Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

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In Out of the Dust, what did Polly think Bayard should do during the drought?

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In order to answer this question, the best poem to read from Out of the Dust would be "Give Up on Wheat."

Polly is Billy Jo's mother (Ma), and Bayard is Billie Jo's father (Daddy). In this particular poem, Ma wants to try putting a pond on the property to help fight the effects of the drought: "Ma says, / 'Try putting in a pond, Bayard.'" However, Billie Jo's dad does not think this is an effective measure, and he argues, "The water'll seep / back into the ground / as fast as I can pump it, Pol."

Polly then suggests that the family attempt planting another crop, instead of wheat. She says, "If we plant the fields in different crops, / maybe some will do better, / better than wheat." Daddy is against this idea as well and wants to stick to growing wheat, because it has grown before on their land and he believes it will grow again.

At the end of the poem, Ma and Daddy are in a fight, because Daddy suggests that if Polly really wants to help with the dry land, she should tear down her apple trees, because they use the most water. This upsets Ma greatly, and the reader learns later in the text (in the poem "Apple Blossoms") that the trees are symbolic of the large family Ma had hoped to have with Daddy.

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