Summary and Analysis
On a Saturday, the entire camp prepares for the evening's dance. The Central Committee meets to discuss ways to prevent the Farmers Association from stirring up trouble. The men at the gate of the camp will look out for anyone suspicious, and extra members are added to the entertainment committee. Ezra Huston, the chairman, warns that troublemakers must not be harmed physically because any altercation would only give the deputies a reason to shut down the camp. Tom is recruited by the committee to help ward off any trouble.
That evening, Ma is able to convince Rose of Sharon to go to the dance by promising that she won't allow anyone to bother her. At the gate, Tom and Jule, a camper of Cherokee blood, spy three suspicious young men entering. They follow them to the dance floor where they try to start a fight. As planned, the entertainment committee forms a wall around them and escorts them from the floor. The men are recognized as migrants, and Mr. Huston sadly wonders why they have turned against their fellow workers. They are taken out and forced to leave, unharmed. The committee returns to the dance.
Pa, Uncle John, and other men meet to talk about work possibilities. One man shares the story of mountain men in Akron, Ohio, who were being exploited by the rubber factories. They attempted to organize a union, but the townspeople tried to run them out. The mountain men held a "turkey shoot": On a Sunday, five thousand men walked through town with guns. The man feels the Okies ought to have a "turkey shoot."
The prevention of a fight at the dance is an example of group action as it is most effective. The group proves they can work together to achieve a common goal, but it is also clear that the ability to organize well is more likely to happen when people are allowed to be clean and treated with respect. A measure of dignity must be provided in order for social advancements to be made. The success of this group action elaborates precisely why the large landowners are frightened by the migrants. Given the opportunity to work together, these "Okies" demonstrate they are not stupid or lazy like the powers that be would prefer to believe. They are a proud, productive, and potentially powerful group of people, and for this reason, the land owners would like to destroy any camps that promote any kind of organization.
The peaceful solution to the interruption at the dance becomes ironic by the end of the chapter. Peaceful solutions may work well when people can bathe and feel safe, but outside the gates of the government camps, the anger of the dispossessed is beginning to ferment. The anecdote shared at the end of the chapter concerning the revolt of workers against the rubber companies in Akron, Ohio, is a prelude to the violent action of the strike that will take place in the next chapter. The man in the black hat concludes his story of the workers' "turkey shoot" with an observation about their own labor situation: "They're getting' purty mean out here. Burned that camp an' beat up folk. I been thinkin'. All our folk got guns. I been thinkin' maybe we ought to git up a turkey shootin' club an' have meetin's ever' Sunday." Circumstances are coming to a head, and the time has come for thought to be put into action. The response to this call to action will be seen in the strikebreaking efforts of Jim Casy as he attempts to put into practice the beliefs we have seen develop throughout the story.
sidled moved sideways, especially in a shy or stealthy manner.
rakishly dashingly; jauntily.
two bits [informal] 25 cents.