John Steinbeck

"The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 4"

WHEN JOAD HEARD THE truck get under way, gear climbing up to gear and the
ground throbbing under the rubber beating of the tires, he stopped and turned about
and watched it until it disappeared. When it was out of sight he still watched the
distance and the blue air-shimmer. Thoughtfully he took the pint from his pocket,
unscrewed the metal cap, and sipped the whisky delicately, running his tongue inside
the bottle neck, and then around his lips, to gather in any flavor that might have
escaped him. He said experimentally, "There we spied a n*gger—" and that was all he
could remember. At last he turned about and faced the dusty side road that cut off at
right angles through the fields. The sun was hot, and no wind stirred the sifted dust.
The road was cut with furrows where dust had slid and settled back into the wheel
tracks. Joad took a few steps, and the flourlike dust spurted up in front of his new
yellow shoes, and the yellowness was disappearing under gray dust.
He leaned down and untied the laces, slipped off first one shoe and then the other.
And he worked his damp feet comfortably in the hot dry dust until little spurts of it
came up between his toes, and until the skin on his feet tightened with dryness. He
took off his coat and wrapped his shoes in it and slipped the bundle under his arm. And
at last he moved up the road, shooting the dust ahead of him, making a cloud that hung
low to the ground behind him.
The right of way was fenced, two strands of barbed wire on willow poles. The poles
were crooked and badly trimmed. Whenever a crotch came to the proper height the
wire lay in it, and where there was no crotch the barbed wire was lashed to the post
with rusty baling wire. Beyond the fence, the corn lay beaten down by wind and heat
and drought, and the cups where leaf joined stalk were filled with dust.
Joad plodded along, dragging his cloud of dust behind him. A little bit ahead he saw
the high-domed shell of a land turtle, crawling slowly along through the dust, its legs
working stiffly and j*rkily. Joad stopped to watch it, and his shadow fell on the turtle.
Instantly head and legs were withdrawn and the short thick tail clamped sideways into
the shell. Joad picked it up and turned it over. The back was brown-gray, like the dust,
but the underside of the shell was creamy yellow, clean and smooth. Joad shifted his
bundle high under his arm and stroked the smooth undershell with his finger, and he
pressed it. It was softer than the back. The hard old head came out and tried to look at
the pressing finger, and the legs waved wildly. The turtle wetted on Joad's hand and
struggled uselessly in the air. Joad turned it back upright and rolled it up in his coat
with his shoes. He could feel it pressing and struggling and fussing under his arm. He
moved ahead more quickly now, dragged his heels a little in the fine dust.
Ahead of him, beside the road, a scrawny, dusty willow tree cast a speckled shade.
Joad could see it ahead of him, its poor branches curving over the way, its load of
leaves tattered and scraggly as a molting chicken. Joad was sweating now. His blue
shirt darkened down his back and under his arms. He pulled at the visor of his cap and
creased it in the middle, breaking its cardboard lining so completely that it could never
look new again. And his steps took on new speed and intent toward the shade of the
distant willow tree. At the willow he knew there would be shade, at least one hard bar
of absolute shade thrown by the trunk, since the sun had passed its zenith. The sun
whipped the back of his neck now and made a little humming in his head. He could not
see the base of the tree, for it grew out of a little swale that held water longer than the
level places. Joad speeded his pace against the sun, and he started down the declivity.
He slowed cautiously, for the bar of absolute shade was taken. A man sat on the
ground, leaning against the trunk of the tree. His legs were crossed and one bare foot
extended nearly as high as his head. He did not hear Joad approaching, for he was
whistling solemnly the tune of "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby." His extended foot swung
slowly up and down in the tempo. It was not dance tempo. He stopped whistling and
sang in an easy thin tenor:
"Yes, sir, that's my Saviour,
Je–sus is my Saviour,
Je–sus is my Saviour now.
On the level
'S not the devil,
Jesus is my Saviour now."
Joad had moved into the imperfect shade of the molting leaves before the man heard
him coming, stopped his song, and turned his head. It was a long head, bony; tight of
skin, and set on a neck as stringy and muscular as a celery stalk. His eyeballs were
heavy and protruding; the lids stretched to cover them, and the lids were raw and red.
His cheeks were brown and shiny and hairless and his mouth full—humorous or
sensual. The nose, beaked and hard, stretched the skin so tightly that the bridge showed
white. There was no perspiration on the face, not even on the tall pale forehead. It was
an abnormally high forehead, lined with delicate blue veins at the temples. Fully half
of the face was above the eyes. His stiff gray hair was mussed back from his brow as
though he had combed it back with his fingers. For clothes he wore overalls and a blue
shirt. A denim coat with brass buttons and a spotted brown hat creased like a pork pie
lay on the ground beside him. Canvas sneakers, gray with dust, lay near by where they
had fallen when they were kicked off.
The man looked long at Joad. The light seemed to go far into his brown eyes, and it
picked out little golden specks deep in the irises. The strained bundle of neck muscles
stood out.
Joad stood still in the speckled shade. He took off his cap and mopped his wet face
with it and dropped it and his rolled coat on the ground.
The man in the absolute shade uncrossed his legs and dug with his toes at the earth.
Joad said, "Hi. It's hotter'n hell on the road."
The seated man stared questioningly at him. "Now ain't you young Tom Joad—ol'
Tom's boy?"
"Yeah," said Joad. "All the way. Goin' home now."
"You wouldn't remember me, I guess," the man said. He smiled and his full lips
revealed great horse teeth. "Oh, no, you wouldn't remember. You was always too busy
pullin' little girls' pigtails when I give you the Holy Sperit. You was all wropped up in
yankin' that pigtail out by the roots. You maybe don't recollect, but I do. The two of
you come to Jesus at once 'cause of the pigtail yankin'. Baptized both of you in the
irrigation ditch at once. Fightin' an' yellin' like a couple of cats."
Joad looked at him with drooped eyes, and then he laughed. "Why, you're the
preacher. You're the preacher. I jus' passed a recollection about you to a guy not an
hour ago."
"I was a preacher," said the man seriously. "Reverend Jim Casy—was a Burning
Busher. Used to howl out the name of Jesus to glory. And used to get an irrigation
ditch so squirmin' full of repented sinners half of 'em like to drowned. But not no
more," he sighed. "Jus Jim Casy now. Ain't got the call no more. Got a lot of sinful
idears—but they seem kinda sensible."
Joad said, "You're bound to get idears if you go thinkin' about stuff. Sure I
remember you. You use ta give a good meetin'. I recollect one time you give a whole
sermon walkin' around on your hands, yellin' your head off. Ma favored you more than
anybody. An' Granma says you was just lousy with the spirit." Joad dug at his rolled
coat and found the pocket and brought out his pint. The turtle moved a leg but he
wrapped it up tightly. He unscrewed the cap and held out the bottle. "Have a little
snort?"
Casy took the bottle and regarded it broodingly. "I ain't preachin' no more much.
The sperit ain't in the people much no more; and worse'n that, the sperit ain't in me no
more. 'Course now an' again the sperit gets movin' an' I rip out a meetin', or when folks
sets out food I give 'em a grace, but my heart ain't in it. I on'y do it 'cause they expect
it."
Joad mopped his face with his cap again. "You ain't too damn holy to take a drink,
are you?" he asked.
Casy seemed to see the bottle for the first time. He tilted it and took three big
swallows. "Nice drinkin' liquor," he said.
"Ought to be," said Joad. "That's fact'ry liquor. Cost a buck."
Casy took another swallow before he passed the bottle back. "Yes, sir!" he said.
"Yes, sir!"
Joad took the bottle from him, and in politeness did not wipe the neck with his
sleeve before he drank. He squatted on his hams and set the bottle upright against his
coat roll. His fingers found a twig with which to draw his thoughts on the ground. He
swept the leaves from a square and smoothed the dust. And he drew angles and made
little circles. "I ain't seen you in a long time," he said.
"Nobody's seen me," said the preacher. "I went off alone, an' I sat and figured. The
sperit's strong in me, on'y it ain't the same. I ain't so sure of a lot of things." He sat up
straighter against the tree. His bony hand dug its way like a squirrel into his overall
pocket, brought out a black, bitten plug of tobacco. Carefully he brushed off bits of
straw and gray pocket fuzz before he bit off a corner and settled the quid into his
cheek. Joad waved his stick in negation when the plug was held out to him. The turtle
dug at the rolled coat. Casy looked over at the stirring garment. "What you got there—
a chicken? You'll smother it."
Joad rolled the coat up more tightly. "An old turtle," he said. "Picked him up on the
road. An old bulldozer. Thought I'd take 'im to my little brother. Kids like turtles."
The preacher nodded his head slowly. "Every kid got a turtle some time or other.
Nobody can't keep a turtle though. They work at it and work at it, and at last one day
they get out and away they go—off somewheres. It's like me. I wouldn't take the good
ol' gospel that was just layin' there to my hand. I got to be pickin' at it an' workin' at it
until I got it all tore down. Here I got the sperit sometimes an' nothin' to preach about. I
got the call to lead people, an' no place to lead 'em."
"Lead 'em around and around," said Joad. "Sling 'em in the irrigation ditch. Tell 'em
they'll burn in hell if they don't think like you. What the hell you want to lead 'em
someplace for? Jus' lead 'em."
The straight trunk shade had stretched out along the ground. Joad moved gratefully
into it and squatted on his hams and made a new smooth place on which to draw his
thoughts with a stick. A thick-furred yellow shepherd dog came trotting down the road,
head low, tongue lolling and dripping. Its tail hung limply curled, and it panted loudly.
Joad whistled at it, but it only dropped its head an inch and trotted fast toward some
definite destination. "Goin' someplace," Joad explained, a little piqued. "Goin' for
home maybe."
The preacher could not be thrown from his subject. "Goin' someplace," he repeated.
"That's right, he's goin' someplace. Me—I don't know where I'm goin'. Tell you what—
I used ta get the people jumpin' an' talkin' in tongues and glory-shoutin' till they just
fell down an' passed out. An' some I'd baptize to bring 'em to. An' then—you know
what I'd do? I'd take one of them girls out in the grass, an' I'd lay with her. Done it
ever' time. Then I'd feel bad, an' I'd pray an' pray, but it didn't do no good. Come the
next time, them an' me was full of the sperit, I'd do it again. I figgered there just wasn't
no hope for me, an' I was a damned ol' hypocrite. But I didn't mean to be."
Joad smiled and his long teeth parted and he licked his lips. "There ain't nothing like
a good hot meetin' for pushin' 'em over," he said. "I done that myself."
Casy leaned forward excitedly. "You see," he cried, "I seen it was that way, an' I
started thinkin'." He waved his bony big-knuckled hand up and down in a patting
gesture. "I got to thinkin' like this—'Here's me preachin' grace. An' here's them people
gettin' grace so hard they're jumpin' an' shoutin'. Now they say layin' up with a girl
comes from the devil. But the more grace a girl got in her, the quicker she wants to go
out in the grass.' An' I got to thinkin' how in hell, s'cuse me, how can the devil get in
when a girl is so full of the Holy Sperit that it's spoutin' out of her nose an' ears. You'd
think that'd be one time when the devil didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. But
there it was." His eyes were shining with excitement. He worked his cheeks for a
moment and then spat into the dust, and the gob of spit rolled over and over, picking
up dust until it looked like a round dry little pellet. The preacher spread out his hand
and looked at his palm as though he were reading a book. "An' there's me," he went on
softly. "There's me with all them people's souls in my han'—responsible an' feelin' my
responsibility—an' ever time, I lay with one of them girls." He looked over at Joad and
his face looked helpless. His expression asked for help.
Joad carefully drew the torso of a woman in the dirt, breasts, hips, pelvis. "I wasn't
never a preacher," he said. "I never let nothin' go by when I could catch it. An' I never
had no idears about it except that I was goddamn glad when I got one."
"But you wasn't a preacher," Casy insisted. "A girl was just a girl to you. They
wasn't nothin' to you. But to me they was holy vessels. I was savin' their souls. An'
here with all that responsibility on me I'd just get 'em frothin' with the Holy Sperit, an'
then I'd take 'em out in the grass."
"Maybe I should of been a preacher," said Joad. He brought out his tobacco and
papers and rolled a cigarette. He lighted it and squinted through the smoke at the
preacher. "I been a long time without a girl," he said. "It's gonna take some catchin'
up."
Casy continued, "It worried me till I couldn't get no sleep. Here I'd go to preachin'
and I'd say, 'By God, this time I ain't gonna do it.' And right while I said it, I knowed I
was."
"You should a got a wife," said Joad. "Preacher an' his wife stayed at our place one
time. Jehovites they was. Slep' upstairs. Held meetin's in our barnyard. Us kids would
listen. That preacher's missus took a god-awful poundin' after ever' night meetin'."
"I'm glad you tol' me," said Casy. "I used to think it was jus' me. Finally it give me
such pain I quit an went off by myself an' give her a damn good thinkin' about." He
doubled up his legs and scratched between his dry dusty toes. "I says to myself, 'What's
gnawin' you? Is it the screwin'?' An' I says, 'No, it's the sin.' An' I says, 'Why is it that
when a fella ought to be just about mule-ass proof against sin, an' full up of Jesus, why
is it that's the time a fella gets fingerin' his pants buttons?'" He laid two fingers down in
his palm in rhythm, as though he gently placed each word there side by side. "I says,
'Maybe it ain't a sin. Maybe it's just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin' the hell
out of ourselves for nothin'.' An' I thought how some sisters took to beatin' theirselves
with a three-foot shag of bobwire. An' I thought how maybe they liked to hurt
themselves, an' maybe I liked to hurt myself. Well, I was layin' under a tree when I
figured that out, and I went to sleep. And it come night, an' it was dark when I come to.
They was a coyote squawkin' near by. Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The
hell with it! There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's
all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain't nice,
but that's as far as any man got a right to say.'" He paused and looked up from the palm
of his hand, where he had laid down the words.
Joad was grinning at him, but Joad's eyes were sharp and interested, too. "You give
her a goin'-over," he said. "You figured her out."
Casy spoke again, and his voice rang with pain and confusion. "I says, 'What's this
call, this sperit?' An' I says, 'It's love. I love people so much I'm fit to bust, sometimes.'
An' I says, 'Don't you love Jesus?' Well, I thought an' thought, an' finally I says, 'No, I
don't know nobody name' Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love people. An'
sometimes I love 'em fit to bust, an' I want to make 'em happy, so I been preachin'
somepin I thought would make 'em happy.' An' then—I been talkin' a hell of a lot.
Maybe you wonder about me using bad words. Well, they ain't bad to me no more.
They're jus' words folks use, an' they don't mean nothing bad with 'em. Anyways, I'll
tell you one more thing I thought out; an' from a preacher it's the most unreligious
thing, and I can't be a preacher no more because I thought it an' I believe it."
"What's that?" Joad asked.
Casy looked shyly at him. "If it hits you wrong, don't take no offense at it, will
you?"
"I don't take no offense 'cept a bust in the nose," said Joad. "What did you figger?"
"I figgered about the Holy Sperit and the Jesus road. I figgered, 'Why do we got to
hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love;
maybe that's the Holy Sperit—the human sperit—the whole shebang. Maybe all men
got one big soul ever'body's a part of.' Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent—I
knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it."
Joad's eyes dropped to the ground as though he could not meet the naked honesty in
the preacher's eyes. "You can't hold no church with idears like that," he said. "People
would drive you out of the country with idears like that. Jumpin' an' yellin'. That's what
folks like. Makes 'em feel swell. When Granma got to talkin' in tongues, you couldn't
tie her down. She could knock over a full-growed deacon with her fist."
Casy regarded him broodingly. "Somepin I like to ast you," he said. "Somepin that
been eatin' on me."
"Go ahead. I'll talk, sometimes."
"Well"—the preacher said slowly—"here's you that I baptized right when I was in
the glory roof-tree. Got little hunks of Jesus jumpin' outa my mouth that day. You
won't remember 'cause you was busy pullin' that pigtail."
"I remember," said Joad. "That was Susy Little. She bust my finger a year later."
"Well—did you take any good outa that baptizin'? Was your ways better?"
Joad thought about it. "No-o-o, can't say as I felt anything."
"Well—did you take any bad from it? Think hard."
Joad picked up the bottle and took a swig. "They wasn't nothing in it, good or bad. I
just had fun." He handed the flask to the preacher.
He sighed and drank and looked at the low level of the whisky and took another tiny
drink. "That's good," he said. "I got to worryin' about whether in messin' around maybe
I done somebody a hurt."
Joad looked over toward his coat and saw the turtle, free of the cloth and hurrying
away in the direction he had been following when Joad found him. Joad watched him
for a moment and then got slowly to his feet and retrieved him and wrapped him in the
coat again. "I ain't got no present for the kids," he said. "Nothin' but this ol' turtle."
"It's a funny thing," the preacher said. "I was thinkin' about ol' Tom Joad when you
come along. Thinkin' I'd call in on him. I used to think he was a godless man. How is
Tom?"
"I don't know how he is. I ain't been home in four years."
"Didn't he write to you?"
Joad was embarrassed. "Well, Pa wasn't no hand to write for pretty, or to write for
writin'. He'd sign up his name as nice as anybody, an' lick his pencil. But Pa never did
write no letters. He always says what he couldn' tell a fella with his mouth wasn't
worth leanin' on no pencil about."
"Been out travelin' around?" Casy asked.
Joad regarded him suspiciously. "Didn't you hear about me? I was in all the papers."
"No—I never. What?" He j*rked one leg over the other and settled lower against the
tree. The afternoon was advancing rapidly, and a richer tone was growing on the sun.
Joad said pleasantly, "Might's well tell you now an' get it over with. But if you was
still preachin' I wouldn't tell, fear you get prayin' over me." He drained the last of the
pint and flung it from him, and the flat brown bottle skidded lightly over the dust. "I
been in McAlester them four years."
Casy swung around to him, and his brows lowered so that his tall forehead seemed
even taller. "Ain't wantin' to talk about it, huh? I won't ask you no questions, if you
done something bad—"
"I'd do what I done—again," said Joad. "I killed a guy in a fight. We was drunk at a
dance. He got a knife in me, an' I killed him with a shovel that was layin' there.
Knocked his head plumb to squash."
Casy's eyebrows resumed their normal level. "You ain't ashamed of nothin' then?"
"No," said Joad, "I ain't. I got seven years, account of he had a knife in me. Got out
in four—parole."
"Then you ain't heard nothin' about your folks for four years?"
"Oh, I heard. Ma sent me a card two years ago, an' las' Christmas Granma sent a
card. Jesus, the guys in the cell block laughed! Had a tree an' shiny stuff looks like
snow. It says in po'try:
"'Merry Christmas, purty child,
Jesus meek an' Jesus mild,
Underneath the Christmas tree
There's a gif' for you from me.'
I guess Granma never read it. Prob'ly got it from a drummer an' picked out the one
with the mos' shiny stuff on it. The guys in my cell block goddamn near died laughin'.
Jesus Meek they called me after that. Granma never meant it funny; she jus' figgered it
was so purty she wouldn' bother to read it. She lost her glasses the year I went up.
Maybe she never did find 'em."
"How they treat you in McAlester?" Casy asked.
"Oh, awright. You eat regular, an' get clean clothes, and there's places to take a
bath. It's pretty nice some ways. Makes it hard not havin' no women." Suddenly he
laughed. "They was a guy paroled," he said. "'Bout a month he's back for breakin'
parole. A guy ast him why he bust his parole. 'Well, hell,' he says. 'They got no
conveniences at my old man's place. Got no 'lectric lights, got no shower baths. There
ain't no books, an' the food's lousy.' Says he come back where they got a few
conveniences an' he eats regular. He says it makes him feel lonesome out there in the
open havin' to think what to do next. So he stole a car an' come back." Joad got out his
tobacco and blew a brown paper free of the pack and rolled a cigarette. "The guy's
right, too," he said. "Las' night, thinkin' where I'm gonna sleep, I got scared. An' I got
thinkin' about my bunk, an' I wonder what the stir-bug I got for a cell mate is doin'. Me
an' some guys had a strang band goin'. Good one. Guy said we ought to go on the
radio. An' this mornin' I didn't know what time to get up. Jus' laid there waitin' for the
bell to go off."
Casy chuckled. "Fella can get so he misses the noise of a saw mill."
The yellowing, dusty, afternoon light put a golden color on the land. The cornstalks
looked golden. A flight of swallows swooped overhead toward some waterhole. The
turtle in Joad's coat began a new campaign of escape. Joad creased the visor of his cap.
It was getting the long protruding curve of a crow's beak now. "Guess I'll mosey
along," he said. "I hate to hit the sun, but it ain't so bad now."
Casy pulled himself together. "I ain't seen ol' Tom in a bug's age," he said. "I was
gonna look in on him anyways. I brang Jesus to your folks for a long time, an' I never
took up a collection nor nothin' but a bite to eat."
"Come along," said Joad. "Pa'll be glad to see you. He always said you got too long
a pecker for a preacher." He picked up his coat roll and tightened it snugly about his
shoes and turtle.
Casy gathered in his canvas sneakers and shoved his bare feet into them. "I ain't got
your confidence," he said. "I'm always scared there's wire or glass under the dust. I
don't know nothin' I hate so much as a cut toe."
They hesitated on the edge of the shade and then they plunged into the yellow
sunlight like two swimmers hastening to get to shore. After a few fast steps they
slowed to a gentle, thoughtful pace. The cornstalks threw gray shadows sideways now,
and the raw smell of hot dust was in the air. The corn field ended and dark green cotton
took its place, dark green leaves through a film of dust, and the bolls forming. It was
spotty cotton, thick in the low places where water had stood, and bare on the high
places. The plants strove against the sun. And distance, toward the horizon, was tan to
invisibility. The dust road stretched out ahead of them, waving up and down. The
willows of a stream lined across the west, and to the northwest a fallow section was
going back to sparse brush. But the smell of burned dust was in the air, and the air was
dry, so that mucus in the nose dried to a crust, and the eyes watered to keep the
eyeballs from drying out.
Casy said, "See how good the corn come along until the dust got up. Been a dinger
of a crop."
"Ever' year," said Joad. "Ever' year I can remember, we had a good crop comin' an'
it never come. Grampa says she was good the first five plowin's, while the wild grass
was still in her." The road dropped down a little hill and climbed up another rolling
hill.
Casy said, "Ol' Tom's house can't be more'n a mile from here. Ain't she over that
third rise?"
"Sure," said Joad. "'Less somebody stole it, like Pa stole it."
"Your pa stole it?"
"Sure, got it a mile an' a half east of here an' drug it. Was a family livin' there, an'
they moved away. Grampa an' Pa an' my brother Noah like to took the whole house,
but she wouldn't come. They only got part of her. That's why she looks so funny on
one end. They cut her in two an' drug her over with twelve head of horses and two
mules. They was goin' back for the other half an' stick her together again, but before
they got there Wink Manley come with his boys and stole the other half. Pa an'
Grampa was pretty sore, but a little later them an' Wink got drunk together an' laughed
their heads off about it. Wink, he says his house is at stud, an' if we'll bring our'n over
an' breed 'em we'll maybe get a litter of crap houses. Wink was a great ol' fella when he
was drunk. After that him an' Pa an' Grampa was friends. Got drunk together ever'
chance they got."
"Tom's a great one," Casy agreed. They plodded dustily on down to the bottom of
the draw, and then slowed their steps for the rise. Casy wiped his forehead with his
sleeve and put on his flat-topped hat again. "Yes," he repeated, "Tom was a great one.
For a godless man he was a great one. I seen him in meetin' sometimes when the sperit
got into him just a little, an' I seen him take ten-twelve foot jumps. I tell you when ol'
Tom got a dose of the Holy Sperit you got to move fast to keep from gettin' run down
an' tromped. Jumpy as a stud horse in a box stall."
They topped the next rise and the road dropped into an old water-cut, ugly and raw,
a ragged course, and freshet scars cutting into it from both sides. A few stones were in
the crossing. Joad minced across in his bare feet. "You talk about Pa," he said. "Maybe
you never seen Uncle John the time they baptized him over to Polk's place. Why, he
got to plungin' an' jumpin'. Jumped over a feeny bush as big as a piana. Over he'd
jump, an' back he'd jump, howlin' like a dog-wolf in moon time. Well, Pa seen him, an'
Pa, he figgers he's the bes' Jesus-jumper in these parts. So Pa picks out a feeny bush
'bout twicet as big as Uncle John's feeny bush, and Pa lets out a squawk like a sow
litterin' broken bottles, an' he takes a run at that feeny bush an' clears her an' bust his
right leg. That took the sperit out of Pa. Preacher wants to pray it set, but Pa says, no,
by God, he'd got his heart full of havin' a doctor. Well, they wasn't a doctor, but they
was a travelin' dentist, an' he set her. Preacher give her a prayin' over anyways."
They plodded up the little rise on the other side of the water-cut. Now that the sun
was on the wane some of its impact was gone, and while the air was hot, the
hammering rays were weaker. The strung wire on crooked poles still edged the road.
On the right-hand side a line of wire fence strung out across the cotton field, and the
dusty green cotton was the same on both sides, dusty and dry and dark green.
Joad pointed to the boundary fence. "That there's our line. We didn't really need no
fence there, but we had the wire, an' Pa kinda liked her there. Said it give him a feelin'
that forty was forty. Wouldn't of had the fence if Uncle John didn't come drivin' in one
night with six spools of wire in his wagon. He give 'em to Pa for a shoat. We never did
know where he got that wire." They slowed for the rise, moving their feet in the deep
soft dust, feeling the earth with their feet. Joad's eyes were inward on his memory. He
seemed to be laughing inside himself. "Uncle John was a crazy bast*rd," he said. "Like
what he done with that shoat." He chuckled and walked on.
Jim Casy waited impatiently. The story did not continue. Casy gave it a good long
time to come out. "Well, what'd he do with that shoat?" he demanded at last, with some
irritation.
"Huh? Oh! Well, he killed that shoat right there, an' he got Ma to light up the stove.
He cut out pork chops an' put 'em in the pan, an' he put ribs an' a leg in the oven. He et
chops till the ribs was done, an' he et ribs till the leg was done. An' then he tore into
that leg. Cut off big hunks of her an' shoved 'em in his mouth. Us kids hung around
slaverin', an' he give us some, but he wouldn't give Pa none. By an' by he et so much he
throwed up an' went to sleep. While he's asleep us kids an' Pa finished off the leg.
Well, when Uncle John woke up in the mornin' he slaps another leg in the oven. Pa
says, 'John, you gonna eat that whole damn pig?' An' he says, 'I aim to, Tom, but I'm
scairt some of her'll spoil 'fore I get her et, hungry as I am for pork. Maybe you better
get a plate an' gimme back a couple rolls of wire.' Well, sir, Pa wasn't no fool. He jus'
let Uncle John go on an' eat himself sick of pig, an' when he drove off he hadn't et
much more'n half. Pa says, 'Whyn't you salt her down?' But not Uncle John; when he
wants pig he wants a whole pig, an' when he's through, he don't want no pig hangin'
around. So off he goes, and Pa salts down what's left."
Casy said, "While I was still in the preachin' sperit I'd a made a lesson of that an'
spoke it to you, but I don't do that no more. What you s'pose he done a thing like that
for?"
"I dunno," said Joad. "He jus' got hungry for pork. Makes me hungry jus' to think of
it. I had jus' four slices of roastin' pork in four years—one slice ever' Christmus."
Casy suggested elaborately, "Maybe Tom'll kill the fatted calf like for the prodigal
in Scripture."
Joad laughed scornfully. "You don't know Pa. If he kills a chicken most of the
squawkin' will come from Pa, not the chicken. He don't never learn. He's always savin'
a pig for Christmus and then it dies in September of bloat or somepin so you can't eat
it. When Uncle John wanted pork he et pork. He had her."
They moved over the curving top of the hill and saw the Joad place below them.
And Joad stopped. "It ain't the same," he said. "Looka that house. Somepin's happened.
They ain't nobody there." The two stood and stared at the little cluster of buildings.

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