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Joseph E Bird

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Cormac McCarthy

as they may believe again

The night was falling down from the east and the darkness that passed over them came in a sudden breath of cold and stillness and passed on. As if the darkness had a soul itself that was the sun’s assassin hurrying to the west as once men did believe, as they may believe again.

Cormac McCarthy, from The Crossing

I wanna be a cowboy.

Sunset panorama in Durban

Are you a surfer or a cowboy?

What?

Are you a surfer or a cowboy?

Uh…cowboy?

Loaded question. Especially for me as a fifth grader from West Virginia, living in Houston, Texas. The wrong answer gets you in trouble. Gets you beat up.

Not really. At least not in the fifth grade. It was more of a starting point for a friendly argument. But what the heck did I know about being a cowboy or a surfer?

Cowboys are tough guys. Wear hats and boots. Eat beans by the campfire. Drink coffee in a tin cup. Ride the range on a horse.

Surfers are hip. Catch the wave and hang ten. Get all the cool girls. Tool around the beach in a dune buggy.

But in the fifth grade, I’d never ridden a surfboard.  Still haven’t. I had a cowboy hat and boots.  So yeah, I was a cowboy.

Tribalism. Even back then.

But there’s something about the cowboy lifestyle that’s still appealing to me. It’s simple.  Not a lot of flash. Lots of time for thinking things out as you do your job.  It’s the kind of life suited for someone who doesn’t mind being alone now and then. And the hats. Yeah, pull the brim down when you ride into town. And for the cowboy, love is strong and forever.

The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.

What’s her name? said Rawlins in the darkness.

Alejandra. Her name is Alejandra.

— Cormac McCarthy, from All the Pretty Horses

photo credit: iStock Photography

All the Pretty Horses

Editor’s Notes:

Context: Two young cowboys, Rawlins and John Grady, have hit the trail, headed for Mexico.  In this exchange, Rawlins gets a little philosophical.

I like this. There’s simple, transparent writing.  There’s meaning. There’s humor. Yep.

And the missing punctation is on Cormac McCarthy, not me.


You ever get ill at ease, said Rawlins.

About what?

I don’t know. About anything.

Sometimes. If you’re someplace you aint supposed to be to be I guess you’d be ill at ease. Should be anyways.

Well suppose you were ill at ease and didn’t know why. Would that mean that you might be someplace you wasnt supposed to be and didnt know it?

What the hell’s wrong with you?


from All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

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