That Old Ace in the Hole: A Novel
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From Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Annie Proulx comes an exhilarating story brimming with language, history, landscape, music, and love.
Bob Dollar is a young man from Denver trying to make good in a bad world. Out of college and aimless, Dollar takes a job with Global Pork Rind, scouting out big spreads of land that can be converted to hog farms. Soon he's holed up in a two-bit Texas town called Woolybucket, where he settles into LaVon Fronk's old bunkhouse for fifty dollars a month, helps out at Cy Frease's Old Dog Café, and learns the hard way how vigorously the old Texas ranch owners will hold on to their land, even when their children want no part of it.
Robust, often bawdy, strikingly original, That Old Ace in the Hole traces the waves of change that have shaped the American West over the past century -- and in Bob Dollar, Proulx has created one of the most irrepressible characters in contemporary fiction.
to the door. There was nothing to do but leave. “I’m sorry,” he said to the housekeeper. “I’m sorry you had to—” but she slammed the door and he was alone in the odorous morning. As he neared the highway he had to move far to the right to accommodate a big green SUV pulling into the Bar Owl gate. It whipped past him, spattering the Saturn with dust and gravel. He had only a glimpse of the driver, a scowling blond woman wearing large dark glasses, so short she could barely peer over the steering
dusk sifted down like molecules of pulverized grey silk. He left the fried chicken skin and bones on the porch floor. Sometime in the night he woke to hoarse barking cries outside the door repeated with monotonous regularity. But even as he struggled to come fully awake the barks began to recede and, peering out the window into faint starlight, all he could see was a small shadow gliding into the black weeds, whether fox or coyote he didn’t know. Toward morning rain tapped the roof. He went
tipping over outhouses while someone was inside, killing snakes, saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” before bed on the last night of the month, spying on neighbors. Bob Dollar, who was frequently reported to Sheriff Hugh Dough as a suspicious stranger, learned the hard way that many people watched the highway through their front room curtains and were not slow to call the law and tell what they suspected. There were activities in the panhandles that needed reporting: jogging, odd clothing, unusual
They could both hear the escaping gas hissing through the oil. “My God, it stinks,” said Habakuk. “That’s a money stink,” said the lease man. “It’s a flowin well, all right. By God, it’s pretty far east a be part a the Amarilla Arch, but what else could it be? You sure enough got you a shallow discovery well. How deep did you drill?” “I don’t know. It was my partner. We figured maybe two, three hundred feet, so maybe around there. I don’t know. He didn’t tell me. Four, five days’ work?”
little bunkhouse and away from the washing machine with its churning scum of windmill grease. She pulled up at the gate. It was made of barbwire strands stapled to a post that was firmly held by fixed wire loops at bottom and top. It was the tightest, most difficult gate in the county, and the maker clearly had taken great pride in making a gate that only one man in a hundred could open with anything approaching ease. She could not budge the wire and even prying up on the top loop with a heavy