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Book Review: Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West

McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West. 2010 Modern Library Edition ed. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2010. Print.

 

Many consider Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian too violent to read. Violence begins onGUEST_e7b7a5bd-5894-4e82-907d-da212ef1d4e8 the second page and continues unabated to the end. McCarthy delivers a treatise on man’s inhumanity to man in the form of genocide. Blood is a constant theme as blood is spilled in one senseless massacre after another. Blood is not the result of conflict, but the reason for it.

McCarthy weaves what could be a series of short stories describing the worth or lack of indigenous people’s lives in the latter half of the nineteenth century west. The story, seen through the eyes of the narrator, follows the Kid and a gang of killers. McCarthy’s narrator never allows the reader inside the mind of the characters. We learn only what McCarthy wants as he develops his characters. He forces the reader to imagine one’s vision of the murderous thoughts. He is masterful in constructing his performers while forcing his readers to judge them.

McCarthy uses understated allegory to deliver messages that express what the characters are or what they represent. Spitting is used throughout as a symbol of the low regard the men have for anything, including human life. The insult of the act says more than dialogue could deliver. Wolves are symbolic actors. Almost daily, we see wolves. The humans and the wolves are representative of hunters looking for easy prey. The only difference, wolves kill for survival.

Glanton and his gang are inherently immoral, evil, clichés of bad guys in black hats. The governments of Mexico and the United States, equally evil, legitimatize genocide. This allowed for the ferocious and persistent murder and attempted extermination of the native peoples of both countries.

Genocide is the predominant theme. Except for the Delaware’s, the Indians are shown as savages. This holds even when the Diegueño Indians rescue the Kid and the ex-priest. “They would have died if the indians had not found them” (312). The narrator refers to these people as savages, as aborigines. “they saw the halfnaked savages crouched…” (312).

Two central characters, Glanton and the Judge, build upon the theme of genocide. Glanton, when he kills an old Indian woman sitting in the square of an impoverished Mexican village. When he sees three of his men squatting with her, he dismounts and kills her. “The woman looked up. Neither courage nor heartsink in those old eyes. He . . . put the pistol to her head and fired” (102). On the very next page, he confirms his complete contempt for life when he tells the only Mexican in his band to scalp the woman’s corpse with these chilling words, “Get that receipt for us” (103). She is nothing more than a hundred-dollar bounty.

The reader becomes almost inured to the violence. Once the butchery began, it seems as though there can be nothing more disturbing—there is—the Judge is evil incarnate. The gang surprises and attacks a large Indian encampment, “the partisans [Glanton’s men] nineteen in number bearing down upon the encampment where there lay sleeping upward of a thousand souls” (161). The Judge leaves the devastated village with a captured child, a ten-year-old boy. He treats the child humanely, and the boy becomes somewhat of a mascot. Three days later, the depth of the Judge’s evil is shown. “Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle, but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it” (170). The reader is left to wonder if the Judge killed the boy because he thrives on murder, or if he defiled the child and killed him afterward.

McCarthy’s colorful and graphic language adds significantly to the ability of the reader to see, understand, and experience the scenes and settings. Short and straightforward, his portrayal of the gang as they cross the desert, conveys in a few easy to read lines, in which the reader can feel, and smell the riders. “They rode on, and the wind drove the fine gray dust before them and they rode an army of graybeards, gray men, gray horses” (259).

The Kid, born into a violent world, dies a violent death forty-five years later. Some assume that the Judge, a pedophile, and sexual deviant, rapes the Kid and leaves him for dead. We’ll never know the answer.

McCarthy’s final message to the reader, evil cannot be eradicated; it lives forever.

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12th Annual Brown Water Run – Day 4 – 7/8/2013 (Last Day)

I haven’t had a chance to wrap up the Brown Water before now. We were on a cruise to Alaska and then my two months out of warranty hard drive failed.

Monday, July 8th was officially the last day of the 2013 Brown Water Run.

When we settled down the night before, the Bison Fire was raging east of us. The distance that the fire covered was astonishing. I’m glad I was a police officer and not a fire fighter. I will never comprehend how a sane person can put themselves in front of a moving fire. To all Fire Fighters – Thank you for your service.

Here is a quote from one of our riders, “This is a fast-moving fire.” Jeff Zolfarelli – Fire Chief (Retired). Personally I think all fires are fast movers and should be avoided.

Monday started poorly. First, the Bison Fire continued to grow. The Motel 6 staff told us, “We don’t put out coffee until 7:00 a.m.”. We had two motorcycles down. The Harley people told Keith Wallace that his problem was the stater. They couldn’t get one in for a day or two. Fred Sicard had to wait for the service department to replace his tire.

When Keith got back to Arizona he raised cane with the Harley-Folks who had “fixed” his electrical system. It turns out that it was the regulator, not the stater. Carson City had regulators in stock and could have fixed the bike. I believe they returned his diagnostic fee.

Hatties

Fortunately Grandma Hattie’s was just across the parking lot. We trooped over and had coffee and breakfast.

2013-07-08 07.50.57

Paul Wallace had our waitress deliver a jar of mayonnaise to me. I HATE MAYONNAISE. This wasn’t just any mayonnaise, it was from 2003. He had saved it since I was airlifted out of the Oregon Mountains to the hospital in Medford. What a guy.

Pig Trail

Larry Eade models a shirt from Pig Trail Harley-Davidson, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Pig Trail is a popular ride and should not be missed if one rides through the state. Here is a shortened link http://goo.gl/MhYxo0 if you care to learn more about the trail. Larry, Jim, Burny Matthews and I were on route to Washington, D.C. for the 2010 Law Enforcement Memorial Service during National Police Week. To learn more about this program, link to http://www.nleomf.com

End of Ride

After breakfast we loaded up and prepared to go our separate ways.

The Los Angeles riders headed over to Carson City Harley to wait for Fred. Later they enjoyed a great ride over the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, State Route 4, before spending the night in Fresno. Some BWR riders took US-50 back to the Bay Area. Jim Kennemore took I-80 over Donner Summit. For a “slab” it’s not a bad ride.

US 95 Alt -

I headed to Las Vegas to attend the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Conference. As much as I enjoy riding with a group, solo riding is a delight. I took US-50 through Dayton Valley to US-95 south to Las Vegas. Last June, Jim Kennemore and I were on US-95 up in Idaho. This section is desert, but in its own way, just as scenic.

Bison Fire from East

The Bison Fire was visible looking west, the reverse view of what we had seen the night before. The fire destroyed great tracts of mountain terrain.

Wild Horses

Wild horses are not uncommon in areas of Nevada. While this looks to be a rural range, it wasn’t. The west side of the road is wide open with no fences, the east is not. I pulled to a stop and took this shot from about fifty yards. On the east side of the highway were several gas stations, stores, and fast food restaurants. The horses did not seem to have any interest in me or the Ultra’s loud pipes.

I spent the night in Beatty, Nevada and was in Las Vegas by noon on Tuesday. Passing Creech Air Force Based I saw three or four remotely piloted aircraft systems flying in the area. Most of us refer to these devices as Drones. They were bigger than I had imagined.

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Grand and Glorious Ride – Day 11 –Durango to Monticello, Utah

The day was filled with changes in scenery, weather, and states. It began warm with dry rugged high mountain forest and ended the same. In between I experienced high mountain plateaus, high plains desert, just plain desert, rocky canyons, cool temperatures, warm temperatures, HIGH temperatures, clear bright skies, overcast skies, some drizzle, and a cloud burst.

After a hearty Grand Slam at Denny’s it’s off to Four Corners via Mesa Verde National Park. It was 30 miles to the park entrance. The ride began like most on this adventure, gorgeous. There was soon a stumbling block. There are two seasons in this part of the country, winter and Road Repair. We were in the midst of road repair.

10 miles down the road construction required several miles of one way traffic. Ordinarily this wouldn’t cause more than a 10 minute delay. Not today, once all the cars and trucks came through we continued to sit. After ten minutes, I got bored and walked across the street and watched a second string of vehicles come our way. What is going on? More time passes. We learn the cause of the delay when a couple pedal bicycles towards us. At first angry, I realized that bicyclists have to get through the construction zone.

My visit to Mesa Verde National Park deserves a separate blog. Look for it tomorrow.

From Mesa Verde it was ninety miles to Four Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all touch. The wind was dreadful. At Four Corners another biker told me; “They call this Four Corners, because the wind is coming at you from all four directions.”

The monument is located on the Navajo Nation. They charge $3 per person to visit. Around the monument were no less than 50 Navajo vendors.

Two bikers parked next to me, one wearing a HOG Patch from Brunei. HOG is for Harley Owners Group. He is the HOG Chapter President for Brunei, an oil rich country on the island of Borneo. He and his buddy rented Harley’s in San Francisco to ride to New York.

4 Corners #1

4 Corners #2
Leaving Four Corners I head into Arizona on US 160 to US 191. It wasn’t long before the clouds began getting ugly and I got a few sprinkles. With lightening off to my left and right, I stopped and suited up. The rain stopped. 50 miles further along, I got out of the rain gear. Instead of packing it away, I tied it behind my seat. Just in Case. Until I got to Monticello, Utah there were rain chimneys visible all about, but I seemed to turn just in time to miss them.

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