Pine Billy brought his chair down on four legs and spit in the fire and studied the logs a minute.

What does the part in bold mean?

The Education of Little Tree by Forest Carter

There's more context added below

“Smokehouse studied the feller and says, 'Ye could be right, Pine Billy. We'll jest have a look.' and he ambles acrost the road to the feller's car.”
Pine Billy brought his chair down on four legs and spit in the fire and studied the logs a minute. I couldn't hardly wait to hear what happened to the criminal.

  • I think "brought his chair down … and spit in the fire" should be " and spat …".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:39
  • maybe, it's a novel so there could be ungrammatical sentences.
    – inviolable
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:41
  • The dialogue (and it appears the narration too) is imitating Southern American speech, from what I could make out, the text is deliberately filled with grammatical errors that I advise you not to copy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:50
  • Thanks for your advice.
    – inviolable
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:51
  • @Mari-LouA - 'spit' is also sometimes used for the past tense and past participle, especially in North American English. (Oxford Learner's Dictionaries). Collins Dictionary is more definite: spit [...] past tense, past participle spat LANGUAGE NOTE: In American English, the form spit is used as the past tense and past participle. Commented Jan 27 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


Some people, when they sit in a chair, rock backwards so that the front two legs are off the ground. Pine Billy was doing this, then he rocked forwards so that the chair is standing on all four legs. ie all four legs of the chair are touching the ground.

There is no indication about why he did it or what it means: it's just a bit of narrative decoration, like spitting in the fire.

  • what does "bring down on" mean?
    – inviolable
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:36
  • 1
    because on mean touching(i'm korean)
    – inviolable
    Commented Jan 27 at 6:39
  • 2
    "ON" in this sentence means "being supported by". The chair is now being supported by all four legs.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 27 at 7:30
  • 3
    Tilting one's chair is usually a sign of feeling relaxed. Probably Billy brought his chair back to the upright position so that he could concentrate on something (he 'studied the logs'). Commented Jan 27 at 9:05
  • 1
    What @KateBunting said. Also notice that before starting a physical, outdoor task (such as chopping wood for the fire), people stereotypically roll up their sleeves and spit on their hands by way of preparing themselves. I find it easy to believe that spitting into the fire echoes that kind of "get ready to focus on the task in hand" preparatory action. Commented Jan 27 at 12:10

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