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Summary: Chapter 18

Bud and the band head out on the road in two cars. Bud listens as the band members talk and joke about Mr. C. behind his back, and about the fact that Dirty Deed is white. Eddie tells Bud that Mr. C. has always had a white man in the band, and that Dirty Deed can’t help it, he was “born that way.” Bud wonders aloud why this is the case, and he learns that the Log Cabin is in Dirty Deed’s name because it’s illegal for a Negro to own any property. Dirty Deed also makes the arrangements in places where white folks won’t hire a Negro band. Dirty Deed tells his fellow band members that, Black or white, they are lucky to have jobs in these hard times.

After the gig, Bud ends up riding back in the car with Mr. C. Before they get in the car, Mr. C. asks Bud to pick up a rock on the ground by his shoe. Bud asks him what he wants with the rock. Mr. C. replies, “Bad habit.” Then, he opens the glove compartment, which is filled with rocks. Each has writing on it. Bud tells Mr. C. that he has some rocks like that, with writing and numbers on them. He tells Mr. C. that he’ll show him his rocks. 

When they arrive back at the Grand Calloway Station, Bud shows Mr. C. his rocks. Mr. C., thinking Bud’s stolen them, demands Bud tell him where he got them. Mr. Jimmy intervenes and tells Bud to just tell the truth. Bud tells them he got them from his momma. He doesn’t know where his momma got them; he says, “She always had them.” Jimmy asks Bud what his Momma’s name was. “Angela Janet Caldwell,” he tells them. Bud watches Mr. C.’s reaction and tells Jimmy, “I knew it! I knew he was my father!” No, Jimmy, tells him. Angela Janet is Mr. C.’s daughter’s name. Bud is Mr. C’s grandson.

Analysis: Chapter 18

Perhaps the most striking commentary about the racial issues of the time period in which Bud, Not Buddy was written arises in Chapter 18. Dirty Deed, a member of the band, is white because, as Eddie explains, “he was born that way.” Deep racial divisions are clearly running through the country, and laws prevent Blacks from owning property. Thus Dirty Deed’s name is on the deed for the Log Cabin, and his position with the band makes arranging gigs possible and otherwise smooths the way for the group while they’re on the road. Herman Calloway is very successful and famous, but because of racist laws, he’s had to be clever in working around them. Though Dirty Deed agrees that he has his job with the band because he’s white, in these hard economic times not many people are living as well as they are, be they Black or white.

Mr. C’s request for Bud to pick up a rock after the band’s gig is a significant moment in the story. From this simple action cascades the series of events that resolves the book’s major conflict. Bud wants to try to connect with, or at least better understand, the man who he thinks is his father. At this point, the reader can make an informed prediction about these rocks, which is that there is a definite connection between Bud’s Momma and Mr. Calloway, though the precise nature of that connection is not yet known.

For Bud, the rocks are evidence that Mr. C. is his father. At first, Mr. C. takes no interest in them, continuing his cold disapproval of Bud. But when Bud forces him to look at them, Mr. C. assumes he’s stolen them. Then, Bud explains the truth about the rocks as he knows it, that his mother has “always had them.” He tells the group his mother’s name, revealing her identity for the first time in the book. This revelation sends shockwaves through the group, and Bud assumes from Mr. C’s reaction that he was right all along: Mr. C. is his father. But then Jimmy explains that Mr. C is more likely Bud’s grandfather, which, is actually welcome news to Bud. After searching for so long for his father, Bud has decided who would want a father like Herman E. Calloway anyway, “so doggone mean.” It’s apparent that Bud is immensely satisfied with having found an extended family beyond the man who he thought was his father.