Here’s a little taste of “Clovis”
I’d been in the saddle so long that my knees couldn’t remember each other. I had trail dust in places where I didn’t know I had places, and felt like I wasn’t gonna get where I was going for at least another hundred years. I’d been hunting for work for months, ever since a conversation with a sheriff in Enid, Oklahoma, resulted in this hole in my hat.
I’d only asked him if the rumor was true that the town’s name came from some chuckwagon’s sign getting turned backwards so it didn’t say “DINE” anymore. He yelled something about somebody named Tennyson, shot at me and told me to get out of his high-class city. They’re sensitive about that story, I guess. Kinda funny, considering the town used to be called Skeleton Station.
Anyway, Horace told me — that’s my brother, who’s in the army — he told me that I was sure to find work as soon as I got to some place called Rat Scratch Ranch. He said it was in New Mexico Territory, about a day’s ride from Riley’s Switch, where the railroad was being built. Word was their cook had got himself murdered for changing his recipe for beans. They were looking for a new man who’d make the old beans.
“It’s an empty spot in the middle of nowhere, not too far from the Texas border. You can’t miss it.” That’s what he said.
Hey, I needed a job.
I’d seen the last of that dirt pile about a week ago—the railroad was always just getting built no matter where I was tryin’ to go—and was beginning to think Horace was misinformed. October of nineteen four did not look promising.
Just past Fort Sumner, a little town where the fort used to be, I barely managed to survive crossing the Pecos River. It was real high after some walloping monster of a rainstorm. I was crossing a sandbar, digging river mud out of my ears and about to climb up the west bank, when I saw a muddy boot just sticking up out of the dirt, the heel pointing at the noonday sun. Since one boot isn’t any use without the other, I kept going. Until I saw it twitch. Twice.