The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy is a book I picked up at a going-out-of-business sale. Remember in Silence of the Lambs where Starling tells about running away from home with a few of the lambs so they wouldn't be slaughtered? Replace Starling with a sixteen year old boy, replace the lamb with a pregnant wolf, and give it a gritty Western atmosphere, set in New Mexico around the 1920s or 1930s, taking the wolf across the border into the mountains of Mexico so it won't harass the livestock. There's a lot more to it than that. I don't mean to say it's a rip-off of that tidbit from Silence of the Lambs, just funny to pick up a literary western and think of Starling and Lecter.

It's hard getting used to dialog with no quotation marks. In places it blends with the narration, so you have to read a line twice to tell if it's spoken or just a description. But you get used to his style. Lots of "ands," which makes me self-conscious because I do it too. I tend to have two or three verbs or clauses combined into one sentence, but McCarthy runs together five or six clauses in one sentence, and he gets away with it every two or three pages. "He made his camp in the lee of an arroyo south of the pass and gathered wood and made a fire and gave the wolf all the water she would drink." Maybe it's just another stylistic thing that I'll get used to. But I suspect high school or college teachers would have ragged on this if I turned in stories like this.

I had never heard of "sitting a horse", but the characters in The Crossing do it constantly. Ride out to look over your line of traps, and you want to have an introspective moment surveying the hills and the sierras, naturally you're going to sit the horse. Not sit on the horse. "In the morning he sat the horse on a gravel bar and studied the moving water where the broad clear river...". Can't be a typo because I've seen at least six times in the first quarter of the book. Ma never told me how to "sit" her horse. Maybe yankees do it differently than New Mexicans.

At least she taught me how to cluck right. When she was first teaching me to ride, I was 4 or 5 and she led the horse on a rope while I learned how to pull and steer and what to say. One time she said, "Now cluck to him." I said, "Bawk bawk bawk bawk." She said, "No!" She demonstrated the sound of pulling your tongue sharply away from your gums so it pops or clucks. I'd heard the sound before but never heard it called "clucking."

Do New Mexicans cluck when they're done sitting their horses?


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