Whatever’s Got Tail At One End Has Teeth At the Other

“I’d been chasing females all my life, not paying no mind to the fact that whatever’s got tail at one end has teeth at the other, and now I was getting chomped.”
― Jim Thompson, Pop. 1280

Pioneer Plaza Dallas, Texas

Pioneer Plaza
Dallas, Texas

If You Don’t Die Of Thirst

If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.
—-Anne Lamott

Pioneer PLaza  Dallas, Texas

Pioneer Plaza
Dallas, Texas

So many people visit and take photos of the bronze cattle drive in Pioneer Plaza. It’s a challenge to find something ten thousand tourists haven’t shot on their phones before.

(click for full size on flickr)

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 25 – The Half-Skinned Steer

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty five – The Half-Skinned Steer, by E. Annie Proulx

Read it online here:

The Half-Skinned Steer

I know Annie Proulx from The Shipping News – that wonderful novel about icy cold and family history. I knew that she wrote about the West, though. I knew that she wrote about Wyoming. Once I had a book of her stories – Close Range… I think it was, checked out but never was able to crack the cover.

So I was happy to find The Half-Skinned Steer online and an excuse to take the time to read it. It’s the lead story in the Close Range collection (which includes the better known Brokeback Mountain).

The Half-Skinned Steer is a story smeared across a long swath of time that winds around a timeless country. It is an illustration that you can take the boy off the ranch (a life so isolated and strange that the young man’s introduction to the mysteries of sex are from finding anatomically symbolic rock paintings done by ancient natives) but even after eighty years and a life riding an exercise bicycle in Massachusetts – you can’t take the ranch out of the boy.

It’s a rough, horrific story – about a rough and horrific life on a rough and beautiful land. But it’s told in language so languid and exacting that the snow, blood, and rock jump right off the page.

Pretty good stuff.

He dreamed that he was in the ranch house but all the furniture had been removed from the rooms and in the yard troops in dirty white uniforms fought. The concussive reports of huge guns were breaking the window glass and forcing the floorboards apart, so that he had to walk on the joists. Below the disintegrating floors he saw galvanized tubs filled with dark, coagulated fluid.

Bronze Steers

There is that very well known giant sculpture of a bigger-than-life cattle drive in downtown Dallas. You know the one – the one with all the tourists taking photographs.

But those aren’t the only bronze steers in the Metroplex. Out in Frisco, in a sort-of-hard-to-find spot called Central Park, they have a few put in.

Bronze cattle drive, Central Park, Frisco, Texas

Bronze cattle drive, Central Park, Frisco, Texas

The stone is strong, but the bronze is stronger. The cattle burst through the rocks piled into a wall – they explode with power – an irresistible force meets a strong, yet moveable object.

But at the moment they escape the stockade – exactly when they erupt into freedom… they are frozen. Suddenly motionless in space, trapped in static time – helpless. For what better prison than the polished and tranquil passage of silent, lifeless time. Time passed is more powerful than any corral of stone, the only inescapable confinement.

Like the bronze steers we are all given an eternal sentence in the slammer of time, trapped in a single moment, the eternal present.


“What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them.”
—-Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Shawnee Trail Sculpture, Central Park, Frisco Texas, bronze by Anita Pauwels

“But there were two things they agreed upon wholly and that were never spoken and that was that God had put horses on earth to work cattle and that other than cattle there was no wealth proper to a man.”
—-Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Shawnee Trail, by Anita Pauwels, Frisco, Texas

Shawnee Trail, by Anita Pauwels, Frisco, Texas

“He found he was breathing in rhythm with the horse as if some part of the horse were within him breathing and then he descended into some deeper collusion for which he had not even a name.”

“…and in his sleep he dreamt of horses and the horses in his dream moved gravely among the tilted stones like horses come upon an antique site where some ordering of the world had failed and if anything had been written on the stones the weathers had taken it away again and the horses were wary and moved with great circumspection carrying in their blood as they did the recollection of this and other places where horses once had been and would be again. Finally what he saw in his dream was that the order in the horse’s heart was more durable for it was written in a place where no rain could erase it.”

“He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.”

—-Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses