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THE QUICK AND THE DEAD / Z. Vance Wilson THE BULL WAS a red Hereford, named Job, we had owned only a week, or perhaps I should say that a week earlier Dad sold us further in debt to the Farmers and Merchants' Bank. Better yet, to the Randolph family since those shysters owned the bank and its mortgages on five-sixths of the farmland in Randolph, yes Randolph, like Iscariot, county. After Mother died, I found in the lock box under her bed some loan statements tied in turnip twine, which she kept without him knowing of course, and on that final one those Pharisees listed as collateral not only every acre of land and piece of wood we called our own, but every one of our living breathing animals, that year's doomed root hog Mr. Randolph, a name I'm sure they didn't appreciate, and our six cows, whose great names read more like a roll call in hell than bossies—Eve, Hagar, Gommorrah, Jezebel, Babylon and Baalah—my father was cursed with a sense of damnation and it had something to do with women. I've never understood why Mother kept those statements. Maybe she let her imagination get the best of her understanding and so remembered that valley of bones farm as a garden paradise like Eden. We do that with the past, you know, especially after we lose hope. Or maybe she blamed the bank for our subsequent divided house. My father, when he went crazy with Jesus, cursed moneylenders as sinners in the temple, and there's a certain truth in that. But my worst fear is that she kept that bank note because she blamed herself for what happened that morning. Doug and I were walking with Dad through the herd, if you can call six cows a herd, listening to him explain how to identify each Hereford. "Babylon," he said, "with those cute freckles on her nose, is at least a hand taller than the other five. Gommorrah has the moonwhite spot over her left eye, and Baalah's face is dark red like blood." At a prideful distance Job watched us name his too few wives. My father planned to make money the same way Will succeeded with years later, by leaving Job always to service the cows in heat, fattening the calves until he sold them plump and keeping the same bossies until they could no longer drop. I think Mother believed that without that morning's explosion we could have owned a large herd and Cedar of Lebanon land one day. Maybe so. Dad thought so, too, I think, but he wasn't sorry about that loss, considering what else he had to feel guilty about. When we turned from the cows and Job and circled the corn field toward the old clay road, he said, "This land is ours, boys, and so are these ceatures. If we dig and till the soil and care for our stock and God is good to us, we can live here all our lives, and all your children's lives. This property I have The Missouri Review · 61 here I intend to pass on, because I love you." As he talked I saw the midmorning sun brighten the green and yellow corn stalks and change them magically into men of straw, leaf-curled figures dried out and blown by a widow's mite of a wind. Mr. Randolph our hog, the corn field, and what I didn't quite understand then, a bull's lust—these three mysteries provided most of our food and livelihood. I knew we would dig and till the soil and care for our stock, but even as a boy, that moment I realized that God might not always be good to us. We passed by the hog pen, the slop bucket half-full, the ground sucking muddy, and I grunted at Mr. Randolph, each day fatter and never suspecting we'd some day eat him. We stood by the hog pen when we heard. Mother was screaming. The episode began innocently enough. As the eldest son Will inherited King Solomon's portion of responsibility, teaching his...


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