trapping fish legal in this state?" She responds, "If it was...we wouldn't have to be so quiet."

The trap apparently does not belong to Grandma, but she replenishes the bait and resets it. As the trio heads back with their stolen catch, they hear raucous singing coming from around a bend in the creek. A group of half-naked, drunken men are carousing on the porch of the creekside Rod & Gun Club. When Grandma...

(The entire section is 780 words.)