At breakfast of flapjacks the next day, Shane reveals that his family was originally from Mississippi but settled in Arkansas. He left home when he was fifteen. A severe rainstorm is coming which will make a mess of the roads, so Joe persuades Shane to stay for another day. Marian asks Shane to tell her about the kind of hats women are wearing in the cities these days. He tells her they wear wide-brimmed bonnets with flowers in front at the top.
After the storm Joe takes Shane to see his crops. He also shows Shane “the one bad spot on our place.” It is a huge old tree stump. The roots can be seen extending in every direction. Joe has tried everything he knows to get rid of it, but has not succeeded so far. He is determined to win in the end, however.
A peddler named Jake Ledyard drives up in his wagon. He brings with him a seven-pronged cultivator that Joe has been wanting. He tells Joe that the price will be $110. But Shane interrupts, saying that in Cheyenne, such a cultivator is sold for $60. Ledyard, on the defensive, reduces it to $100 but starts to insult Shane. Then he suddenly stops, afraid of Shane, who is staring intently at him. Joe offers Ledyard $80 for the cultivator and the peddler accepts.
Meanwhile, Shane has set to work on the stump, taking an axe to the wood. He manages to cut through one of the big roots and then starts on another. Joe gets and axe and starts to work on the opposite side of the stump. They swing their axes as Bob watches.
This chapter foreshadows what is to come in the sense that it shows how Shane, in this minor confrontation with Ledyard, reacts to injustice. He speaks quietly and evenly, with few words. He is obviously ready for any challenge, and Ledyard, who has begun to insult him, soon realizes that he better stop and keep quiet. The stranger is full of a quiet menace: “He was standing erect, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes boring at Ledyard, his whole body alert and alive in the leaping instant” (p. 19). Shane is obviously a man who stays calm and is not likely to back down in a confrontation or lose his head in a crisis. The incident helps to build tension in the novel.
The significance of the old stump is that it represents the resistance of nature to man’s efforts to conquer the land. When Joe and Shane start on it, they are showing the determined will of man to be superior to nature, to shape nature to their own ends. This will be further developed in the next chapter.