Quotes By Pilgrims and Other Stories

“Pilgrims WHEN MY OLD MAN said he’d hired her, I said, “A girl?” A girl, when it wasn’t that long ago women couldn’t work on this ranch even as cooks, because the wranglers got shot over them too much. They got shot even over the ugly cooks. Even over the old ones. I said, “A girl?” “She’s from Pennsylvania,” my old man said. “She’ll be good at this.” “She’s from what?” When my brother Crosby found out, he said, “Time for me to find new work when a girl starts doing mine.” My old man looked at him. “I heard you haven’t come over Dutch Oven Pass once this season you haven’t been asleep on your horse or reading a goddamn book. Maybe it’s time for you to find new work anyhow.” He told us that she showed up somehow from Pennsylvania in the sorriest piece of shit car he’d ever seen in his life. She asked him for five minutes to ask for a job, but it didn’t take that long. She flexed her arm for him to feel, but he didn’t feel it. He liked her, he said, right away. He trusted his eye for that, he said, after all these years. “You’ll like her, too,” he said. “She’s sexy like a horse is sexy. Nice and big. Strong.” “Eighty-five of your own horses to feed, and you still think horse is sexy,” I said, and my brother Crosby said, “I think we got enough of that kind of sexy around here already.” She was Martha Knox, nineteen years old and tall as me, thick-legged but not fat, with cowboy boots that anyone could see were new that week, the cheapest in the store and the first pair she’d ever owned. She had a big chin that worked only because her forehead and nose worked, too, and she had the kind of teeth that take over a face even when the mouth is closed. She had, most of all, a dark brown braid that hung down the center of her back, thick as a girl’s arm. I danced with Martha Knox one night early in the season. It was a day off to go down the mountain, get drunk, make phone calls, do laundry, fight. Martha Knox was no dancer. She didn’t want to dance with me. She let me know this by saying a few times that she wasn’t going to dance with me, and then, when she finally agreed, she wouldn’t let go of her cigarette. She held it in one hand and let that hand fall and not be available. So I kept my beer bottle in one hand, to balance her out, and we held each other with one arm each. She was no dancer and she didn’t want to dance with me, but we found a good slow sway anyway, each of us with an arm hanging down, like a rodeo cowboy’s right arm, like the right arm of a bull rider, not reaching for anything. She wouldn’t look anywhere but over my left shoulder, like that part of her that was a good dancer with me was some part she had not ever met and didn’t feel”