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A Story a Day #33: Wallace Stegner




March 16th, 2020

"Carrion Spring"

Wallace Stegner


It is spring again and our protagonist, a woman who was living on a cattle ranch, is leaving to go live with her family again. As she gets ready to leave, she is sad despite being disgusted by the smell and sight of the ranch which is full of dead cattle who are thawing. On their way, her and her husband Ray run into another man on the side of the road who is digging out some coyotes. Her husband wants to help so she allows it. They flush out some coyotes which are promptly ripped apart by hounds. When a pup is flung her way, she immediately covers it. She doesn't want it to be killed so violently and wants to raise it. Reluctantly, Ray agrees and they go on their way again. They stop for some sandwiches she packed and have a picnic. She picks up a crocus which she is surpised to find considering the ice has just melted. Ray tells her that he doesn't want to move back to the city and wants to buy the ranch he was working on. At first she thinks it is a crazy idea, but then agrees.


This story had one of the most interesting, beautiful, and memorable openings I have read throughout this project. It is an absolutely gripping description of the world thawing and waking up from a harsh winter. Despite the usual beauty and wonder that spring brings, this story is the exact opposite. The narrator despises everything about the way everything smells and goes to great lengths to describe the terribleness of these dead cattle penetrating the air. The description feeds into everything.


There is something about a well-described country story that always gets to me. The details from the coyotes to the horses to the buffalo rug. I loved the contrasting personalities and the way this woman wants to save this coyote pup. I love how her mindset goes from hating everything about the ranch to eventually agreeing to going back. As spring begins to show her face again here in Kansas, it feels especially pertinent.

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