Friday, 20 June 2008

20 June 2008

who had money to buy food. We all shambled after them to a restaurant run by a whole bunch of women and sat around over hamburgers while they wrapped away enormous meals just like they were back in their mother’s kitchen. They were brothers: they were transporting farm machinery from Los Angeles to Minnesota and making good money at it. So on their trip to the Coast empty they picked up everybody on the road. They’d done this about five times now; they were having a hell of a time. They liked everything. They never stopped smiling. I tried to talk to them---actually it was a kind of dumb attempt on my part to befriend the captains of our ship and there was no reason to, because they treated the crew with equal respect---and the only response I got were two sunny smiles and large white cornfed teeth. Everybody had joined them in the restaurant except the two hobo kids, Gene and his boy. When we all got back they were still sitting in the truck forlorn and disconsolate. Now the darkness was falling. The drivers had a smoke; I jumped at the chance to go buy a bottle of whisky to keep warm in the rushing cold air of night. They smiled when I told them. “Go ahead, hurry up.” “You can have a couple shots!” I reassured them. “Oh no, we never drink, go ahead.” Montana Slim and the two high school boys wandered the streets of North Platte with me till I found a whisky store. They chipped in some, and Slim some, and I bought a fifth. Tall sullen men watched us go by from false-front buildings; the main street was lined with square box-houses. There were immense vistas of the plains beyond every sad street. I felt something different in the air in North Platte, I didn’t know what it was. In five minutes I did. We got back on the truck and roared off, same speed. It got dark quickly. We all had a shot, and suddenly I looked, and the verdant farmfields of the So. Platte began to disappear and in their stead, so far you couldn’t see to the end of it, appeared long flat wastelands of sand and sagebrush. I was astounded. “What in the hell is this?” I cried out to Slim. “This is the beginning of the rangelands, boy. Hand me another drink.” “Whoopee! Yelled the high school boys. “Columbus so long! What would Sparkie and the boys say if they was here. Yow!” The drivers

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