Chapter 101 Summary
One day, Chicken George approaches Tom Lea with a beautiful pitcher made of wound metal wire. Proudly, Chicken George explains to his master how handy his son Tom is with metal and fire. Tom Lea isn’t impressed. Chicken George sees that he is going to have to press the issue further, so he continues explaining that Tom is very dependable as well as handy. Finally, Chicken George gets to the point of telling Tom Lea that George’s son Tom would make a wonderful blacksmith. Tom Lea doesn’t like the idea, but Chicken George keeps suggesting ways that Tom's being a blacksmith could save Tom Lea some money. Tom could fix hoes, blades, knives, sickles, and tools and even shoe horses. The neighboring plantation owner, Mr. Askew, happens to have a blacksmith named Isaiah who needs an apprentice. Tom Lea is hesitant, but he agrees to think about the entire prospect a bit more.
Even though Tom Lea is wary of the idea of Tom blacksmithing, Tom Lea goes right to Miss Malizy in the kitchen and asks her thoughts about the boy Tom. Luckily, Miss Malizy was just informed by Kizzy about Chicken George’s intent for Tom. Miss Malizy tries her hardest to seem impartial, so she says that Tom isn’t the kind of boy that’s good to talk to, but that he’s smart and loyal. Miss Malizy admits that Tom will probably grow up to be more of a man than Chicken George. Tom is solid and dependable, the kind of man that will “make some woman a might good husban’.”
Tom Lea breaks into the conversation with Miss Malizy about his worries for the other children of Chicken George, especially Virgil. Virgil, never having taken to gamecocks, has taken to women on plantations far and wide. Tom Lea complains that Virgil is off most every night “tomcattin’.” Miss Malizy says that Tom, even though he is much younger than Virgil, simply isn’t that kind of young man. Tom Lea admits that it just might be worth allowing Tom to learn a trade.
A few days later, Tom Lea approaches Chicken George to tell him of an apprenticeship with Isaiah Askew for Tom to learn to be a blacksmith. After a quick threat about what would happen if Tom didn’t live up to his reputation, Chicken George bounds back to slave row to tell the family. Little Tom is amazed to hear the news! The rest of the family is thrilled as well (even though most of Tom’s brothers show quite a bit of jealousy). The only person who isn’t thrilled is Tom’s brother, Ashford, with whom Tom always had a quarrel or two.
Lea’s slave row sends Chicken George’s Tom off the next day and promises that Tom will become the true man of the plantation.