Ambiguous2To a first-time reader, Angus looks as a character hard to pin down. Not enough about him comes out in the early pages of Ten Shoes Up. So it’s hard to say whether he’s  seeking reconciliation or company. He could be for the law, “agin” it, looking for it, or running from it.

The law itself seems to be a character, but not in the same way. Angus is defined by his horse. Angus is ambiguous on purpose, but his horse is clear. His job is clear. Take Angus where he wants to go. Together, Angus and his horse engage the law. At first, the law’s plain. In time, it gets cloudy, ambiguous. In a way that’s hard to explain, the whole of the American West was ambiguous. Then and now. The passage of 130 years unclear. Some of the things everyone knows happened back then, actually didn’t. The savage in the Indian, the peacefulness of the prairie, the resoluteness of the first trappers—all of that—was beefed up by storytellers and misunderstood by politicians. The words used came out slowly because time traveled that way back then. Thoughts and feelings weren’t faithfully recorded as much as they were approximated. But the horse was not ambiguous. Horses were to the men in the west what bikes, cars, trucks, busses, railroads, taxis, boats and airplanes are to 21st Century city dwellers. The essential difference now is we have unambiguous choices in how we get around but the men of Angus’s day lived by the horse. No ambiguity in that relationship.