The walking man walked a 'ways, and the ways became our town. It's not much, like my Dad says, but it's too big for the vultures
to fly away with. Prarie bend has been around for about 12 years and have seen a lot of walking men. Most come and gone- most to California
, some to Alaska
, and, 'course, some to the cemetary south of town. The only thing they had in common was their leaving- which they all did, sooner or later.
I tell you that because I don't expect this one 'll be staying either. If you don't know one of the ranchers, if you don't work for the rails you generally ain't stayin. This is not a particularly scenic spot and there is no real work. 'less you a prostitute or a blacksmith. The walking man looked a whole bunch like neither or these. What he looked like was odd and I don't mean odd like funny looking or retarded. I mean odd like the way he looked at people. Like me, of course. On account I'm telling this story and everything- but anyhow, he didn't so much look at me as look through me. He looked at me the way a dog 'll look at bone that's caught under a rock- like he wants to know how to get at it, but don't know how. The walking man tends to look at people a long time and sorta size them up- like he is trying to measure them, figure 'em out and decide what to do with them - as if he had a something to do. Which he don't- at least not that's apparent to anyone.
He come to town 'bout two weeks ago- and although he asks a bunch of questions- and spends hours on the edge of town-staring down the rail tracks, the wrong direction, as if something is coming- as if for the first time in the history of mankind a train is gonna come in from the west- back into town. He will do that for hours, then walk back into town- eat dinner somewhere- goes to bed in that hotel above Miss Leslie's place, and we don't see him at all for awhile. If he is on a schedule, it's a damn slow one, that's for sure.
I ain't never seen him on or near a horse. My cousin has one of them horse allergies and I expect walking man may have one of those. 'Cause as sure as another night is gonna fall- the walking man is gonna walk- walk past the jail, past the dirt houses, past the burn dump and right down to those tracks again-and then walk into town again- ner'e a horse within a step of him. I guess if Moses can walk ten years or so, this man can keep it up for awhile, but I don't see no future in it.
I keep thinking one day the walking man will walk...
Walking man 3