Letters

Letters 02-08-2016

Less Ageism, Please The January 4 issue of this publication proved to me that there are some sensible voices of reason in our community regarding all things “inter-generational.” I offer a word of thanks to Elizabeth Myers. I too have worked hard for what I’ve earned throughout my years in the various positions I’ve held. While I too cannot speak for each millennial, brash generalizations about a lack of work ethic don’t sit well with me...Joe Connolly, Traverse City

Now That’s an Escalation I just read the letter from Greg and his defense of the AR15. The letter started with great information but then out of nowhere his opinion went off the rails. “The government wants total gun control and then confiscation; then the elimination of all Constitutional rights.” Wait... what?! To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!”

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Children Healthy foods and exercise are important for children of all ages. It is important for children because it empowers them to do their best at school and be able to do their homework and study...

Mascots and Harsh Native American Truths The letter from the Choctaw lady deserves an answer. I have had a gutful of the whining about the fate of the American Indian. The American Indians were the losers in an imperial expansion; as such, they have, overall, fared much better than a lot of such losers throughout history. Everything the lady complains about in the way of what was done by the nasty, evil Whites was being done by Indians to other Indians long before Europeans arrived...

Snyder Must Go I believe it’s time. It’s time for Governor Snyder to go. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are now investigating the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of people. Governor Snyder signed the legislation that established the Emergency Manager law. Since its inception it has proven to be a dismal failure...

Erosion of Public Trust Let’s look at how we’ve been experiencing global warming. Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds along with more rain-free days have combined to stretch fire seasons worldwide by 20 percent. In the U.S., the fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Proulx Plays the Right Cards in...
. . . .

Proulx Plays the Right Cards in That Old Ace in the Hole

Nancy Sundstrom - March 13th, 2003
One of the great joys of reading iin the recent years has been settling in with the latest effort from Annie Proulx, the author of wonderful tales of hardworking scrappers constantly down on their look, such as “The Shipping News, “Close Range,““Postcards,“ and “Accordion Crimes.“
Her stories ring with conviction and unflinching realism and capture time, place, and people in such a unique and beautifully observed way that her readers have gotten to be a bit fanatical about her writing. Critics are equally quick to latch onto each new offering from her, and her honors have included a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and Irish Times International Fiction Prize for “The Shipping News,“ and a PEN/Faulkner Award for “Postcards.“
So the odds would seem likely that this word wunderkind had an ace up her sleeve when she wrote her latest, “That Old Ace in the Hole: A Novel,“ and the good news is she indeed seemed to. Because it was so remarkable, following up “The Shipping News“ was going to be a formidable challenge in every regard, and while this one doesn’t quite evoke the range of reader emotions or flesh out the characters in the way the last book did, Proulx still delivers a textured vision of heartland humor and hope.
The protagonist here is Bob Dollar, a young man from Denver, CO who, like most of Proulx’s characters, is a decent fellow, trying to make the best of a rather lame hand that’s been dealt to him.
Dollar’s parents disappeared when he was eight, leaving him on the doorstep of his Uncle Tambourine‘s Denver resale shop, “Used but Not Abused,“ and life has pretty much been uphill from that point on. While college-educated, he’s not the sharpest pencil in the book, but he’s ambitious, albeit aimless. He lands work as a “hog scout“ with a company called Global Pork Rind, who give him the mission of finding vast expanses of land in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles that can be gobbled up by the corporation and converted to hog farms. Unaware of the brutality of the meat industry and the environmental havoc such plants can wreak, he sets off to make good on his assignment.
With the opening paragraphs of the first chapter, the author establishes mood, place, and the essence of her lead character with such seeming effortlessness, that reader is immediately transported to Proulx country without even realizing it:

“In late March Bob Dollar, a young, curly-headed man of twenty-five with the broad face of a cat, pale innocent eyes fringed with sooty lashes, drove east along Texas State Highway 15 in the panhandle, down from Denver the day before, over the Raton Pass and through the dead volcano country of northeast New Mexico to the Oklahoma pistol barrel, then a wrong turn north and wasted hours before he regained the way. It was a roaring spring morning with green in the sky, the air spiced with sand sagebrush and aromatic sumac. NPR faded from the radio in a string of announcements of corporate supporters, replaced by a Christian station that alternated pabulum preaching and punchy music. He switched to s---kicker airwaves and listened to songs about staying home, going home, being home and the errors of leaving home.
The road ran along a railroad track. He thought the bend of the rails unutterably sad, those cold and gleaming strips of metal turning away into the distance made him think of the morning he was left on Uncle Tam‘s doorstep listening for the inside clatter of coffee pot and cups although there had been no train nor tracks there. He did not know how the rails had gotten into his head as symbols of sadness.
Gradually the ancient thrill of moving against the horizon into the great yellow distance heated him, for even fenced and cut with roads the overwhelming presence of grassland persisted, though nothing of the original prairie remained. It was all flat expanse and wide sky. Two coyotes looking for afterbirths trotted through a pasture to the east, moving through fluid grass, the sun backlighting their fur in such a way that they appeared to have silver linings. Irrigated circles of winter wheat, dotted with stocker calves, grew on land as level as a runway. In other fields tractors lashed tails of dust. He noticed the habit of slower drivers to pull into the breakdown lane - here called the “courtesy lane“ - and wave him on.
Ahead cities loomed, but as he came close the skyscrapers, mosques and spires metamorphosed into grain elevators, water towers and storage bins. The elevators were the tallest buildings on the plains, symmetrical, their thrusting shapes seeming to entrap kinetic energy. After a while Bob noticed their vertical rhythm, for they rose up regularly every five or ten miles in trackside towns. Most were concrete cylinders, some brick or tile, but at many sidings the old wood elevators, peeling and shabby, still stood, some surfaced with asbestos shingles, a few with rusted metal loosened by the wind. Rectilinear streets joined at ninety-degree angles. Every town had a motto: “The Town Where No One Wears a Frown“; “The Richest Land and the Finest People“; “10,000 Friendly People and One or Two Old Grumps.““

Dollar eventually lands in Woolybucket, TX, whose residents are tough enough to take all that this unforgiving country can dish out at them. He moves into an old bunkhouse for fifty dollars a month, helps out at the local Old Dog Caféé, spots a ranch he believes would be of interest to Global Pork Rind, and then settles into challenge its owners for its availability. The land isn’t even of much interest to Ace and Tater Crouch‘s children, but if Dollar thinks he’s going to get it out of their hands without a fight, he’d better have another ace up his sleeve.
The battle of love of the land vs. the almighty dollar gets some new treatment in the author’s capable crafting, and the colorful cast of characters, who include the likes of LaVon Grace Fronk, Jerky Baum, Habakuk van Melkebeek and Freda Beautyrooms, manage to be as over-the-top as their names, while still emerging as completely credible. “That Old Ace in the Hole“ has a much lighter feel to it than “The Shipping News“ and its moral authority isn’t as challenging, but this is still Proulx in fine form, and most recommended.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 
 

 

 
 
 
Close
Close
Close