Sam Nash pushed the empty beer bottle away across the knife-scarred table. “I’m ready to hunt bulls,” he said. “We need to be making tracks for the mountain soon, before it gets too dark to put a camp in up there.”
Jim McCorkle set his chin forward but didn’t answer right away. He’d ordered black coffee and refused a third refill when Sam was already on the second beer. “I’m ready when you are,” he said finally.
Beyond the plateglass window, tall cottonwoods stained orange and yellow followed the curve of an invisible creek across a green meadow on which brown hay bales lay evenly spaced. Past the meadow, buff-colored foothills shored up the dark frontal face of the mountains to make a platform for the granite peaks farther back in the range to stand on. The peaks were dusted with snow where the rock wasn’t too steep to hold it, and a rime of snow showed along the top of the timbered wall overlooking the valley. Jim didn’t like the snow and cold. He’d had enough of being wet and uncomfortable in Vietnam, 40 years ago. From where they hung on the wall behind the bar, the mounted elk and moose and deer heads could see the mountains through the window, too. Their glassy eyes looked farseeing and sad, as if they had a longing to be back there.
The drive from Sheridan up to...