“Wide Spot”
by Thomas McGuane
from the September 23, 2019 issue of The New Yorker

Thomas McGuane is a long-time favorite of mine. I enjoy his fluid writing and his focus on some forgotten parts of America, often close to where I grew up in the Rocky Mountain west (this week’s story one takes place in Montana). I also like that he focuses on short stories.

It feels like a while since I’ve read one of his stories . . . I see it was just November 2017, but after years of getting one or two of his stories per year that is a while! Here we have one with a political bent, but look at how interesting the setup is:

The small-bore politics that I’ve been caught up in for the past thirty years has provided, beyond the usual attractions of graft and corruption, a vivid lesson in regional geography, as I’ve had to make sure my constituents would keep showing up to vote. Still, it had been a very long time since I’d last visited Prairiedale. Back then, the town was known as Wide Spot; it wouldn’t have had a name at all if it weren’t for the filling station there, and, had anyone thought about it, would have been called something more dignified, like Fort Lauderdale. In the old days, the Indians led their cattle to the freight yards many miles away on horseback; their wives awaited them in Model T Fords, pulled their saddles off the horses, and drove them back to the reservation. The horses turned up on the res within a week, grazing their way north on unfenced grass. But, when the Northern Pacific laid a spur from the east-west line to pick up cattle and grain, Wide Spot boomed, became the county seat. It got a courthouse, a sprawl of frame houses, a fire station in a quonset hut, a baseball diamond, and its unimaginative name.

I think this will be good. But if you read it and disagree (or agree), please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!