Saturday, 3 January 2009

03 January 2009

took one last look at the prairie rose, and drove off, slower now, till dark came and Neal said Ed Uhl’s ranch was dead ahead. “Oh a girl like that scares me” I said. “I’d give up everything and throw myself at her mercy and if she didn’t want me I’d just as simply go and throw myself off the edge of the world.” The Jesuit boys giggled. They were full of corny quips and eastern college talk and had nothing, positively nothing on their bird-beans except a lot of Aquinas for stuffing for their pepper. Neal and I paid absolutely no attention to them. As we crossed the muddy plains he told stories about his cowboy days, he showed us the stretch of road where he spent an entire morning riding; and where he’d done fence mending as soon as we hit Uhl’s property, which was immense; and where old Uhl, Ed’s father, used to come clattering on the rangeland grass chasing a heifer and howling. “Git im, git im goddammit!” He sounded as mad as Kells Elvins’ paretic father. “He had to have a new car every six months” said Neal “He just didn’t care. When a stray got away from us he’d drive right after it as far as the nearest waterhole and then get out and run after it on foot. Counted every cent he ever made and put it in a pot. A mad old rancher. I’ll show you some of his old wrecks near the bunkhouse. This is where I came on probation after my last hitch in a joint. This is where I lived when I wrote those letters you saw to Hal Chase.” We turned off the road and wound across a park through the winter pasture. A great mournful group of whitefaced cows suddenly milled across our headlights. “There they are! - -Uhl’s cows! We’ll never be able to get through them. We’ll have to get out and whoop ‘em up! Hee hee hee!!” But we didn’t have to do that and only inched along through them sometimes gently bumping as they milled and mooed like a sea around the cardoors. Beyond we saw the lonely lights of Ed Uhl’s ranchhouse. Around these lonely lights stretched hundreds and hundreds of miles of plains with nothing on them but twenty or so ranchouses like his. The kind of utter darkness that falls on a prairie like that is inconceivable to an Easterner. There were no stars, no moon, no light whatever except the light of Mrs. Uhl’s kitchen. What lay beyond the shadows of the yard was an endless view of the world

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