Chapter 21 Summary
Baxter spends two weeks trying to salvage his crops. Only some of the sweet potatoes survive, and the sugar cane is “flattened to the ground” but might be salvaged later. Three weeks after the flood, Baxter cuts some marsh grass to cure, since his hay was ruined. Now that the water has receded, no fish are evident and the stench is overwhelming.
In October, a month after the flood, Baxter, Jody, and Flag go to cut and gather the marsh grass when suddenly Old Julia tears into the bushes and finds a curiosity: a wildcat, not yet old, is dying. They take one load of hay home, and the dogs begin to bay at the sink-hole. The hounds corner a buck, but, inexplicably, it refuses to fight. Baxter kills the buck and discovers the animals are dying of the black-tongue plague. Baxter does not know what causes it, and Jody is suddenly afraid for Flag. They will all take greater care of where they get their water, and Jody will feed Flag only what he eats. If Flag dies, Jody determines they will die together.
Baxter has no answers for all of Jody’s questions, and Jody is uncomfortable and even alarmed by the new order of things in nature since the flood. Baxter rides to the Forresters for information; they also know about the plague. When Jody asks his father if everything will die, Baxter tells Jody he will have to wait to find out, just like his father.