Grapes of Wrath Chapter 26
After one month at the government camp, the Joads are nearing the end of their funds. Tom only had five days of work, and the other men did not get any work. Ma forces the topic of moving after dinner. They are all loath to leave the camp for another Hooverville, but they only have food for two more days. They decide to go to Tulare to pick cotton the next day. Al has saved a full tank of gas. The family disperses to get ready for the trip. Rose of Sharon says she thinks her baby is going to be deformed because she has not had enough milk. Ma comforts her by giving her a pair of gold earrings and piercing her ears with a needle.
Al takes a walk and meets up with a blond girl who he has been sleeping with. He tells her he is leaving, but that he will come back with a lot of money and take her to the movies. Pa tells the men of the camp that he and his family are leaving. Tom tells his friends Willie and Jule that he is leaving. They talk about organizing and unions. Willie says deputies do not pick on a group of organized migrants. " They ain't rainsin' hell with no two hundred men. They're pickin' on one man." Chapter 26, pg. 456
Early the next morning, Ma gets everyone up. Al cranks the battery and they all have cold biscuits before leaving the camp. They notice that winter is coming, and Ma says she has to have a house before winter. Then from the front of the truck comes a hissing sound. They stop and discover they have run over a nail. They patch up the puncture with the last of their tire glue and pumped the tire up. As they were finishing up the job, a roadster pulled up across the highway from them. A man got out and asked them if they were looking for work. He directed them to the Hooper ranch were they could find work picking peaches. They all get excited. Ma starts talking about what food she is going to buy. Tom tells some jail stories. When they arrive at the ranch they are met by the police who put them in a group of six cars being escorted by a police motorcycles to the ranch. They pass a group of men and woman shouting before they pass through the gate of the ranch, which is guarded by two armed men.
A man meets them and tells them the rate is five cents per box of peaches picked. He directs them to house sixty-three and tells to get to work immediately. Two policemen inspect them, checking for criminals. Ma finds out they can get credit at the store for work they have done. The men leave to begin working. The first box Tom fills is not counted because the fruit is bruised. They work more carefully after that and the whole family joins in. They make a dollar by night, but Ma finds that a dollars worth of credit does not go very far at the ranch store. The prices are higher there and the quality lower. The man working there makes fun of Ma's complaints, but she realizes he is ashamed of his job and acts flippant as a way of coping with his shame. She does not have enough money to get sugar for the coffee, but he pays for a dime of sugar for her. She says, "I'm learin' one thing good...If you're in trouble or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones." Chapter 26, pg. 479
Ma makes dinner and they eat but Tom is still hungry. She tells them dinner cost a whole dollar. Tom leaves to go find out what was going on out side the camp. A guard near the edge of the ranch turns Tom back saying he better not get mixed up with the picketers. Tom did not know the people were picketing. Tom walks back toward the camp but then turns in toward the fence and slips under it. He follows some people toward a camp where he finds Jim Casy. Casy tells him about his experiences in jail. He says once all of them were given sour beans to eat and they all started yelling together and the guards brought them something better. Casy says he learned a lot at the jail, and now he is trying to organize people. He came to this camp and they offered to pay two and a half cents per box of peaches. Tom says they are paying five cents now. Casy says they will not pay five cents once the strike he has organized ends. He asks Tom to tell the others inside about the strike. Tom doesn't think it will do much good. He tells Casy about the government camp. Casy says he would like to see one functioning.
The men at the camp get nervous and they hear men approaching the camp from all sides. They try to escape but are pointed out with flashlights. Casy says, "You fellas don' know what you're doin'." Chapter 26, pg. 491 A man hits Casy in the head with a pick ax, killing him. Tom reacts by wrenching the ax from the man's hand and killing him with it. Another man wounds him in the head with another ax. Tom runs and hides in some brush and slowly makes his way back to the camp.
The next morning, Ma finds Tom in bed with blood covering his torn face and broken nose. He explains what happened to the family and tells them not to tell anyone. He suggests that he should leave so the family will not be dragged into his mess. Ma gets angry and says, "Goin' away ain't gona ease us. It's gonna bear us down...They was the time when we was on the lan'. They was a boundary to us then. Ol' folks dies off, an' little fellas come, an' we was one thing - we was the fambly - kinda whole and clear. An' we ain't clear no more." Chapter 26, pg. 500 She tells Tom to stay and help keep the family together. He assents. Everyone except he and Rose of Sharon leaves to pick peaches. They have lowered the wage to two and a half cents as Casy predicted. Winfield gets diarrhea after eating too many peaches and passes out in the field. Ma tells Pa to get him some milk at the store for Winfield. Everyone else eats mush. They save the rest of their money to get gas to leave. Pa says the deputies claim a worker killed one of their men before Casy was killed. Tom says, "Well, this fella don' want no hangin', 'cause he'd do it again. An' same time, he don't aim to bring trouble down on his folks. Ma - I got to go." Chapter 26, pg. 509 Ma refuses to let Tom leave. Ma tells Al to back the truck up against the door to their hut and they hide Tom between two mattresses. They drive out of the camp and see a sign asking for cotton pickers. Tom suggests that they stay in some abandoned boxcars they drive by. He leaves them to go hide in the bushes of a nearby creek.