Where the Crawdads Sing: Jumpin’ Was Kya’s Real Pa

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Who is the character Jumpin’? In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ was related to what main character? What is his role in the novel?

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ is one of the few characters who is kind to Kya. Jumpin’ owns a store where Kya buys gas and other supplies. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ and his wife, Mabel, try to look out for Kya and support her. Here are some examples of how Jumpin’ showed Kya kindness, and became her family.

Meeting Where the Crawdads Sing’s Jumpin’

Winter became spring, and spring grew into summer. It was 1953, and Pa and Kya had settled into their new life together. They ate meals at the table, talked, and sometimes played gin rummy after dinner. 

Pa started to take her places, too. On one occasion, he took her to Jumpin’s Gas and Bait, a filling station and fishing shop that sat along the shore between the marsh and Barkley Cove. The shop was a shack on a floating wharf held in place by a cable tied around a tree. Where the Crawdads Sing‘s Jumpin’ was an old black man with gray hair. He lived in Colored Town, a small Black community located outside of town. He was kind to Kya, as he was with everyone who came to fill up their boats. 

Growing Up

By the time Kya was ten, Pa was a passing mirage in the shack. He’d stay out for weeks at a time, not bothering to leave any money. Soon, she was able to count several full moons since she last saw him. She imagined all the things that could have happened to Pa, like being beaten up during a poker game or falling drunk into the swamp and drowning. Whatever had happened, Kya knew that Pa wasn’t going to come back. 

Unlike with Ma, Pa leaving didn’t make her feel abandoned, just lonely. She was also scared that someone would find out he was gone and take her to live somewhere else. The marsh was her home, and the birds needed her. Leaving wasn’t an option. To avoid the authorities, she’d have to pretend Pa was still at home. 

The only saving grace was that Pa had disappeared on foot, leaving the boat behind. Kya survived by digging for mussels in the sand and smashing them into a spread on crackers for each meal. But she had no more supplies. The house was dark at night without kerosene for the lamps, and she only had a few matches left. She had to find a way to get some money.

New Relations

Early one morning, Kya awoke before the sun and went mussel hunting up and down the coastline. After several hours, she’d collected two large sacks full. She motored to Jumpin’s and offered him the bags of mussels in exchange for money and gas for the boat. He gave her fifty cents and a full tank. She’d never felt so proud. 

Kya had never been inside Jumpin’s store before, but on this visit, she wandered around and saw that he sold more than just fishing gear. There was food, kerosene, and toiletries, everything she needed to get by. With her fifty cents, she picked up a few supplies. 

She asked Jumpin’ how many bags she could bring each week. He told her he bought mussels every three days, but other people brought them in, too. If she wanted to sell hers, she’d have to be first in line. Kya thanked him and said Pa sent his regards. 

When Kya got back home, she felt grown up. She’d made money and replenished what she needed to survive on her own. She unpacked the groceries and noticed a box of candy in the bag. Jumpin’ must have slipped it in.

Kya started waking up earlier each day to collect mussels and oysters. Sometimes, she’d motor close to the wharf and sleep in the boat so she could be there first thing when Jumpin’ opened. She was making decent money and never had to step foot in town again for anything.

Unlikely Heroes

For a while, Kya was able to support herself with mussels money, but all the money in the world didn’t make up for a lack of human connection. The days stretched long, and Kya’s loneliness stretched with them. Ever since she’d seen Tate that day a few years ago, she’d caught glimpses of him now and then out in the estuary. She wanted to approach him, make contact with someone besides Jumpin’, but she never did. She only ever watched him from afar.

Jumpin’ took one look at Kya’s mangled pile of fish and told her he’d sell them on consignment. However, that night, Jumpin’ took the bag of fish home to his wife Mabel. Mabel, a large warm woman, took one look at the fish and decided something needed to be done about that poor girl. Despite Kya’s efforts to pretend Pa was still around, Jumpin’ and Mabel weren’t fooled. 

The next day, Kya pulled up to Jumpin’s and found Mabel sweeping the wharf. She’d never seen anybody at Jumpin’s before besides the proprietor. Mabel told Kya that members of her community had offered to trade some of their used clothes and other supplies for her smoked fish. She took Kya’s measurements and told her to come back the next day.

When Kya arrived the next morning, Mabel wasn’t there, but Jumpin’ showed her two boxes of supplies his community had put together. There were jeans, blouses, sneakers, kitchen supplies, pantry essentials, and vegetables. Kya thought these items were worth more than her measly smoked fish, but Jumpin’ said it was a fair trade.  In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin was part of the reason Kya survived, and some of the only human interaction he had.

Turning Tides

When Kya’s first book came out, she gave a copy to Jumpin’. When she climbed out of the boat, she placed the book in Jumpin’s hands. He stared at it, not knowing what it was, until she pointed out her name on the cover. She thanked him for all the ways he and Mabel had taken care of her and said that she was finally okay. In Where the Crawdad’s Sing, Jumpin was one of the only people Kya had in her life that cared for her consistently.

Kya continued to visit Jumpin’s wharf for gas and supplies. She saw her book propped in the window of his store and knew it was the kind of thing a father would do for a daughter he was proud of. 

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ Defends Kya

It was raining outside when Joe walked into Ed’s office with news. Kya was still nowhere to be found, so the deputy had gone out to Jumpin’s to see when she might be coming next. Jumpin’ had given Joe the most interesting news: Kya was gone the night Chase was killed. 

Ed didn’t believe it. He knew the Marsh Girl never left the area, and he doubted she had any friends who would know about it if she did. But Joe said both Jumpin’ and Dr. Tate Walker confirmed that Kya was over in the nearby town of Greenville for two nights, including October 30. Jumpin’ said she hadn’t even heard the news when she came by the wharf a day later, and Tate was the one who’d helped her learn to take the bus to Greenville and back. 

Joe believed they were back to square one, now that their main suspect had a rock-solid alibi, but Ed wasn’t quite so sure. What about Hal and Allen seeing her in the boat? He reminded Joe that sometimes a good alibi was too good. They agreed to wait until they confirmed the story before deciding what to do next. 

Last Chance

The last day of the trial began with Tom calling his final witness. It was Tim O’Neal, the owner of the shrimping company Hal and Allen worked for. He’d also been out that night in a separate vessel and seen the same boat as his crew members. But Tim explained that without the moon and no lights, it was impossible to make a positive ID about who was in the boat. Also, Kya’s boat was one of the most popular styles, and many people in town had similar boats. With that, the witness testimonies came to a close. 

Closing arguments followed a short recess, and the prosecution was up first. Mr. Chastain reiterated the evidence against Kya, adding that her lifestyle in the wild gave her specific knowledge about how to navigate the water and land in the dark. From where he was standing, the case against Kya was clear and worthy of a conviction of first-degree murder. 

Tom took a different approach. He started by locating himself as one of Barkley Cove’s residents who’d heard the stories and rumors about the Marsh Girl. His speech turned emotional when he spoke about the failure of the community to support a little girl left to her own devices, choosing to ridicule and ostracize her instead. He said only Jumpin’ and his community stepped up to help Kya survive as a child. If the community had stepped in and helped this girl, her life could have been different and a town full of people wouldn’t be prejudiced against her. 

Tom paused, preparing for his emotional ending. Despite her circumstances and lack of schooling, this woman, who Barkley Cove reduced to Marsh Girl, was now heralded as the Marsh Expert in scientific communities. He said it was time for this community to put aside their prejudices and see this woman for who she was. Let the persecution of this young woman finally be over. 

Where the Crawdads Sing: Jumpin’ Was Kya’s Real Pa

Kya’s supporters, including Scupper, who’d shown up in court a few days earlier to support his son, were impatient for the verdict. Tom told them he couldn’t predict how long the jury would deliberate or what their verdict would be but reminded them that even with a guilty verdict, the fight wasn’t over. 

The jury asked for documents twice. The first was the bus drivers’ transcripts. The second was the coroner’s transcript. The hours dragged, and as her support team sat unsettled, so did Kya in her cell. She had lived a life of loneliness, but waiting for the verdict created a sensation like she’d never known. Thinking of never seeing her beautiful marsh again made her feel more alone than before. 

At four o’clock the same day, the jury had a decision. Tom delivered the news with a solemn expression. A verdict this fast didn’t bode well for Kya. The townspeople clustered back into the courtroom, which was at capacity within ten minutes. 

Judge Sims asked Kya to rise. Jumpin’ and Mabel clasped hands. Tate leaned as far as he could toward Kya’s back. The energy in the room had shifted from before. The salivating eagerness of community to condemn Kya was gone. Now, most people stared at the floor. Tom’s words had shown them their folly. 

Saying Goodbye

Kya never stepped foot in Barkley Cove again. Her life and trial became folklore around town, and the townspeople spoke of seeing her moving through the water in her boat as though she were a mythical creature. Theories were postulated over the years about what had happened to Chase Andrews, but nothing ever came of them. Everybody believed that Sheriff Jackson had mishandled the case and was wrong for accusing Kya. He was never reelected, and each new sheriff attempted to reopen the case, but eventually, the circumstances of Chase’s death became lore, as well. 

One afternoon years later, Tate pulled ashore and told Kya that Where the Crawdads Sing’s Jumpin’ had passed. Kya felt a chasm of grief open up inside. Like Scupper’s funeral, the whole town showed up for Jumpin’s. Again, Kya did not attend. She held a private ceremony on her beach and said goodbye in her own way. After the funeral, Kya took a jar of homemade jam to Mabel’s. Mabel embraced her, and the two women cried in each other’s arms. Mabel said Jumpin’ thought of Kya like a daughter, and Kya said Jumpin’ was her real pa. 

Saying goodbye to Jumpin’ brought up feelings of Kya’s mother. She took a moment to say goodbye to her past. She remembered the day Ma walked down the lane in her crocodile shoes, but this time, Ma stopped and waved. Kya felt a release for the first time. Her grief was replaced by joy when Jodie started bringing his children, Murph and Mindy, to visit. Finally, Kya was surrounded in the shack by family. 

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ in important because he shows Kya that people can be kind. He also shows the influence kindness had on her, and how her life may have been different if others had stepped in instead of ostracizing her. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Jumpin’ is an important character and part of Kya’s chosen family.

Where the Crawdads Sing: Jumpin’ Was Kya’s Real Pa

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Here's what you'll find in our full Where the Crawdads Sing summary:

  • How Kya Clark's abandonment as a child affected her through her entire life
  • How Kya discovered love despite steep obstacles
  • The murder trial that embroiled Kya's town, and the ultimate truth behind the murder

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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