A Deal In Wheat Summary

Frank Norris

A Deal In Wheat

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A Deal In Wheat Summary

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Published in 1903, A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories of the Old and New West is a short story collection by Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Norris, Jr. The topics of the stories range from the pursuit of love, humorous tales of larger than life characters, and even the commodities market. Norris (1870-1902) was an American author known as a naturalist and a Social Darwinist, and much of his work has socialist themes. A Deal in Wheat was published posthumously by Doubleday, Page & Company.

In “A Deal in Wheat,” Sam Lewiston bids farewell to his wife, Emma, as he leaves to sell the last of his wheat crop. With prices having dropped to 62 cents per bushel, he cannot afford to farm wheat any longer and must instead work at the hat factor. While the big players in the Chicago market go back and forth on the price of wheat, the hat factory goes out of business. Sam stands in the bread line, reflecting on how blessed he is to have this food available to him. But in an ironic twist, the bread line closes, saying that the new two-dollar-per-bushel price of wheat means that they can no longer give bread away for free.

In “The Wife of Chino,” Lockwood, the superintendent of the Hand-over-fist Gravel Mine, becomes obsessed with Felice Zavalla, a beautiful Mexican woman married to Chino, one of his workers. One night, he receives word that Reno Kid, a wanted criminal, is on the trail headed their way, and Chino has already ridden out to intercept Kid. Lockwood follows, but cannot find anyone in the darkness. Suddenly he hears galloping, and thinking it is Kid, he shoots. However, it’s actually Chino. When he confesses his deed to Felice, she responds by saying they can finally be together. But Lockwood now sees her as cold and disloyal and no longer wants her.

In “A Bargain with Peg-Leg,” Bunt McBride tells the story of the famous one-legged criminal while on break during a shift at the mine. Peg-Leg Smith is vicious, yet he hates when people use curse words. McBride shares how, as a teenager, he runs afoul of Smith but is able to bargain for his safety by promising to never curse for the rest of his life.

In “The Passing of Cock-Eye Blacklock,” Bunt McBride tells another story while riding out to herd cattle in the Idaho desert. Cock-Eye Blacklock is a known criminal suspected of shooting all the fish out of the river. When the authorities set up surveillance on the river, they see Blacklock toss a stick of dynamite in the water. But a dog fetches the dynamite and returns it to Blacklock, who is killed in the explosion.

In “A Memorandum of Sudden Death,” the narrator reads a manuscript that tells the first-hand account of four men being hunted by “bucks” (Native Americans). Over a series of several days, the bucks close in and kill the men one by one. As he nears death, the last man writes that he now understands the secret of life.

In “Two Hearts that Beat as One,” Bunt McBride is back with another story, this time about the Three Black Crows. McBride recounts an early mission he is given by Cyrus Rider, a detective character who also appears in “A Deal in Wheat.” McBride and three other men are sent to meet the representative of a revolutionary who needs to be smuggled into the country. But when the men see that the representative is a beautiful woman, they arrange a boxing match to decide who will win the right to pursue her.

In “The Dual Personality of Sick Dick Nickerson,” Rider sends the Three Black Crows to Alaska to stop some Russian poachers. They are accompanied by another of Rider’s men, an amnesiac named Dick Nickerson. They all travel to Alaska and are successful in detaining the poachers and retrieving the otter skins. However, Dick falls on the deck and hits his head. After this, he no longer remembers why the men are in Alaska. He runs to the customs office and reports that he is being held prisoner by pirates. Thinking they are being pursued by the authorities, the Three Black Crows flee the port.

In “The Ship That Saw a Ghost,” Mr. Dixon narrates a mission he shared with the Three Black Crows aboard the ship Glarus, which many believe to be haunted. The men sail in search of an island that has not been seen for 200 years. They are successful in finding the island, but something evil rises out of the sea and attacks them each night, killing more and more men. When the survivors finally reach San Francisco, word of the Glarus spreads, and the ship is never taken to sea again.

In “The Ghost in the Crosstrees,” Rider hires the Three Black Crows to help him claim an island that he wants for its rich nitrate beds. As the men prepare for the journey, they see a ghostly figure each night raising the sails and then disappearing. Not wanting to embark on a cursed journey, the men abandon the mission. However, two years later, they again see the ghostly figure and finally realize that it is merely a sleepwalking friend.

In “The Riding of Felipe,” Felipe Arillaga ends an affair with his mistress, Rubia Ytuerate, because he wishes to return to his wife, Buelna. Furious, Rubia says that the next woman Felipe kisses will be cursed. When Felipe returns home, he refuses to kiss Buelna, and she leaves him for this reason. Felipe is then confronted by Unzar, Rubia’s brother who was sent to kill Felipe on her behalf. The pair fight, and Unzar is mortally wouned. Rubia returns to Felipe and kisses him after confessing her love. Just then, Unzar berates Rubia with his dying words, and she realizes that in kissing Felipe, she cursed herself.