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Day 10

From bottom of p.157 ("The man with the black mark...") to p.173 ("...don't be stopping again!")

September 12, 2020 by Ed Park

A comic grace note as Rooster tries to profit off the dead bandits’ things. Mattie reminds him of his promise to send proceeds to Moon’s brother. He plays dumb. “Was it Austin or Dallas?” “Austin.” “Let’s get it straight.” “It was Austin.”

Side note: Macalester (yesterday’s reading) is the “international headquarters of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls,” a Masonic youth group; Mattie’s father was “buried in his Mason apron by the Danville lodge.”

Mentioning because Portis’s fourth novel, Masters of Atlantis, might be the alpha and omega of Freemason-adjacent comedy, satirizing all manner of esoteric thought and ritual.

“They say Jay Gould had no heart!” Mattie gives unironic props to the robber baron for “doing something” for the families of the clerk and fireman killed in the train raid.

Makes sure Rooster gets a receipt from the rail agent for the recovered booty. “Business is business.”

Now Rooster tries to shed Mattie; she refuses and LaBoeuf comes to her defense. “All right, let it go…We won’t have a lot of talk about winning spurs.”

“Here is what happened”: The escape of Odus Wharton in Fort Smith. Words first heard in the second paragraph, about her father’s murder, and more recently prefacing the account of the robbery of the Katy Flyer. Mattie’s refrain.

Rooster has a fine funny dig at LaBoeuf: “Yes, this is the famous horse killer from El Paso, Texas. His idea is to put everybody on foot. He says it will limit their mischief.”

L. gives as good as he gets: “I thought that maybe the sun was in your eyes. That is to say, your eye.”

Leads to a bit of comic bliss, as Rooster, LaBoeuf, and for good measure Boots Finch deplete the store of corn dodgers in an orgy of macho target practice.

A drunk Rooster jabbers as they climb “the steep grades of the Winding Stair Mountains” (perfect, dramatic name). It’s a darker counterpoint to his previous monologue before the ambush.

More bitter, though with room for natural oddities (here, twenty-one-foot taperoom). Ends with him plagiarizing something LaBoeuf said (“clabber for brains”). “I knew Rooster could not be talking about me in his drunken criticism of women, the kind of money I was paying him.”

The perilous trek ends, and we come to the end of this long, thrilling chapter. Portis wastes no time plunging us into the action in the next and final section: Mattie spies Chaney at the river, watering horses.

Amazing tension and comedy: Mattie lies about there being 50 officers, Chaney instructing her how to cock her dragoon if she really means business—orchestrating his own shooting.

“Everything is against me” quickly becomes Chaney’s refrain, but we’ve heard this note before—in Moon and in Rooster. Mattie doesn’t have time for self-pity.

“[B]oth parties were converging on the hollow and the little mountain stream.” Another V-shaped combat scenario. “A terrible volley of fire.”

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