sound practical judgment
“I know I kin do it, Pa. There’s nothin’ hard about it—jest keepin’ a level head and usin’
Another definition of "gumption" is "fortitude and determination"--while Jethro does not intend that here, because he wants to assure his father that the task would be easy, his mental strength and determination are later tested on his way home, when he, with Dave Burdow, is attacked in the woods.
He had fifteen miles to travel; master of his team, navigator of his route, he felt proud and
exhilarated by his freedom and sense of adventure.
without change, in every case
People were moving about their morning chores in barnyards or woodlots; inevitably they stood still, watching the approach of the wagon as it rattled down the road;
invariably they waved a hand in greeting and stood watching for a long time after Jethro passed, as if trying to guess whose team it was and whose boy was out on the road at such an early hour.
a juvenile between the onset of puberty and maturity
“Well, now, ain’t ye kind of a young striplin’ to be drivin’ alone down to the big town?”
seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
Jethro maintained the
stoic calm of the farm-bred boy as the wagon swayed;
freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities
he kept his small, hunched frame in a position of untroubled
assurance, whistling a little now and then to prove to himself that his nerves were as nearly ironlike as he wanted to believe they were.
a rapid active commotion
But there were people moving up and down the wooden sidewalks, smoke rising from two or three hundred chimneys, and for a boy accustomed to the loneliness of an isolated farm, the gentle
bustle of the place was exciting and full of wonder.
showing pensive sadness
It had been a wonderful experience, and he looked at the place wistfully as he passed.
hate coupled with disgust
The man looked as if he had lived in filth for a lifetime, and Jethro felt a
loathing that was new to him.
to cause to separate and go in different directions
He looked directly at the man with an anger that
dissipated his weakness.
not prominent or readily noticeable
He turned then to Jethro, who stood beside the counter, his body hunched together as if in an effort to make himself as
inconspicuous as possible.
Compare this image of inconspicuous hunching to the image of untroubled assurance in a small hunched frame. Both images reveal how Jethro is still just a ten-year-old boy, despite taking on some of the responsibilities of a man.
lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
Ross Milton was thoughtful, and Jethro was soon completely absorbed in the pleasure of oven-cooked food that seemed delicate and tempting in contrast to the
coarse fare to which he was accustomed.
threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
But to Jethro the several yards along the dooryard and barnlot of Dave Burdow’s place were full of a
sinister threat that made the woods road a welcome relief.
a severe or trying experience
When it curved among the trees and the Burdow cabin was lost to sight, he breathed easier and shifted himself stiffly on the seat as he prepared for the
ordeal of mudholes and jutting tree stumps in the road ahead.
Jethro shrank from the great bulk beside him with fear and
of a quantity not able to fulfill a need or requirement
He was still too much a child, still insufficiently acquainted with violence, to believe that bodily harm could possibly come to him.
The use of "insufficiently" suggests that a child needs to know about violence in order to grow up. In Jethro's case, the attack on the bridge is his first close brush with violence, which helped him to learn "a great deal about men and their unpredictable behavior." Living through the war, losing his brothers, and saving Eb are other brushes with violence that change Jethro's outlook on life.
behave awkwardly or with difficulty
When he tried to speak he found that his voice, like his identity, had gone too; his lips worked as they had often seemed to work in a bad dream to form the words he wanted to say, but no sound passed them, and there was nothing to do but sit quietly while his mind
floundered in the uncertainties that beset it.
assail or attack on all sides
When he tried to speak he found that his voice, like his identity, had gone too; his lips worked as they had often seemed to work in a bad dream to form the words he wanted to say, but no sound passed them, and there was nothing to do but sit quietly while his mind floundered in the uncertainties that
implied by or inferred from actions or statements
Both man and boy seemed to be in
tacit agreement that the attack at the bridge was a closed incident, a thing for which they felt a solid indifference.
He found that his lips were still too numb for speech, and he wanted desperately to be beyond earshot of the old man’s
spread or diffuse through
There were still four full miles to cover, and he was weak with a deep weariness that seemed to
penetrate every muscle of his body.
unnatural lack of color in the skin
They noticed his
pallor, and Ellen’s eyes were tender as she recognized the signs of tears, but they would not shame him by asking if the trip had been too hard for him.
a soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot
Now he was to know labor from dawn till sunset; he was to learn what it meant to scan the skies for rain while corn burned in the fields, or to see a heavy rainstorm lash grain from full, strong wheat stalks, or to know that hay, desperately needed for winter feeding, lay rotting in a wet
quagmire of a field.
the state of being weak in health or body
Ed Turner must have been sharply aware of the look of
frailty about the boy in contrast to the great plow horses and the wide fields where Matt with his four boys and Shadrach Yale had worked only the year before.
dignified and somber in manner or character
“You and Shad air much alike, Jeth—too sober and
solemn fer yore own good.
This might sound like an insulting criticism, but for Jethro, it is pleasant praise to be compared to a man who's twice his age and who is his teacher. Also, what Jenny was half-complaining, half-teasing about was that Jethro was not foolish enough to appreciate her humor.
difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze
The difference in their ages seemed to have narrowed that spring, and subtly he stepped out of the role of a petted little brother and became a peer of Jenny, with the full rights of teasing or criticizing that had belonged to Tom a year ago.
a change from one place or state or subject to another
But Jethro was to experience one attack of childish fury before the
transition to his new standing was fully accomplished.
showing respect for the rights or opinions of others
When his sister left the table and ran off to her room with the letter, Jethro was irritated, but
tolerant of her rights; however, when she returned, with flaming cheeks, and began to read a few excerpts from the closely written pages, he was dismayed.
beyond normal limits
He was sound asleep before the spring night was quite dark, but
excessive fatigue, like excitement, was a forerunner of the nightmares that had plagued him for the past year.
tendency to believe too readily and to be easily deceived
Jethro was annoyed at Shep’s
gullibility, but not particularly anxious.