“In in the dawn there is a man progressing over the plain by means of holes which he is making in the ground. He uses an implement with two handles and he chucks it into the hole and he enkindles the stone in the hole with his steel, hole-by-hole striking the fire out of the rock which God put there. On the plain behind him are the wanderers in search of bones and those who did not search and they have haltingly in the light like mechanisms whose movements are monitored with escapement and pallet so they appear restrained by a prudence or reflectiveness which has no inner reality and they cross in their progress one by one that track of holes that runs to the rim of the visible ground and which seems less the pursuit of some continuance then the verification of a principal and validation of sequence and causality as if each round and perfect hole owed its existence to the one before it there on that prairie upon which are the bones and The Gatherers of Bones and those who do not gather. He stikes fire in the hole and draws out his steel. Then they all move on again.” Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, epilogue.
Impressions. We’re led through the story of mercenary scalp hunting. Glanton, the kid, Judge Holden and others participating in decimation of the aboriginal population to collect trophies for pay. The final three chapters are almost psychedelic in nature, especially when the Judge appears with the Fool being led past the gun sights of the the kid and the ex-priest, the killing of the Bear, and the Dance. Allegory after modern allegory.
Then the epilogue.
I see a post-apocalyptic scene. We’re told the story of the kid meeting the buffalo hunter, the millennial herds and the bone pickers, but to my mind, those are present past tense. The 20 ton wagons with the 10 ox teams and people and hunters reaping and raping the bounty they found there evokes to my vision, tall grass and (wasted) fecundity. The epilogue is stone and fire and following holes, whether the followers pick bones or not. Much like following tribes, warring or agricultural or religious (pilgrims and argonauts) to take from them the things they hold as treasure. Life, relation, religion, even the dead Eldress aren’t safe trom the drive to touch what is easy and “niggardly”, by violence or ignorance or cunning.
In Blood Meridian, the bone pickers are referred to as violent children left from the War, mostly orphaned by the war and continuing the violence begat from the people that raised them. The epilogue addresses the view that, as generational issues replicate (religion, tribalism, war and violence), we seek a leader. The man making holes, by steel and fire and implementation, is followed blindly, by those picking and those that do not pick, devoid of intention and mimicking reflectiveness, in an effort to validify the sequence and causation of the holes, which extend to the edge of the visible universe.
Violent children we are that follow the Holes and the maker of Holes to the Edge of the Universe. The mystery is that there is no mystery, just us.