I’m happy to announce that The Florida Review has just published the first chapter of my thesis/next book. It’s called “A Sort of Homecoming” and here’s a little taste:
I am so starved for company, even a dead man’s would do.
Stamping on my boots, I follow a trail leading into a desert jungle thick with yucca and mesquite. Rain is so scant in this swath of South Texas, trees grow out instead of up, fusing together like brush. In some patches, you can’t see but two feet beyond. But it’s noisy here—gloriously noisy. Beetles munch through mounds of deer dung. Orange-bellied orioles and dust-colored sparrows twitter from treetops while flocks of chachalacas cluck about. My boots trample footprints, paw prints, hoof prints.
A chain link fence appears up ahead, enclosing acres of cleared land. The ranch hands call it Cowboy Cemetery. I pace among the graves, peering at the sunken stones. In the olden days, families carved the names of their departed into planks of wood and thrust them into the soil. Those crosses have largely eroded, with only the cement markers remaining. I hunt for Silvas and Quintanillas: members of my cowboy tribe. This quest seems promising at first. Practically every stone bears a Mexican surname. But after an hour-long search, I realize that none are mine.
My disappointment is bitter but unsurprising. Two years ago, I moved to Mexico to unearth my mother’s roots. I scoured the countryside for months searching for something familial, even convincing Mom to join me for a stretch. Together we set out for the tiny village in Tamaulipas where a rancher named Richard King recruited his cowboys a century and a half ago, my great-great-grandfather among them. We interviewed everyone who crossed our path there, from shop owners to officials to the area’s eldest resident. We related how, in 1853, the bulk of the village’s citizens gathered their burros and their chickens, their pots and their blankets, and marched several hundred miles north to forge a new life in Texas. But when they led us to their cemetery, we found no tombs to prove our ties, no ancestors to anchor us. Only sun bleached ribbons blowing in the wind. Like here. Like now.