For most of this book, I was slow rolling cattle, meandering north to Montana. There was always more to graze over the next rise, along the next stretch of plain, another watering place just farther on. Still, the slow turn of pages rambled on, one after another. Long stretches of not much, just rambling inconsequential chat and cattle, punctuated by brief, intense moments of violence and death.
What is a good life? If it’s a life examined, then all the cowboys here fail the test. Again and again and again these men are faced with a chance to have a real connection, to make something good. Again and again and again, they turn away from that. There’s a reason all these men seek out relentless tasks, a near infinite sequence of inconsequential things, until their death arrives.
Don’t pity these men, though. Their stomping, rampaging, thoughtless lives cause harm to all the women and children around them, who make do and carry on as best they can in spite of it all.
These men are not without their charms, however, and it’s easy to see why this book is beloved. Although, on reading it, it’s tough to see how a person would romanticize this time period.
Words and words and words all piled up in a row
standing end on end, leaning, ready to snap or fall over
a studious mishmash of logical nonsense
I mean, all the words make sense one at a time
or maybe three at a time
but strung all together, laced up against the brick?
Well, let’s just say, it’s not happening.
I suppose there’s some occasional punctuation in there
a tidy comma or a lumbering semicolon
keeping the whole train from completely coming off the tracks.
But it all sort of feels like the periods are just thrown in
willy-nilly when there’s no where else for the words to go.
Damn, so much time spent noodling about with words
as though they’d ever made much sense or difference.
Maybe in aggregate. Like, all together, all those words
slurching back and forth, a vasty sea of em.
Best not go swimming, there aren’t any lifeguards about.
When I think of my own small bucket of years (compared to the vasty sea of them) it’s humbling, I suppose. Not so many years and days, really, when I think of it. There’s a sea of time out there, past there, flowing out (or maybe ebbing back), so big it’s hard to remember that it’s there. Not even the ticking of clocks helps remind (not that there are so many of those around anymore). There are some trees out my window that have been around easily twice or thrice times my own time, just patiently growing in time, just patiently have been growing in time.
There were small trees planted when we moved in, not so long ago, that were my height, now grown to touch the lines. Our small plum tree now needs a ladder to reach the fruit at its highest height. My own small son now looms as he shuffles by. See all this evidence of times slow roil, that drip drop that fills the bucket. Hey now, where’s all that time go when I’m not looking? I’m reminded of that game of statues. All the kids can only move (or grow) when you’re not looking. Soon, one will tap you on the shoulder, saying, I’m here, you’re it.
How much of the folly of the world is baked into this denial that time rolls ever, ever on? That this game has an end for me, but carries on regardless?