Chapter 2 Summary

It is a full moon and Penny Baxter is still awake, thinking about what he should be doing instead of lying here in the dark. His own father would have punished him for leaving his chores undone, for he was a stern man. Though he taught his children how to read, write, and know the Scriptures, he also forced them to toil mercilessly. Food had been scarce and hookworm had been rampant. Baxter was a small man because of those things, but he is “sound amalgam,” honest and upright and wanting only what is his.

People thought he was crazy for leaving the safety of a town and venturing off to the wilds to farm, but it may be that he had been “bruised too often” and needed the peace offered by nature and silence. The touch of man is hurtful, but nature heals; wild animals are less predatory than many of the people he has known. He can forgive wild animals who attack his stock, but he finds it difficult to understand human cruelties.

At thirty Baxter married a woman twice his size and built a life in the wilds with her. He had hoped for a large family, but the couple’s children were all weak and none of them survived very long. After a string of these heartbreaks, Ora Baxter had no children for a time. Finally, late in their life, Jody was born.

Baxter went to war when Jody was two and was gone for four years; his wife and son stayed with Grandma Hutto while he was gone. While Ora loves Jody with some detachment, Baxter’s “bowels yearn over his son.” He understands the boy and is glad Jody got to build a flutter-mill today.