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Chapter 17 black bark in winter Summary The Georgia boy, after witnessing the killings from behind the trees, runs to tell Ada and Ruby. The women feed the boy and give him directions to get home to Georgia. Ruby instructs Ada what to pack and tells her they should dress in “britches” to avoid the cold. They outfit themselves in Monroe’s old clothes and hats, rub beeswax on their boots and set out to find and bury Stobrod and Pangle.
They walk through the snowy woods well into the night. Ruby urges Ada on saying there will be better shelter up ahead. They come to a covering where three large flat rocks had fallen against each other to make a small chamber. Ada and Ruby build a fire and eat. As the fire heats the rocks Ada is able to fall asleep. At first light they make breakfast and set off again.
When they reach their destination they find Pangle’s body, but not Stobrod’s. They bury Pangle, and Ada makes a cross out of black locust limbs, hoping they would take root. Ada washes her hands in the creek and spots Stobrod under an overhang.
He had been shot three times but was still alive. Ruby gathers herbs and roots while Ada boils water, and the women tend Stobrod’s wounds. They lash together a sled to transport Stobrod, then decide that draping him over the horse would be better.
Ruby leads them to an old, abandoned Cherokee village of huts and cabins. Ruby carries Stobrod inside the best of the cabins. She lights a fire in the hearth while Ada tries to coax, and then forces the horse into one of the huts for shelter. Ruby cooks a supper and the women eat. Ada dreads sleeping on the cold dirt floor, knowing that more snow is coming.
Ada and Ruby are proving themselves capable of anything together. They have learned to work cooperatively so that no challenge seems insurmountable. Surviving the cold, burying the dead and healing the wounded are outside of their regular farm routine. Yet these women are so strong and confident they set themselves to these tasks without hesitation. The war, having taken the men away, leaves women filling in all roles.