Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

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Who is the man Billie Jo meets in the boxcar in Out of the Dust?

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Billie-Jo has hitched a ride aboard a train headed out West, hoping to put her traumatic past behind her and start a new life. During the long, hard journey, a stranger gets on board Billie-Jo's boxcar. It's immediately obvious that the man, like Billie-Jo's family and so many others in Depression-era America, is down on his luck. He looks just like a tramp; his clothes are all disheveled and dirty and he could definitely do with a bath and a shave.

But it turns out that the unnamed traveling man has quite a lot in common with Billie-Jo. He too has been forced to leave his land due to the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression. Like so many people in rural America, the man found that nothing would grow on his land and so it ended up being repossessed. He couldn't handle the stigma and shame that this traumatic experience brought him, so he had no choice but to leave his home and family behind and look for work elsewhere.

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