Ron continues his narration. By the end of January, the cancer returns “with a vengeance.” As spring comes, the family goes to their ranch at Rocky Top, taking Denver with them this year. While they are there, Ron invites him to a cowboy camping event that draws about two hundred people. Denver is nervous, because in the past he’s “heard cowboys don’t like black folks,” but goes at Ron’s encouragement. Denver enjoys the camaraderie, and Ron notes that Denver begins to “know what it [is] like to be accepted and loved by a group of white guys on horseback with ropes in their hands. Exactly the kind of people he had feared all his life.”
Denver’s reconciliation with white people and with cowboys come full circle as he realizes, through his relationship with Ron and his camaraderie with the other men there, that not all cowboys are as evil as the three boys that put a noose around his neck and nearly killed him. Denver’s extremely negative experiences and perceptions of white men are replaced by positive experiences and a more accurate perception, demonstrating the way in which relationships with those who are different can bring reconciliation.
The family goes back to Fort Worth, and Deborah’s health continues to decline, as does her spirit. After church one day, Ron, Deborah, and Denver are visiting with Scott and Janina, friends of theirs. Denver announces that he needs to go take care of Mr. Ballantine, and Scott asks to join him.
Denver’s care for Mr. Ballantine is compelled by his Christian faith, demonstrating Christianity’s power to motivate individuals to care for look beyond themselves and watch over others.
Years before, Denver met Mr. Ballantine on the street, a sour old drunk whose family had rejected him. Mr. Ballantine hated black people and Christians and so refused to sit through the sermon at Union Gospel Mission to eat a meal. Denver, even before his relationship with Ron had taken root, took pity on Mr. Ballantine and started getting an extra plate of food from the mission each day to feed him. When Mr. Ballantine was put in a state nursing home, now an invalid, Denver made a habit of regularly checking on him. Ron once went with Denver to see Mr. Ballantine in his room, but was overwhelmed by the rotten food, bodily fluids, and pitiful state that the man lived. Ron left, but Denver stayed to clean Mr. Ballantine up and take care of his room. Mr. Ballantine never thanks him and refers to Denver as “nigger.”
Although Ron’s ego once compelled him to see himself as an “indulgent benefactor,” Denver’s own compassion for Mr. Ballantine puts Ron to shame. Denver is capable of a level of compassion, despite Mr. Ballantine’s grotesque state, that Ron simply cannot stomach. Both Ron and the reader’s prejudice towards the homeless lead them to assume that Denver has been stealing the second plate of food for himself, when in reality he has telling the truth and caring for a man who hated him. This once again pointedly demonstrates how false and misconstrued prejudices often are.