Chapter 3 the color of despair Summary Inman feels that after days of traveling he has not gotten very far from the hospital. Bad weather, dogs from the farms he passed, and the threat of the Home Guard, plus his wounded condition leave Inman tired and partially lost.
He comes to a town at a crossroad and stops in a store to buy food. Two men who were sitting in rockers on the porch of the store when Inman arrived are gone when he comes out. Inman had noted that one of the men had a fine rifle, the kind snipers use. At the edge of town the same two men block Inman’s path. A third man, a smith carrying a scythe, joins them. The three jump Inman. Inman is able to grab the scythe and sweeps it across near the men’s ankles. He beats them down with the handle. The smith pulls out a gun. Inman takes the gun, places it to the smith’s head and pulls the trigger four times. The gun does not fire. Inman beats the man, flings the gun away and walks off.
Inman avoids the road as he continues. He recalls a spell against enemies taught to him by a Native American friend. The spell reminds him of a sermon Monroe gave the day Inman first met Ada. But his thoughts do not distract him from the foulness of the area where he is walking. He is between a forest overgrown with poison ivy and a great brown river, which he cannot cross.
He comes to a sign marking a ferry crossing. Rather than a ferry and a ferryman, Inman meets a young girl with a canoe. She haggles with him for a $20 fee and they begin to cross the river. Suddenly they hear voices and gunshots. It is the men from the crossroads town. They shoot holes in the canoe forcing Inman and the girl into the water holding on to the far side of the canoe for cover. They are finally carried out of range by the current. Once on land, Inman gives the girl more money and she gives him directions to the road that goes west.
Inman is bruised from the fight, blistered from poison ivy, and his neck wound has opened up. His food is tainted with the taste of the river. Yet after only a few hours sleep he sets off again.
Inman so loves the flowers, ridges, coves and clear water of Cold Mountain that his current surroundings are vile to him. He hates the flat land, the pinewoods and the disgustingly brown river. The war was fought over ground like this “country of swill and sullage, sump of the continent.” Still he continues, soul-sick, and despairing that there is not even a hope that Ada will be with him in Cold Mountain. Tired, sore and injured he chooses to continue his journey. The theme of endurance is strong in this chapter.