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A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 9: Joseph Seabury, aka Rufe

Chapter 8: Louis Alfred Dimoulin, aka Lou Dimes

Chapter 9: Joseph Seabury, aka Rufe, page 2

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Summary

Rufe, formally know as Joseph Seabury, narrates this chapter. Candy protests when Mapes calls Mathu over for questioning, but Mathu complies. Rufe knows that Mapes likes Mathu and considers him a real man, unlike the rest of them. Occasionally, Mathu and Mapes have even gone hunting and fishing together. Upon reaching the Sheriff, Mathu immediately confesses. Mapes accepts and agrees with Mathu's confession. Mapes tells Mathu to send the other men home, but Mathu says that he cannot because the men have to do what they see is fit.

Clatoo interrupts Mapes and Mathu's conference by telling the Sheriff that he shot Beau. Dirty Red and Johnny Paul soon after interrupt by saying that they did it. The Sheriff asks them why they are getting militant. Jacob Aguillard stands up and says that he killed Beau because Beau was involved in murdering his sister. Ding and Bing Lejeune next confess saying that they did it because their niece was poisoned. Sheriff Mapes nods his head in response to these tales. Johnny Paul then grows angry. He tells the Sheriff that the Sheriff does not understand what happened because he has not been living and working on the plantation as they have for years. The Sheriff knows little about the pains that they suffered. The Sheriff knows little about the way that the Cajuns's agricultural mechanization displaced the vibrant black community that once worked the land. For Johnny Paul, Beau lies dead today in order to compensate for what they and their ancestors have suffered. The other blacks nod their heads in assent at Johnny Paul's commentary.

Tucker then rises and tells the story of his brother, Silas. Silas was the last black sharecropper in the district, which means that he leased a plot of land from the plantation and tried to profit from its harvests on his own. He had been given the worst rocky piece of land, but he still worked hard despite harassment from the whites. One day, he won a race by driving his two mules faster than the Cajun's tractor. Silas, and all the other blacks, knew that he was supposed to lose the race, but Silas refused to lower his pride and with his urging his mules out ran the tractor. For this reason, the whites beat him to death with stacks of sugar cane. Local blacks joined in as well, including Tucker, because they feared what would happen to them if they did not. Tucker angrily asks Sheriff Mapes where the law was when crimes like this happened.

Sooner after Yank stands and describes how he used to break horses for everyone because he was the best cowhand around. Now he shot Beau because Beau took those horses from him. After this comment, Griffin, the deputy, starts to complain about what the black men are saying. He suggests that the Sheriff make them shut up. The Sheriff tells him to be quiet. Gable next rises and says that local whites dragged his sixteen year old son in for raping a white trash girl who was obviously lying. The whites strapped his son to an electric chair, but it malfunctioned. When Gable arrived to claim his son's body, he found his son still alive with the whites kicking the electric chair so that it would work. They made Gable wait outside until they got the chair to work and killed his son. Gable says that he killed Beau in retribution for the murder of his own child, even though Beau was not actually the one who pulled the switch.

No one speaks after Gable finishes. Soon after, Coot, who is wearing an old uniform from World War I, rises. He fought in the First World War having been trained in France and ultimately earned a medal for his valor in battle. After getting home, the local whites told him that he better not wear the medal that showed that he had killed white folks. Coot remembers that local whites killed a friend's son after World War II for having a picture of him with a German girl and that the federal government refused to bury a local black boy in Arlington, even though he had saved his platoon in Korea by jumping on a grenade. Coot remembers how surprised the white German soldiers looked when they saw black soldiers shooting at them and he flushes with pride at his story.

The Reverend Jameson then starts criticizing Mapes for not taking people in and doing his duty. Other people yell at the Reverend and tell him to go home and be quiet. One woman, Beulah, starts arguing with the Reverend and says that she could tell stories about what happens to women in those parts that would make their hair stand on their heads. Mapes declines her offer. Mapes explains to everyone that all of their stories may have basis but there is no proof that Fix ever was involved in them. The blacks laugh and say that blacks long have been lynched on insufficient evidence. When Mapes suggests that he could just take someone in, Candy volunteers herself. The Sheriff and everyone else settle down and decide to wait for the storm that they think will be coming.

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