Judy's Journeyby Lois Lenski
Judy lives in a tent with her family. Will they ever be able to afford a farm with a real house?
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Ten-year-old Judy and her family are migrants, moving from farm to farm with each new season. Starting in Alabama, they travel to Florida and up the East Coast all the way to New Jersey, always looking for steady work. Every time Judy feels as if they&rsquo/b>
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Judy lives in a tent with her family. Will they ever be able to afford a farm with a real house?
Ten-year-old Judy and her family are migrants, moving from farm to farm with each new season. Starting in Alabama, they travel to Florida and up the East Coast all the way to New Jersey, always looking for steady work. Every time Judy feels as if they’re beginning to put down roots, they have to move on. It’s hard for her to catch up in school; it’s hard to make and keep friends. Judy likes the people she meets along the way, but she longs for a real home. Will her family ever have a farm of their own?
Judy’s Journey is a realistic depiction of the life of migrant farm workers in the mid-1900s.
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By Lois Lenski
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1947 Lois Lenski
All rights reserved.
"Hey! Anybody home?"
A ten-year-old girl, big eyes in a pale face and stringy hair hanging loose on her shoulders, peered out of the open door. She wore overalls and her feet were bare.
A cold wind blew round the corner.
"What you want?" asked the girl in a frightened whisper.
"Where's your Pa?" asked the big man who stood there.
"Gone off," said the girl. "Don't know where."
The man did not offer to come in. Through the open door of the rickety, unpainted cabin, he could see that the place was empty. The walls inside were papered with old newspapers. Dirt and refuse covered the floor. The sight was unpleasant, so he turned away.
Outside, there wasn't much to see either. The house sat in the middle of a cotton field, where the dried stalks of dead cotton plants leaned crazily against each other. Splotches of white were sprinkled over them, mute evidence of a ruined unpicked crop. There were no farm buildings, no trees, no bushes—there was no green grass.
The man's car was in the narrow dirt lane that led in from the road. In front of the car stood a pile of furniture, heaped carelessly together.
"Ain't you folks got out yet? What you hangin' round for?" the man asked in a loud voice. "Come on out—no use your hidin' in there."
The girl had disappeared. A scuffle was heard inside and a woman came to the door, holding a baby in her arms. She was thin and pale, her straight hair rolled in a knot on her head. Her eyes were soft and patient.
"Howdy, Mister Reeves," she said in a dull voice.
"I done tole him Papa was gone off and we don't know where," said the girl, appearing again with a younger girl beside her.
"I see Moses and Smoky moved your plunder out like I told 'em, Miz Drummond," said Reeves.
"Shore did," said the woman. "We're jest puttin' our vittles in a basket, sir.... We're most ready to go...."
"Well, I can't wait all day," said Reeves. "I give you-all your orders."
The girl stepped forward.
"Now, Judy," said her mother, "don't you say nary word to rile Mister Reeves."
But Judy did not listen. She faced the man and said: "I reckon you think you own the whole world!" She set her bare feet on the rickety step and stuck out her tongue.
"I'm overseer for the Company," boomed Reeves. "It's my job to make this land pay. I intend to put some one on it can take care of it, make the crops and make 'em pay!"
"You can have your ole fields and your ole cotton and your little ole piecy house as full of holes as a sieve and welcome!" snapped Judy. "But you can't have the sun nor the blue sky nor the moon 'n' stars, nor the sunset, so there!"
"I notice you-all got plenty time to set and study the sunset," said Reeves. "Plenty time to set and do nothin'. Your Pa had plenty time to go huntin' and fishin', with cotton bustin' open right under his nose——"
"Where's my puppy dog?"
The sharp cry came from a boy who dashed round the house. He doubled up his thin little fists at the man. "What you done with my little ole puppy dog?"
"I told you you couldn't keep a dog on this place," answered Reeves, "and I'd run it off the farm if you brung it here."
"My Uncle Barney give it to me...." The boy began to whimper. "He said I could keep it for my very own...."
"What you done with Joe Bob's dog?" asked Mrs. Drummond in a fretful tone. "You ain't harmed the little bitty thing, have you, Mist' Reeves? The boy set such store by it, it'll cut him to pieces if you——"
"You jest went and killed it, I betcha!" said Judy. "You jest like to be mean. You're the hatefullest man this side o' Kingdom Come!"
Mister Reeves eyed the girl fiercely, backed away and said nothing.
"He ain't said he hurt your dog, sonny," said Mama. Joe Bob began to cry.
"Come on, git out o' the house!" roared Reeves. "I'm sick of the lot of ye. Come on outdoors, you-all!"
"What's outdoors? What's the blue sky to us, even in wintertime?" said Mama. "We been livin' outdoors, what with all them big holes in the roof. Rain always leakin' through—I'm plumb tard o' movin' the bed every night to keep it out of the wet. All that terrible rain—"
"Can ketch a dishpan o' water over the stove ary time it rains," said Judy.
"Holes in the roof big enough to throw a shoe through," said Joe Bob.
"If we jest had some shoes to throw," added Judy.
"Cold winter wind nigh blows the covers offen the bed," said Joe Bob.
"We like to froze to death on them cold nights," said Judy.
"Worstest house I ever seen," said Mama. "We'll leave it and welcome. We can't worst ourselves much by leavin' such a place."
They talked back to Old Man Reeves in loud voices. They took delight in shouting what a bad house it was. But their feet kept moving out of it—reluctantly. They remembered it was all the house they had. Even with holes in the roof and walls, it was home. Even if it didn't keep the winter cold out, it was home.
The baby began to cry.
"Lonnie's sick, my baby boy," said Mama. Mama's voice was not defiant now. It was sad, as if she might start crying too. "No time to be movin' in winter when your baby boy's sick."
"No fault o' mine," said Reeves. "Been tryin' to get you folks out ever since settlement time. Why don't you take care of your kids?"
"Pickin' cotton all day, that's why," answered Mama. "That's when Lonnie first took sick. Nothin' to eat but fatback and cornbread. You wouldn't never let us have a little garden patch." It was true—the cotton field came right up to the house on all sides. Only the narrow lane was implanted.
"Teacher at school said we should eat garden sass," piped up Judy.
"Teacher said we'd git puny if we didn't," added her sister, little Cora Jane.
"Can't have good cotton land wasted," growled Reeves. "Don't stand there a-talkin' all day. Git on out. I got a new family a-comin' in."
"Lord help 'em!" said Mama.
"Come on then!" ordered Reeves.
They all followed at the man's heels.
"Judy, we left our coats," said Mama. "Go back and fetch 'em, so we don't ketch our death o cold out here."
The girl went into the house.
"Them kids went to school instead of pickin' cotton?" demanded Reeves. "Didn't I tell Jim Drummond to keep 'em outa school till pickin' was over? So that's why he didn't get no pickin' done before the rains started!"
Judy handed out the coats and they put them on.
"It rained and rained," the girl said. "It rained so much we couldn't go back to school. The creek was flooded. I wanted to finish the Third Reader—"
"I liked my teacher," said Cora Jane.
"'Twas rain ruint the cotton," said Mama. "Can't blame it onto us. It rained and we couldn't pick. I'm right smart glad them young uns went to school when they had the chance."
"You want 'em to git new-fangled notions from them teachers, I reckon," said Reeves.
"'Bout what's good for young uns to eat?" put in Judy. "'Bout shuttin' up holes in your house to keep out the cold?"
Reeves walked out to the lane where their meager furniture was piled. There was a bureau with a broken mirror, a large iron bed, a table, a kerosene stove, a sewing- machine and various odds and ends. Reeves picked up a small piece of carpet that lay on top of a heap of bedding. He held it out at arm's length.
"Carpet, eh? Brussels carpet! With roses on it. Now what——"
He got no further. Joe Bob, like an enraged animal, jumped up and snatched the carpet out of the man's hand.
"Gimme that or I'll beat the stuffin' out of you!" the boy cried. He dropped the carpet and pounded the man with his fists.
"Git offen me, you little varmint!" shouted Reeves.
Just then the sound of a car could be heard in the neighborhood. The boy stopped fighting and they all looked off across the cotton field. The car was coming closer and closer, rattling and banging louder and louder.
"It's comin' here," said Joe Bob.
"Shore is," said Mama.
"It's Papa!" shrieked Judy.
With arms and legs flying, she was off down the lane. When the car came up, she was sitting in the front seat beside her father. On her face there was a satisfied smile.
"I was tellin' your folks they gotta get out," said Old Man Reeves as soon as the engine stopped.
"I see," said Jim Drummond. "Moved all our plunder out too, didn't you?"
"My colored boys done that. Gotta get the house ready for new family comin' in."
"O. K.," said Jim Drummond. "We're goin' soon as we can git loaded up. We're goin' where we'll never see the likes o' you again."
"Oh where, Papa?" cried Judy. Papa looked happy. It was wonderful. Things weren't so bad after all.
"Hush up your mouth, gal," said Papa. He turned to Reeves again. "We're a-goin' where the sun's a-shinin' and a man can make a crop of his own. We're lightin' out right away, the sooner, the better."
Old Man Reeves seemed surprised and taken aback. He had been expecting an argument and maybe a fight.
"Where you off to, Jim, anyhow?" he asked amiably. "Where'd' you git the car? Latest model, eh? Roby Watson's got a tenant-house empty, but he won't treat you half as good as I been doin'. Where you off to?"
Papa just rubbed his chin and said nothing.
"Don't you wisht you knew!" sang out Judy spitefully. "There's plenty places to go to. It's a free country, I reckon."
Joe Bob and Cora Jane began to dance up and down. "Don't you wisht you knew! Don't you wisht you knew! It's a free country, a free country."
Still Papa didn't say a word. His silence made Reeves angry.
"I'd ought to knock you down," the man began slowly, "for the way you've neglected this place and lost me the cotton crop and stole fertilizer and stuff and ain't worked the crops nor kept your part of the bargain. Lookin' to me to feed and clothe you and furnish you medicines for a sick family and then ruinin' the cotton crop."
"I reckon we're about even, Reeves," said Papa in a cold, hard voice. "You know what you been sayin' ain't true. 'Twas the rain ruint the cotton. For three years now I've worked my fingers to the bone for you and what do I get out of it? Nothin'. I'm worse off than when I come here. Mind how I never got that new wagon I wanted? Well, it's over now. I'm through bein' a sharecropper—lucky I got spunk enough left to clear out. Ever since you made away with my boy's puppy dog——"
"Oh Papa! Did he kill it?" Joe Bob began to kick and scream.
"Steady, boy, steady," said Papa. "Cryin' won't bring your puppy dog back. Well, ever since then, I made up my mind I wouldn't stay no longer."
"You made up your mind?" said Reeves. "'Twas me told you to go."
"All right, have it your way," said Papa. "Anyhow I'm goin' where my young uns can git some education and learn to do a little figgerin'. I never went past the Fourth Grade myself. I reckon if I'd a stayed in school and learnt more about addin' up dollars and cents, I might a looked over them commissary books of yours and seen how you was robbin' and cheatin' me, and fixin' it so I couldn't never git a cent of cash money ahead but was always in debt at the end of the year. I'm goin' where my young uns can go to school instead of workin' all day in the cotton field, pickin' cotton." Papa looked over at Mama and smiled. "We'll git us a piece of land all our own...."
"Fine!" sneered Reeves. "Where'll you git it—shiftless, lazy folks like you-all?" He climbed in his car and drove off.
They were all happy when he was gone. Papa took a paper bag from his pocket and passed it around. It was full of candy kisses wrapped in shiny paper. They each had one. Their cheeks bulged out fat as they sucked noisily.
"Whose car, Jim?" asked Mama.
They all looked at the old ramshackle Ford. It had a homemade two-wheeled trailer fastened on behind.
"Our'n," said Papa, with a sly smile. "It's gonna take us where we want to go. Come on, young uns, help me load up this plunder."
Papa and Joe Bob and Judy set to work. They put the larger pieces of furniture into the trailer and the bedsprings on top of the car. The oil stove and bundles of bedding were tied to the left runningboard, washtub and buckets on the spare tire in back.
"I got plumb sick of that ole mule and broke-down wagon your Uncle Barney gave us, Calla," said Papa. "Never could do no work with 'em nohow and had to use Reeves's all the time. So I swapped 'em for this-here jalopy. Hiram Adler's always ready to make a trade. You tell him what you got and he'll bid on it, no matter what it is—an ole sewing-machine——"
"Jim! You ain't traded off my sewin'-machine!"
"No, Calla, no, don't you worry. Or an ole iron bed——"
"Jim! You ain't traded off our iron bed?"
"No, Calla, no. Or a crop o' peanuts or watermelons half-ripe in the field or ary ole thing under the sun."
"Measly little ole crop o' peanuts this year," sniffed Judy. "Not worth the salt to bile 'em in." She put her hand in a small pail, took out a mouthful and began spitting out the shells.
"All right. Get in, everybody. We're off!" called Papa.
Mama picked up the carpet with roses on it. "Seems like I couldn't live without this carpet from my Mama's house," she said. She spread it over the front seat. Then she lifted in Cora Jane and the baby and climbed in herself.
"Oh, them molasses and the vittles," she called. "Judy, go bring 'em. We hid the molasses can when we saw Old Reeves a-comin'."
"But he couldn't take 'em," said Papa. "Them molasses is mine. Didn't I cook Roby Watson's syrup for him and take 'em for my pay?"
Judy brought the can and basket, and she and Joe Bob climbed into the crowded back seat. Papa started the engine and the car wheezed out the lane and off down the road. All the Drummonds, except the sleeping baby, looked back at the house that had been their home for three years. They didn't know whether to be glad or sorry. They were leaving the only home they had, but their hearts were high with hope.
Down at the bend in the road stood a group of colored people waiting—the Jenkins family. Judy looked at them. It was hard to think she might never play with Pinky and Daisy again, and that Joe Bob would forget the good times he had had with Porky and Arlie. Pinky came running up and thrust her greatest treasure—a little blue glass bottle—into Judy's hand. Judy leaned out of the car to call goodbye, and waved as long as she could see them.
"Wisht I could a seen Uncle Barney and Aunt Lissie once more," sighed Mama. Then she cheered up. "Tell us about the trade, Jim."
"Along with the mule an' wagon, I threw in the plow and shovels to boot," said Papa. "Hiram said he knew a man that wanted 'em. He said this ole jalopy was worth fifteen dollars anyhow. When I told him where I had in mind to go, he threw in the trailer free. Said he had no use for it. I told him I couldn't pay for it and he said to forget it. He's a good man, Hiram, and if ever I git ahead, I'll send him some money. This little ole Ford ain't much, but it goes if you give it oil and gas."
"Where we goin', Papa?" sang the children.
"We're leavin' Alabama for good," said Papa. "We'll git us a little piece o' land somewheres."
"Night's a-comin' on," said Mama. "We ain't had no supper but boiled peanuts. Where we gonna eat and sleep?"
"We'll camp out," said-Papa. "We'll sleep out under the sky and count the stars."
"It's too cold," said Judy, shivering.
"I bought us some sliced baloney and a great big onion and two loaves of bread ...."
"Where are we goin', Jim?" asked Mama anxiously.
"Next best place to Heaven," sighed Papa happily. "Florida!"
"Florida! Florida!" echoed the children.
"Warm sun shines there all winter long and it don't never get cold at all," said Papa. "Man I met back in town was tellin' me about it. We'll set in the sun and when it gits too hot, we'll find us a palm tree and rest in the shade. Don't need no winter coats——"
"No? Honest to goodness? What'll we live on?" asked Mama.
"Cash money!" said Papa.CHAPTER 2
"You are my sunshine, My only sunshine, You make me happy When skies are gray ..."
"Oh, stop your singin', Judy," said Joe Bob. "I'm tard of it." Judy stopped singing abruptly and Papa began to talk.
"We'll jest go rollin' along without a care," said Papa. "We'll see the world, honey. We'll keep on goin' and never stop."
"We'll have to eat sometimes, Papa," said Judy.
"Shore, shore. Mama'll tell us when it's time to eat, and cook our meals. Mama's the best cook in the world—she can cook meals, out of the air, right outa nothin'." Papa looked at Mama and smiled.
"What'll we git when we stop?" asked Judy.
"Ice cream and watermelon and honey in the comb, and biscuits and gravy ..." laughed Papa.
Judy tucked her hand under her father's elbow and leaned back comfortably, with Cora Jane beside her. Mama and Lonnie and Joe Bob were in the back seat. Judy liked to dream as much as Papa did. The sky was bluer than any blue she had ever seen. It was as blue as the little blue glass bottle she held in her hand. She and Pinky had found it long ago in the cotton field and wondered how it got there. They took turns keeping it. Now Pinky wanted Judy to have it for good.
They drove for a long time through Alabama crop country, where the fields were bare and drab after the fall harvest. Now and then the level land was broken by tall woods along sluggish streams. Sometimes they stopped in towns and ate sandwiches or drank pop or ginger ale out of bottles. Then they went on again. Sometimes they passed a white-pillared mansion sitting back from the road under the shade of huge trees.
Excerpted from Judy's Journey by Lois Lenski. Copyright © 1947 Lois Lenski. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1893, Lois Lenski achieved acclaim as both an author and illustrator of children’s literature. For her Regional America series, Lenski traveled to each of the places that became a subject of one of her books. She did meticulous research and spoke with children and adults in the various regions to create stories depicting the lives of the inhabitants of those areas. Her novel of Florida farm life, Strawberry Girl, won the Newbery Award in 1946. She also received a Newbery Honor in 1942 for Indian Captive, a fictionalized account of the life of Mary Jemison. Lenski died in 1974.
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