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A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines

Chapters 6 and 7

Chapter 4 and 5

Chapters 6 and 7, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Chapter 6: Grant Bello, aka Cherry

Grant Bello, aka Cherry narrates this chapter. He is sitting in the back of Clatoo's truck when Clatoo slows down to pick up Yank. Yank is in his early seventies, but he used to be a cowherd and still acts like a cowboy notwithstanding his aged body that was frequently injured over the years. Yank greets everyone in the truck and Cherry recognizes pride on Yank's face. Cherry reflects that pride is an emotion that they all seem to feel. About a mile down the road, Clatoo stops to pick up Dirty Red.

About four miles after picking up Dirty Red, Clatoo stops his truck on a small dirt road surrounded by sugar cane. The two main plantations in the area, the Morgan and the Marshall, lie on either side of this road. Clatoo lets the men present out of his car and tells them to wander up toward the graveyard. Clatoo has to go pick up some other men. After he returns, they will all walk to Mathu's house together.

As they walk through the sugar cane of the Marshall plantation, Cherry explains that although the Marshalls still owned the land, Beau Bauton and his family have been leasing it for the past twenty-five years. Cherry and his ancestors have been working on this land since slavery, until the Bautons arrived. Cherry spots a nearby cane field that had just been cleared and he finds that the sight depresses him. He decides that the empty cane field is like an old house that people have moved out of. A sound of a shot breaks Cherry's reverie. Billy Washington has shot at, and missed, a rabbit. Billy looks very ashamed that he missed.

The men arrive at the graveyard that is surrounded by increasingly encroaching sugar cane. All the local black families have a small area of the yard that belongs to them. Jacob Aguillard goes over to the grave of his sister Tessie. Cherry remembers how she was a pretty mulatto girl who slept with both white and black men. The white men eventually killed her for sleeping with blacks. After her death, her family refused to take her body home because they felt she had disgraced them by mixing with dark folks. Cherry wonders if Jacob is lamenting the way that he treated his sister thirty years ago. Cherry goes to his family's area and prays. He then eats some pecans that have fallen to the ground on the advice of Dirty Red who think that graveyard pecans taste good. The community frequently has thought of Dirty Red and his family as lazy and Cherry reflects that Dirty Red must have come out this day to do something good.

Clatoo soon returns with seven other men all carrying guns. The men fire their shotguns into the trees so that all their shotguns will appear to have just been used. They then keep walking toward Mathu's house.

Chapter 7: Cyril Robillard, aka Clatoo

Clatoo, formally known as Cyril Robillard, narrates this chapter. Candy meets him and the other men by Mathu's house. Clatoo has known Candy all her life and knows what Mathu means to her family and especially to her. Candy describes for Clatoo how she shot Beau, but Clatoo knows that she is lying because her story sounds too practiced. Clatoo sees Mathu squatting near his house. Mathu is a dark-skinned man who takes pride in his coloring. Mathu even believes himself superior to lighter blacks since he, unlike them, has not bee tainted with white blood. Clatoo himself is brown skinned, as some of his grandparents were white and Indian. Clatoo sees Beau's bloody body lying on the grass.

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