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Sunday, 7 August 2011



Today’s been a writing day – as indeed they all should be from now on. I think that, for better or worse, I am going to proceed along this latest path I have started on. The narrative I’m getting down is bitty, conversational and a little idiosyncratic in tone, but I do think I have finally come up with an opening which is at least intriguing. In a week or two, when (or if) I feel confident about it I might offer up the first page or so on here.

Flicking through an old journal on the computer the other evening, I found myself reading passages written when I was working on an account of my drive up (and down) the Hundredth Meridian in 2001. I called it Toad’s Road-Kill CafĂ©, after a diner I visited in Leakey, deep in the Texas Hill Country, which was  surprise and a delight to me. I never did manage to get it published, despite the enthusiastic responses of one or two people in the industry who read it; but that’s not why I brought it up. I mention it because I read in the journal that I was producing as many as 2500 to 3000 words a day. I do seem to recall that I managed a similar sort of rate when doing the series of corporate histories I wrote in the 1990s. It seemed easy, but of course I was working from some very solid research material. Anyway, I managed 1,000 words today, which I have made my target for most projects over the past few years. It seems to me that if you can maintain that at the beginning of a book, you soon find that you’re ten or twenty thousand words in, and gaining a sense that, yes, you really will get there.

Despite all the desk work, I am pleased to report that I did, all the same, get outside for a while. Matt came by in the afternoon and told me he’d found some stray cattle, and suggested we saddle and go after them with ropes.



Only joking… that’s me with a loop of the telephone cable I mentioned yesterday. I went back to the track this afternoon, spent an hour digging out several more lengths, and was inspired to take a couple of slightly artful pictures. They pleased me, at any rate.

Walking from the red house up towards the trail is a radically different experience now to what it was a month ago. The weeds – mostly a species of sunflower as far as I can see – are six to eight feet tall and absolutely heaving with grasshoppers. So is the ground, which almost seems to move as you walk. The little buggers are getting larger, fatter, and more slothful by the day.



They have now started having recreational sex around the place – or are they playing leap-frog? - and the irony of this shot is that they’re at it on one of those insecticidal candles, which Kitty handed me last week. So far, I haven’t had to light them. Apart from the hoppers, the insects haven’t been as bad as I feared.

I felt a serious pang of homesickness this morning – and it wasn’t for my nearest and dearest, I’m sorry to report. No, it was because the football (soccer) season has kicked off back home, and I want to be involved in the usual Saturday afternoon business of sending text messages to my friends, sympathising over some disaster or sharing their joy. For the first time since I arrived here, four months ago, I heard myself say, ‘Oh well, only eight weeks…’



It’s been a while since I mentioned the condition of the pasture. The warm season grasses are well and truly established now and all along the trail the sunflowers are in bloom. It makes for a picturesque drive up towards the house every morning. Today it had started out grey and cool, but by the time I took this picture, about nine thirty, the skies were clearing rapidly. It occurred to me that I’ve hardly seen a cow in the last three or four weeks and have no idea where they are. I’m actually expecting Matt to shift some of his herd down this way before long – although the later it happens the better it’ll suit me. I suspect that they’ll bring a new wave of insects with them when they do appear.

Tonight I watched the last of the DVDs that I collected from Matt’s bunkhouse.  They’re just about all westerns. I have now watched Lonesome Dove or its derivatives on eleven successive nights. In my opinion nothing that followed the original got close to it in terms of story, character, acting or dialogue. I guess the producers were milking the cow till it ran dry, and I wish they hadn’t. The original epic was a masterpiece, the rest a massive disappointment.

The lights are flickering.... time for bed.