The first summer, they lived in a tent while Archie worked on a small cabin. It took him a month of rounding up stray cows for Bunk Peck before he could afford two glass windows. The cabin was snug, built with eight-foot squared-off logs tenoned on the ends and dropped into mortised uprights, a size Archie could handle himself, with a little help from their only neighbor, Tom Ackler, a sun-dried prospector with a summer shack up the mountain. They chinked the cabin with heavy yellow clay. One day, Archie dragged a huge flat stone to the house for a doorstep. It was pleasant to sit in the cool of the evening with their feet on the great stone and watch the deer come down to drink and, just before darkness, see the herons flying upstream, their color matching the sky so closely they might have been eyes of wind.
From Them Old Cowboy Songs, by Anne Proulx
(Poems, prose and comics that remind me of archaeology, pt 8)
“He woke in the nave of a ruinous church, blinking up at the vaulted ceiling and the tall swagged walls with their faded frescos. The floor of the church was deep in dried guano and the dropping of cattle and sheep. Pigeons flapped through the piers of dusty light and three buzzards hobbled about on the picked bone carcass of some animal dead in the chancel.”
“The mission occupied eight or ten ares of enclosed land, a barren purlieu that held a few goats and burros. In the mud walls of the enclosure were cribs inhabited by families of squatters and a few cookfires smoked thinly in the sun. He walked around the side of the church and entered the sacristy. Buzzards shuffled off through the chaff and plaster like enormous yardfowl. The domed vaults overhead were clotted with a dark furred mass that shifted and breathed and chittered. In the room was a wooden table with a few clay pots and along the back wall lay the remains of several bodies, one a child. He went on through the sacristy into the church again and got his saddle. He drank the rest of the bottle and he put the saddle on his shoulder and went out.”
From Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy.
The photo is actually from El Morro, in Puerto Rico. I have a picture of the Mexican-American battlefield survey I was on, but it didn’t seem to match the passage.
Blood Meridian is a horrible, violent, crushing mass of a book. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Sometimes the nice story is not the one that should be told.
(Poems, prose, and comics that remind me of archaeology, pt 7)