The Call of the Wild Chapters 5 - 6 Summary

Buck and his dog teammates are bone tired after pulling the sled for the Salt Water Mail from Dawson to Skaguay. They all have lost weight and are so exhausted, that they are no longer able to pull the sled as quickly as before. They have traveled twenty-five hundred miles in five months, the last eighteen hundred miles on only five days rest. The team thinks they will receive a long rest, now that they are in Skaguay.

Instead, after just four days rest, they are sold to a pair of men from the United States. The men named Charles and Hal do not know how to survive in the North, nor do they have any knowledge of how to manage a dog sled team. The two brothers-in-law and Charles wife, Mercedes, who is also Hal's sister, try to load up the sled for the trip to White River.

Unfortunately, they have no idea of how to properly load a sled, so they not only overload the sled, but they put the load on in such a haphazard way, as to ensure it will tip over. Which it does on the first turn they make, but the dogs don't stop running as the trio's belongings are scattered across the streets of Skaguay.

Hal, who is young and inexperienced, feels the only way to treat the dogs is to whip or club them, if they do not perform to his standards. He also decides they need more dogs to pull the load, so he and Charles buy six Outside dogs. These are dogs with little experience being part of a team and who refuse to learn from Buck's team. The other problem is Hal and Charles have not brought along enough food to feed all the dogs.

The men and woman spend all their time quarrelling, which wastes time and adds to the distress of the already overworked and tired dogs, because while they fight the dogs are left waiting to be fed. At first they overfeed the dogs, then as they do not reach the goals of each day, Hal and Charles begin to realize they are going to run out of food for the dogs. Their solution to this problem is to underfeed the dogs.

Hal decides to get rid of the dogs who are not working up to his standards. He starts by shooting Dub and then the other dogs start to die. The team loses Dub and the six Outside dogs and then they lose Billee and Koona, so now the team is down to five dogs.

One day they pull into the camp of John Thornton at White River. He tells Hal if they take the dogs out on the trail, because it is spring and the ice is thawing, the trail might drop out beneath them. Hal will not listen, instead he beats Buck, because he refuses to stand and pull the sled. He beats him with such ferocity as to compel John Thornton to take a stand and save Buck from Hal.

As the rest of the team leaves Buck behind with John, the dog and man witness them fall through the ice and drown, along with Hal, Charles and Mercedes.

John Thornton proves himself to be not only a good master, but also the only man who Buck loves. Buck becomes friends with John's other two dogs, Skeet and Nig, who do not show any signs of jealousy towards him. John helps Buck recover from his injuries suffered at the hands of Charles and Hal. He also gives the dog much needed rest and food to help him become the dog he was, before being treated so cruelly.

Buck will do anything for John, including protecting him from any perceived danger. A man named "Black" Burton attacks John, because John comes to the aid of another man Burton is harassing. Buck attacks Burton and tears his throat open. The man survives and Buck is respected for protecting his owner.

Another time John almost drowns in a boating accident. Buck tries to rescue him twice, almost drowning in the process, before rescuing John on the third try.

Buck's most lucrative contribution to John and his partners, Hans and Pete, occurred outside the Eldorado Saloon. Some of the men are boasting about how much sled weight their dog can pull from a dead stop. John boasts Buck can pull one thousand pounds, to which a man named Matthewson replies, he will bet one thousand dollars Buck can't start the sled and pull it a hundred yards.

John doesn't know if Buck can do it, but he and his partners need the money to outfit themselves. John finds a friend willing to loan him the money to meet the bet. Matthewson has a sled loaded with a thousand pounds of flour outside on the street, waiting for Buck to pull.

Buck knows he is being asked to do something very important for John. He is harnessed to the sled and after freeing the sled runners from the ice, he manages to pull it a hundred yards. He wins the day and the eternal love and respect of John Thornton.

Buck after enduring maltreatment at the hands of Charles and Hal, finds a master he can love. John Thornton not only saved Buck from a certain death, but he becomes the one master he truly loves. In return Buck saves his master from a bully, from drowning, and from monetary loss. Buck is a dog who embodies the very definition of loyalty and determination.

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