Heartthrob, Red, Pa, and the stranger
Meanwhile, the times get hard. To supplement the family income, Pa takes a side job; and he supplies his employer with some items fresh from the farm.
Nellie use to walk the eggs to the market each week for him. Now Pa walks to town every afternoon (except Sunday) to do some clerking for Gidby at the Country store. He supplies him with fresh eggs, fresh churned butter, and milk daily.
Red, Pa’s pet hen (who by the way, is the color red and thinks Pa, is his Ma) follows, stopping occasionally to peck at the ground. If Pa gets too far ahead of her, she makes a racket, as if to order Pa to “Wait up.” Then she dashes as fast as she can to catch up, kicking up the dust as she goes.
Similarly, the horse, who Pa calls Heartthrob, starts following them (Pa and Red) around the farm; he walks close to the fence line as far as he can and then stands watching Pa and Red disappear upon the horizon each afternoon.
Mysteriously, Heartthrob knows when it is time for Pa and Red to return. Making his way back to the same spot, he stands waiting when they come across the hilly crest. One night he seems agitated. As Pa and Red start down the slope, he whinnies, snorts, and kicks up the dust when he sees them.
“What is the matter with you?” Pa calls out.
Red starts clucking.
Heartthrob stands on his hind legs, whinnies, and then runs in circles, shaking his head, snorting, and kicking up the dust.
“Get your hands up,” a rough, unshaven, dirty looking stranger yells.
Pa either does not hear him or pretends not to hear.
The stranger repeats himself. “Get them up I said.”
Before Pa gets a chance to respond, Heartthrob jumps the fence and knocks the gun from the man’s hand just as he is fixing to shoot.
The man falls to the ground, landing right next to Red, startling her. Feathers fly and dust fills the air when the stranger reaches for the gun lying next to her. Red is “Clucking. Clucking and clucking”
Heartthrob stomps on the stranger, attempting to protect his new friend, Red.
“Whoa, boy,” Pa says, trying to calm Heartthrob down when he sees him attacking the man.
Pa did not fear the man as you might think; instead, he believes like Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
With one exception above all else, Pa says, “Fear the Lord God, the Almighty.”
Thinking the stranger is having ‘hard times.’ Pa is about to ask the man to the farm to comfort and feed. Hoover makes our responsibility as citizens clear during his presidency, saying it is the people’s responsibility to help and feed each other when the need is there; this declaration does not change things at our farm; we always feed and care for strangers willing to work. According to Pa, those who are not willing to work deserve to starve.
After the harvest of the potatoes, Pa digs a huge hole close to the house. He then puts the potato harvest in the hole and covers the hole to keep them cool. As long as we are careful not to disclose where we store our winter supplies, there will be enough to feed us till spring. That means it is important not to be seen removing items from the different storage places of the various crops we harvest.
The farm produces most of what we need. There are two cows in the barn, two hogs, a bunch of piglets in the pigpen, a roaster and three dozen or more chickens are in the henhouse and just as many in the chicken pen. There is corn, pecans, walnuts, tomatoes, herbs, onions, rhubarb, potatoes, apples, figs, and other fruits and vegetables growing for family consumption on the farm. It is a lot of work trying to keep the crops growing and preparing for the winter.
The scarecrows may keep the birds out of the crops, but they do not keep out desperate people. When desperate people are not willing to work it is not our problem. Pa caught a man digging into our hole one night; he is now in jail. If a man asks for food in exchange for work, Pa helps him out by giving him work, food, and shelter for the night. However, the man Pa caught tries to steal it. He never thinks of the consequence of his own action. Or he never thinks how his actions affect us or himself either. This is a different story.
People blame Hoover for the hard times. Pa says this is why he lost the election to Roosevelt. Nevertheless, even after Roosevelt takes office, times get even worse. Why, even Nellie returns home after the Mill closes.
Terry on the other hand, set out for parts unknown, looking for work. Perhaps, he is like this stranger, hungry, and desperate. Pa says the government had a hand in making the ‘hard times’ harder—had something to do with foreign countries.
However, this strange man (who Heartthrob and Red attack) has no knowledge of the political ramifications; to him, it is a matter of survival, his survival.
Consequently, Pa invites the man to the farmhouse to eat and offers to let him sleep in the barn in exchange for helping out a bit on the farm with some work Pa needs help with and needs to complete before the hard winter sets in..
Conversely, the man chooses not to because the next thing he does is take advantage of the opportunity to regain his footing when the occasion presents itself while Pa is calming Heartthrob. Forgetting his gun lying on the ground, the stranger starts running and yelling, “Your horse is nuts, Mister. He nuts”!
Since then, Heartthrob walks with Pa and Red to and from town, warning them of impending danger.