Chapter 10-11 Summary
Will recounts how his family could not go to the July 4th parade since they were in mourning. Because of its grudge about the Civil War, Cold Sassy doesn’t usually celebrate the 4th, but this year Grandpa thought of a way to do it as a joke. Everybody waved Confederate flags, and the veterans wore their Confederate army uniforms, but Grandpa could not attend, after all.
When Grandpa gets remarried the very next day, Will decides the mourning must be over and decides to go fishing. He takes his dog, T. R., and they go through Mill Town where all the poor people live who work in the cotton factory. He is a little nervous because the town folks and mill hands don’t mix. He himself is always fighting with Hosie Roach, an older mill worker who comes to Will’s school. Will also thinks about Lightfoot McLendon, a pretty girl from Mill Town he secretly has a crush on.
Lightfoot comes from the mountains, but she came to Cold Sassy with her father and aunt, so she could get an education. She works in the mill, and Will hopes he won’t see her in Mill Town with lint in her hair or living in a rundown shack, like the others. Now she is pretty, but if she stays in the mill, she won’t be.
Will goes fishing in a creek by the train trestle. He knows what time the train goes by and will return home to his chores when the noon train passes. He gets the idea to see the world from the top of the train trestle, so he walks there with his dog.
Chapters 10-11 Commentary
These chapters give a fuller picture of the town and surrounding community. Cold Sassy is an up-and-coming town with its railroad and cotton factory. The result, however, is a sharp division between the rich and poor, the townspeople and the mill hands they look down on. Because the narrator is using a fourteen-year-old perspective, he innocently brings out the facts of social injustice in Cold Sassy that he doesn’t fully comprehend. He throws out details such as that the cotton workers don’t live long, and that the Mill Town people are ragged, dirty, and starving. The mill workers die of lung disease because they are inhaling cotton fibers.
Will tells this but does not moralize on it, because for him and his family, it is part of the background or fringes of their more privileged lives. Will just hopes that he doesn’t have to see Lightfoot become ugly. Part of him knows that working at the mill is bad for these people; part of him participates in the town prejudice. His own grandfather profits from the cotton industry, with his warehouse and store. Will regularly has fights with a Mill Town boy, Hosie Roach, whom he vilifies but later finds out is quite nice. Hosie humbles himself to go to school in order to get an education. Will knows he will gain prestige with his friends for fighting a Mill Town boy and carrying on a feud he doesn’t really understand.
The July 4th parade again brings out the deep hatred between North and South that has not yet begun to heal, since the Civil War is within the living memory of the citizens.