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"One of the country's best writers. . . . No one looks harder at contemporary American life, sees more, or expresses it with such hushed, deliberate care." --San Francisco Chronicle
An accomplished practitioner of the short story and the "Babe Ruth of novelists," (Washington Post Book World) Richard Ford is the first writer to receive both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for a single book, his 1995 novel Independence Day.
Vintage Ford includes an excerpt from that novel, along with the stories "Communist," and "Rock Springs" from his collection Rock Springs; "Reunion," and "Calling," from A Multitude of Sins, which won him the 2001 PEN/Malamud Award; "The Womanizer," from Women with Men.
Also included, for the first time in book form, the memoir, "My Mother, in Memory."
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January 05, 2004
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Excerpt from Vintage Ford by Richard Ford
My mother once had a boyfriend named Glen Baxter. This was in 1961. We-my mother and I-were living in the little house my father had left her up the Sun River, near Victory, Montana, west of Great Falls. My mother was thirty-two at the time. I was sixteen. Glen Baxter was somewhere in the middle, between us, though I cannot be exact about it.
We were living then off the proceeds of my father's life insurance policies, with my mother doing some part-time waitressing work up in Great Falls and going to the bars in the evenings, which I know is where she met Glen Baxter. Sometimes he would come back with her and stay in her room at night, or she would call up from town and explain that she was staying with him in his little place on Lewis Street by the GN yards. She gave me his number every time, but I never called it. I think she probably thought that what she was doing was terrible, but simply couldn't help herself. I thought it was all right, though. Regular life it seemed, and still does. She was young, and I knew that even then.
Glen Baxter was a Communist and liked hunting, which he talked about a lot. Pheasants. Ducks. Deer. He killed all of them, he said. He had been to Vietnam as far back as then, and when he was in our house he often talked about shooting the animals over there-monkeys and beautiful parrots-using military guns just for sport. We did not know what Vietnam was then, and Glen, when he talked about that, referred to it only as "the Far East." I think now he must've been in the CIA and been disillusioned by something he saw or found out about and been thrown out, but that kind of thing did not matter to us. He was a tall, dark-eyed man with short black hair, and was usually in a good humor. He had gone halfway through college in Peoria, Illinois, he said, where he grew up. But when he was around our life he worked wheat farms as a ditcher, and stayed out of work winters and in the bars drinking with women like my mother, who had work and some money. It is not an uncommon life to lead in Montana.
What I want to explain happened in November. We had not been seeing Glen Baxter for some time. Two months had gone by. My mother knew other men, but she came home most days from work and stayed inside watching television in her bedroom and drinking beers. I asked about Glen once, and she said only that she didn't know where he was, and I assumed they had had a fight and that he was gone off on a flyer back to Illinois or Massachusetts, where he said he had relatives. I'll admit that I liked him. He had something on his mind always. He was a labor man as well as a Communist, and liked to say that the country was poisoned by the rich, and strong men would need to bring it to life again, and I liked that because my father had been a labor man, which was why we had a house to live in and money coming through. It was also true that I'd had a few boxing bouts by then-just with town boys and one with an Indian from Choteau-and there were some girlfriends I knew from that. I did not like my mother being around the house so much at night, and I wished Glen Baxter would come back, or that another man would come along and entertain her somewhere else.
At two o'clock on a Saturday, Glen drove up into our yard in a car. He had had a big brown Harley-Davidson that he rode most of the year, in his black-and-red irrigators and a baseball cap turned backwards. But this time he had a car, a blue Nash Ambassador. My mother and I went out on the porch when he stopped inside the olive trees my father had planted as a shelter belt, and my mother had a look on her face of not much pleasure. It was starting to be cold in earnest by then. Snow was down already onto the Fairfield Bench, though on this day a chinook was blowing, and it could as easily have been spring, though the sky above the Divide was turning over in silver and blue clouds of winter.
"We haven't seen you in a long time, I guess," my mother said coldly.
"My little retarded sister died," Glen said, standing at the door of his old car. He was wearing his orange VFW jacket and canvas shoes we called wino shoes, something I had never seen him wear before. He seemed to be in a good humor. "We buried her in Florida near the home."
"That's a good place," my mother said in a voice that meant she was a wronged party in something.
"I want to take this boy hunting today, Aileen," Glen said. "There're snow geese down now. But we have to go right away, or they'll be gone to Idaho by tomorrow."
"He doesn't care to go," my mother said.
"Yes I do," I said, and looked at her.
My mother frowned at me. "Why do you?"
"Why does he need a reason?" Glen Baxter said and grinned.
"I want him to have one, that's why." She looked at me oddly. "I think Glen's drunk, Les."