someone who pays rent to use land or a building or a car that is owned by someone else
"Tenant" comes from the Latin "tenere" which means "to hold" but the farmers had either sold their lands to or rented them from the banks, so they can't hold onto their way of life when the banks want them out. Having lost their tenancy, the farmers now test their tenacity ("persistent determination") on the road.
In the little houses the tenant people sifted their belongings and the belongings of their fathers and of their grandfathers.
"Inveterate" comes from the Latin "inveterare" which means "to make old"--Winfield is only ten years old, so the adjective does not fit him as much as it would his grandparents, who are creatures of habit and do not adjust well to the move.
But Winfield was still a trifle of a snot-nose, a little of a brooder back of the barn, and an inveterate collector and smoker of snipes.
The ancient Hudson, with bent and scarred radiator screen, with grease in dusty globules at the worn edges of every moving part, with hub caps gone and caps of red dust in their places—this was the new hearth, the living center of the family; half passenger car and half truck, high-sided and clumsy.
Compare this definition and example sentence to "cantankerous"--the two words are synonymous, but "cantankerous" describes an old man while "ornery" describes an old truck. Note the pronoun "she" which is often used to refer to vehicles; used by the sixteen-year-old Al who "don’t think of nothin’ but girls and engines" it has a prideful tone, since Al had picked her out and was the only one who knows how to drive and fix her (before Tom unexpectedly showed up).
And when a horse stops work and goes into the barn there is a life and a vitality left, there is a breathing and a warmth, and the feet shift on the straw, and the jaws champ on the hay, and the ears and the eyes are alive.
mentally upset over possible misfortune or danger etc
"Apprehensive" also means "quick to understand"--this definition does not fit the example sentence, because many of the men who are listening to their vehicles might apprehend a sound of trouble but might not apprehend the mechanics of fixing it; another reason the men are apprehensive is that they don't have the money to spend on parts and repairs.
And the men driving the trucks and the overloaded cars listened apprehensively.
And he hastened to explain. “Road is full a people, come in, use water, dirty up the toilet, an’ then, by God, they’ll steal stuff an’ don’t buy nothin’. Got no money to buy with. Come beggin’ a gallon gas to move on.”
the act of transgressing; the violation of a law or a duty or moral principle
"Transgression" also means "the action of going beyond some boundary or limit"--although the biblical verse is focused on sinning (which makes it humorously appropriate for Grampa), both definitions fit the situation, since Grampa's soul is going beyond the boundary of life while his body is being unlawfully buried on the side of the road.
“This here’s a nice one, just blowed full a religion: ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’
designed or arranged to offer the least resistant to fluid flow
"Streamlined" also means "made efficient by stripping off nonessentials"--this definition would not apply to the fine cars, but it would eventually apply to the jalopies of the migrant families. The word also emphasizes the line of cars streaming by, in a whiz considered "vicious" (this could describe the cars' speeding sounds and possible impacts, and the growing anger of the displaced migrants).
On 66 the traffic whizzed by, trucks and fine streamlined cars and jalopies; and they went by with a vicious whiz.