I had not been back in town long. Maybe a month was all. The work had finally given out for me down at Silver Bow, and I had quit staying around down there when the weather turned cold, and come back to my mother’s, on the Bitterroot, to lay up and set aside my benefits for when things got worse.

My mother had her boyfriend, then, an old wildcatter named Harley Reeves. And Harley and I did not get along, though I don’t blame him for that. He had laid off himself down near Gillette, Wyoming, where the boom was finished. And he was just doing what I was doing and had arrived there first. Everyone was laid off then. It was not a good time in that part of Montana, nor was it going to be. The two of them were just giving it a final try, both of them in their sixties, strangers together in the little house my father had left her.

So in a week I moved up to town, into a little misery flat across from the Burlington Northern yards, and began to wait. There was nothing to do. Watch TV. Stop at a bar. Walk down to the Clark Fork River and fish where they had built a little park. Just find a way to spend the time. You think you’d like to have all the time be your own, but that is a fantasy. I was feeling my back to the wall then, and I didn’t know what would happen to me in a week’s time, which is a feeling to stay with you and make being cheerful hard. And no one can like that.

The Cabin
Cowboy Movie