The varmints had a lean time of it

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 Its windows were merely openspaces in the walls, which in the summertime were covered with greasy strips ofcheesecloth to keep out the varmints that feasted on Maycomb’s refuse.

 For the Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaningevery day, and the fruits of their industry (those that were not eaten) made the plot ofground around the cabin look like the playhouse of an insane child: what passed for afence was bits of tree-limbs, broomsticks and tool shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes, held on withpieces of barbed wire. Enclosed by this barricade was a dirty yard containing theremains of a Model-T Ford (on blocks), a discarded dentist’s chair, an ancient icebox,plus lesser items: old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars, underwhich scrawny orange chickens pecked hopefully.

One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line,were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderlyas if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit ageranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.

Nobody was quite sure how many children were on the place. Some people said six,others said nine; there were always several dirty-faced ones at the windows whenanyone passed by. Nobody had occasion to pass by except at Christmas, when thechurches delivered baskets, and when the mayor of Maycomb asked us to please helpthe garbage collector by dumping our own trees and trash.

Atticus took us with him last Christmas when he complied with the mayor’s request. Adirt road ran from the highway past the dump, down to a small Negro settlement somefive hundred yards beyond the Ewells‘. It was necessary either to back out to thehighway or go the full length of the road and turn around; most people turned around inthe Negroes’ front yards. In the frosty December dusk, their cabins looked neat andsnug with pale blue smoke rising from the chimneys and doorways glowing amber fromthe fires inside. There were delicious smells about: chicken, bacon frying crisp as thetwilight air. Jem and I detected squirrel cooking, but it took an old countryman likeAtticus to identify possum and rabbit, aromas that vanished when we rode back past theEwell residence.

All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearestneighbors was, that if scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water, his skin was white.


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