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Kansas 1870 Nuori Will Andrews jättää yliopiston kesken ja saapuu pieneen Butcher’s Crossingin kaupunkiin keskelle ei mitään Hän haluaa kokea Ralph Waldo Emersonin innoittamana alkuperäisen suhteen luontoon mutta keskilännen kovapintaisten miesten kansoittama onnenonkijoiden kaupunki vaikuttaa tylyltä Andrews tutustuu pian mieheen joka saa hänet vakuuttuneeksi Color. You get born and you nurse on lies and you get weaned on lies and you learn fancier lies at school You live all your life on lies and then maybe when you re ready to die it comes to you that there s nothing nothing but yourself and what you could have done Only you ain t done it because the lies told you there was something else Then you know you could of had the world because you re the only one that knows the secret only then it s too late You re old Will Andrews bought into the Manifest Destiny rhetoric of Horace Greeley Go West Young Man The year is 1873 He has three years of education at Harvard and to throw off the yoke he feels settling around his young shoulders he decides to head to Kansas His father a Unitarian Minister gives him the name of a man he knew named McDonald as a person who might be able to help him settle in out west If the father had known what a den of iniuity that most of Western Kansas was at this point he might not have been so encouraging of his son to head West Butcher s Crossing is a hide town A town that exists only as a central point for Buffalo hunters to bring their hides for sale and to drink and get their ashes hauled McDonald is the buyer of hides and he is buried in paperwork He tries to hire Andrews to help him in the office but Will did not come West to sit behind a desk He asks for directions to a reliable Buffalo hunter At one time there were millions of Buffalo stretching from Canada to Mexico but after decades of slaughter their numbers have greatly diminished By 1873 the large herds numbering in the thousands have been broken up into small pockets of a hundred or less The meat is left to rot and the hides are being sent back East to be made into coats Later the bones of the deceased Buffalo are picked up off the plains and ground into fertilizer Large Mound of Buffalo BonesIt was an eradication of a species on an epic scale The numbers of Buffalo today have come back from the brink of extinction There are about 200000 Buffalo being raised for the parks service and for meat They are such a majestic animal and it truly would have been tragic if they had disappeared forever My Great Grandfather Ashley Joseph Ives in his Buffalo coatAndrews finds Miller and provides the cash to supply one last great Buffalo hunt Miller had seen a large herd numbering nearly 3000 a few years before in a valley in the Colorado mountains It has always been his dream to go back Andrews also meets Francine a prostitute from St Louis who was tired of all the competition in Missouri and liked that she could pick and choose her customers in this small backwater town in Kansas Andrews except for a furtive few moments with a willing cousin has very little experience with women He pulled away from her a little to look at her soft heavy body that clung to him like velvet held there of its own nature there was a serenity on her face almost as if it were asleep and he felt that she was beautiful He was assailed by the knowledge that others had seen this face as he was seeing it now that others had kissed her on her wet lips had heard the voice he was hearing had felt the same breath he was feeling upon his own face now They had uickly paid their money and had gone and others had come and others He had uick and irrational image of hundreds of men steadily streaming in and out of a room He turned pulled away from her suddenly dead inside himself As they journey to Colorado Andrews discovers how unprepared he is to do this much riding and this much work for this many long hours finding himself beyond bone tired so tired he can barely remember who he is Day by day the numbness crept upon him until at last the numbness seemed to be himself He felt himself to be like the land without identity or shape sometimes one of the men would look at him look through him as if he did not exist and he had to shake his head sharply and move an arm or a leg and glance at it to assure himself that he was visible They find the BuffaloThey kill the BuffaloThey reduce a herd of 3000 down to a few hundred I was rooting for the Buffalo I wanted a stampede or any intervention that would wreak vengeance upon the hunters for their greed Buffaloes can reach speeds of 35mph At night when the two of them rode wearily out of the valley to the small red orange glow that marked their camp in the darkness they found Miller slouched darkly and inertly before the fire except for his eyes he was as still and lifeless as one of the buffalo he had killed Miller had even stopped washing of his face the black powder that collected there during his firing now the powder smoke seemed a permanent part of his skin ingrained there a black mask that defined the hot glaring brilliance of his eyes I know people who hunt and I know people who kill There are those that go out to hunt for a specific purpose and there are those that go out to kill anything that is moving I ve walked along the river that flows through my family property after people have been through there shooting suirrels birds and rabbits not to eat them but just for the sport of it Everything is silent a condemnation of our failed stewardship colors the air There is something inherently missing in people who choose to treat life this way I used to hunt with my friends and family and then I shot my first deer soon after turning 15 and that was my last time I walked up to the dying deer hidden by the grass He had looked so large when he had stared across the field at me and in death looked so tenderly small sprawled on the ground The stain was larger than the gain I sold my rifleTo keep a herd from running away you have to kill their leader first The buffalo passed their wounded leader and ran beyond him some three hundred yards where their running gradually spent itself and where they stood milling uneasily about The old bull stood alone behind them his massive head sunk below his hump his tail twitched once or twice and he shook his head He turned around several times as another animal might have done before sleeping and finally stood facing the two men who were than two hundred yards away from him He took three steps toward them and paused again Then stiffly he fell on his side his legs straight out from his belly The legs jerked and then he was stillThat bull had fought off all his competitors He d won the right to inseminate and pass along his bloodline to the next generation He stood between his herd and every threat that nature could throw at him The old bull carried thick scars on his sides and flanks that could be seen even at a great distance A bullet fired from a man two hundred yards away that he couldn t even see exploded through his chest cavity punching through both his lungs drowning him with his own blood and he didn t even get a chance to fight The hunting party stayed too long in the mountains greed overrides common sense and nature comes calling Many trials and tribulations await the less than heroic characters that populate this novel John Williams is a wonderful writer His book Stoner is one of the best books I ve read in a long time so despite this being a subject matter that I find particularly distasteful the writing was superb This is a epic western with all the grandeur of inspiring descriptions of the landscape and the wonderful character sketches of the rough and tumble people who for a time made their living on the plains of Kansas They cleared the land for the farmers and the ranchers that were coming close behind them My Great great Grandfather Thomas Newton Keeten came to Kansas in the 1880s so he was part of the migration of farmers who settled after the near eradication of the Buffalo and the Indians had been pacified He broke the sod built a house helped form the Methodist church that I was baptized in and is buried in the cemetery among the bones of the Buffalo If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

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Butcher's Crossing

Adon vuoristossa majailevasta valtavasta biisonilaumasta jota kukaan ei ole löytänytNeljän miehen uhkarohkea retkikunta lähtee matkaan preerian halki Raskas matka saa kuin saakin täyttymyksensä kun miehet jäljittävät biisonilauman Ajantaju unohtuu ja talvi pääsee yllättämään miehetButcher’s Crossing julkaistiin alun perin vuonna 1960 John Williamsin ylistetyn S. The bright flare of a match the creaking of saddle leather and the mournful lowing of the oxen The smell of scorched coffee permeates the air joining the stink of buffalo hunters too long on the trail Later the confusion of the herd is rampant amidst the air made hazy and heavy by gun smoke The force of nature takes its toll as it always will The horror of the elements and the sheer beautyI searched for this book based solely on the fact that the author is the man who penned Stoner Ended up finding a copy at an out of state library courtesy of Mobius After reading I had to stifle a snort at the tag on the spine of the book It sports a label categorizing it as a Western and topped with a picture of a cowboy hat This novel is so much The author is a veritable virtuoso with his deceptively simple writing

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Tonerin tavoin se on löydetty ja saavuttanut menestyksen vasta nyt vuosikymmeniä myöhemmin Tarina kulkee Butcher’s Crossingissa toiseen suuntaan kuin Stonerissa yliopistomaailma vaihtuu karkeaan kovaan elämään lähellä luontoa Williams kunnioittaa lännentarinan perinteitä ja tavoittaa jälleen paljaan ihmisyyden kuvauksen Kirjan pelkistetty kerronta vavahduttaa lukij. he believed and had believed for a long time that there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct him aright 48 Now Andrews could see the herd clearly Against the pale yellow green of the grass the dark umber of the buffalo stood out sharply Many were lying at ease upon the soft valley grass those were mere humps like dark rocks without identity or shape some were grazing lightly others stood unmoving they huge furry heads slumped between their forelegs which were so matted with long dark fur that their shapes could not be seen 127 without identity or shape their shapes could not be seen Butcher s Crossing is usually classified as a Western I guess because of its setting in Western Kansas and the mountains of Colorado in the 1870s But this background produces in Williams telling a story that has little resemblance to either traditional or contemporary western literature from authors like Zane Gray Max Brand Louis L Amour Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy or novels such as The Ox Bow Incident or Shane The story has no cowboys almost no Indians no settlers no ranchers no gunfights no sheriffs no banditsSo if you re in the mood for a Western novel a la McMurtry or Cormac look elsewhere You won t find it hereWhat you will find is a haunting mysterious story of an Easterner who has come to the American West for reasons that are not clear to him It is a short but deep novel unforgettable and maybe somewhat disturbingWill Andrews has left Harvard in his third year with his share of an uncle s beuest and traveled to the American West in search of a man who his father knew for a time back in Boston a man named McDonald When he manages to track McDonald down in Butcher s Crossing Kansas McDonald is engaged in a buffalo hide business buying from buffalo hunters and reselling to buffalo robe makers in the east Andrews tells McDonald that his father admired him because McDonald was the only man he ever knew who came out here who came west and made a life for himself 18As they talk Andrews paused and let his gaze go past McDonald away from the town beyond the ridge of earth that he imagined was the river bank to the flat yellowish green land that faded into the horizon westward He tried to shape in his mind what he had to say to McDonald What he sought was the source and preserver of his world a world that seemed to turn ever in fear away from its source rather than search it out as the prairie grass around him sent down its fibered roots into the rich dark dampness the Wildness and thereby renewed itself year after year 21But McDonald is simply a stepping stone to the West Andrews has no interest in a job which McDonald offers him he s searching for something else As he haltingly explains to McDonald I came out here to see as much of the country as I can I want to get to know it It s something that I have to do I don t have anything figured out I just want to know about this country 22 3Besides Andrews and McDonald there are only four other named characters in the novel Miller the buffalo hunter Charley Hoge Miller s sidekick and the hunting party s wagon driver and cook Francine an attractive whore in Butcher s Crossing who is in turn attracted to Andrews and Schneider the final member of the hunting party hired as chief skinner Oh yes and one probably the most important other than Andrews Nature Call her Mother if you wantRalph Waldo Emerson Nature and Transcendentalism Williams has placed two uotations directly following the title page before we see a word of his own writing The first of these saysAt the gates of the forest the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small wise and foolish The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts Here is sanctity which shames our religions and reality which discredits our heroes Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance and judges like a god all men that come to herThe uote is from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled Nature view spoilerSee part XVIII of this PDF hide spoiler


10 thoughts on “Butcher's Crossing

  1. says:

    ”You get born and you nurse on lies and you get weaned on lies and you learn fancier lies at school You live all your life on lies and then maybe when you’re ready to die it comes to you that there’s nothing nothing but yourself and what you could have done Only you ain’t done it because the lies told you there was something else Then you know you could of had the world because you’re the only one that knows t

  2. says:

    Why read a historical novel about a privileged Harvard dropout who wants to find himself by going on a buffalo hunt? 1 It's by John Williams who wrote one of my three favourite novels Stoner which I reviewed HERE as well as his masterpiece Augustus which I reviewed HERE2 Hunting is not what it's really about probably like Moby Dick?3 It was a good follow on from Cold Mountain which I reviewed HERE two totally different US landscape based

  3. says:

    Williams’ biggest achievement in this novel is that there isn’t an ounce of overblown characterization in the diverging life perspectives that populate Butcher's Crossing an emerging town in the Great Plains of the old west In spite of the bison hunters the dusty brothel with the purring prostitute the inexperienced city boy Will Andrews from Boston and the drunkard who nurses his whiskey with a mucky Bible and prayerful gi

  4. says:

    Andrews dropped to his hands and knees and swung his head from side to side like a wounded animal “My God” he said thickly “My God my God” “A whole winter’s work” Miller said in a flat dead voice “It took just about two minutes” “Andrews raised his head wildly and got to his feet “Schneider” he said “Schneider We’ve got to ” “Miller put his hand on his shoulder “Take it easy b

  5. says:

    The bright flare of a match the creaking of saddle leather and the mournful lowing of the oxen The smell of scorched coffee permeates the air joining the stink of buffalo hunters too long on the trail Later the confusion of the herd is rampant amidst the air made hazy and heavy by gun smoke The force of nature takes its toll as it always will The horror of the elements and the sheer beautyI searched for this book based solely on the fact t

  6. says:

    John Williams wrote four novels None of them however sold many copies during his lifetime I remember some years ago seeing and scanning stories about John Williams with headlines such as “The Best Writer You Never Heard Of” or something similar And that certainly applied to me I had never heard of him and I couldn’t read his books because they were out of print In fact although there were critics who praised his

  7. says:

    A Holocaust of Hides He could hardly recall now the passion that had drawn him to this room and this flesh as if by a subtle magnetism; nor could he recall the force of that other passion which had impelled him halfway acros

  8. says:

    he believed and had believed for a long time that there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct hi

  9. says:

    A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell a death wind for my people Sitting BullThey came down into valley and the buffalo herds were moving darkly over the land like waves on the ocean The men slowly moved in on them The first shot went to kill the leader of the herd shots would follow My

  10. says:

    One of the joys of reading chaotically picking up books from the TBR stack at the whim of the moment and not according to some master plan is to discover that succesive reads turn out to be related after all The Great Gatsby is concerned with the Great American Dream that success is waiting right around the corner for anyone dete