Thomas Cobb Shavetail

ISBN 13: 9780425234136

Shavetail

3.62 avg rating
( 151 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780425234136: Shavetail
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

Winner of the 2009 Spur Award for Long Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Ned Thorne lied his way into the U.S. Army, and is sent to the remote Fort Ramsey, deep in Arizona Territory. There, his young eyes will be opened to the true beauty and savage barbarity of the American frontier.

When a local ranch is attacked by Apaches and a young woman taken into bondage, Ned and the rest of his patrol will endure a suicidal march through mountains and wilderness, into the badlands of Mexico, and beyond the limits of human endurance to save the woman's life.

Few will survive this quest-and those who do will be forever changed.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Thomas Cobb was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where he spent most his childhood in the desert. He is the author of the novels Shavetail and Crazy Heart, as well as Acts of Contrition, a collection of short stories that won the 2002 George Garrett Fiction Prize.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

May 1871

Private Ned Thorne

Under the feathery branches of a mesquite tree twenty feet in diameter, among the litter of the tree -- small oval leaves, rotting beans, bits of cholla dragged by pack rats trying to build refuge -- lay a diamondback rattlesnake, thick as a grown man's forearm, coiled in folds, suspended in a state neither asleep nor awake.

Some thirty yards away, the boy, having conceded the only shelter for hundreds of yards to the snake, tried to cram his body into the makeshift shade of a crate stenciled with "Property of the United States Army. Fragile." The crate was delicately balanced on a trunk, similarly stenciled. The first had been placed so that half its length extended into the air, creating a scant few feet of shade on the ground underneath.

The boy got up and shifted the crate. The day was moving into afternoon, and the angle of the sun was giving him the chance of wider patches of shade. It was not yet fully hot, perhaps ninety degrees, not much more, but the sun was unrelenting, and he felt his skin burn. He had spent the last four hours alone here, with no water and only the boxes for shade. He was considering going back to drive the snake from under the tree, but he was afraid.

Around him he saw nothing but brush, grass, and tall stalks of yucca. In any direction he looked, there were distant peaks of mountains, but for miles around him, there was nothing more than the repetition of what was right here.

He was seventeen, had been seventeen for two months. Handsome and thin, though not frail, he looked older, in part due to a full but sparse beard that he had grown for the express purpose of looking so. Without it his delicate features and perpetual scowl gave him away for the boy he really was. He was lately of Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, where he had done his training, learning the craft of weather observation, becoming proficient in horsemanship, and, much to his own surprise, proving himself a superior marksman. Before that he had been in Baltimore, where he'd enlisted after fleeing his home in Hartford, Connecticut, in the dark of night.

Just two days earlier he had arrived in Tucson, the Arizona Territory, by stage from San Francisco. Tucson was the ugliest town he had ever seen in his life. It looked as if it had been constructed by an enormous, addled child who'd simply thrown mud on the ground. He had nearly missed boarding the stage and had to ride the entire trip backward, coming into his future just as his father had always told him he would, backside first.

The stage had dropped him here, which, he now understood, was nowhere. A set of wagon ruts moved roughly south by southwest. On these, the driver had promised, an escort from Camp Bowie would be by to pick him up. That had been long ago. Hours. He was vaguely curious about the hour, though knowing the time would have made the wait and boredom intolerable. He curled up into a tighter ball under the shade of the trunk and slept.

He was awakened by the snort and stamp of mules. Later, he realized he had been dreaming the sound of tack and the creaking of a wagon for some time.

"You Thorne? New meat for D Company?"

He scrambled out of his barely constructed shelter. "Water. I'm dying."

A canteen came flying over the heads of the mules. Ned misjudged it, let it fall, and had to scramble on hands and knees in the burning dirt.

"No. Probably you ain't. When you still know how awful you feel, you ain't even close to dead yet. You go slow on that water. I don't need to be driving you back and you got the squirts all the time. My life ain't that much joy as it is."

Ned forced himself to pull the canteen from his lips. He hoisted it and poured some of the rest over the top of his head. "Private Ned Thorne," he said, saluting in a perfunctory manner. "D Company, Camp Bowie."

"Brickner. D Company, all right. But not Bowie. We're at Ramsey now. And don't salute. I ain't no officer. I'm a corporal and a human being same as you." Brickner was a big man, round in the face. His hat was a battered straw that seemed to come nearly to his eyes, which were only slits against the sun. His mouth was set in an ironic half-smile in the middle of a black beard going heavily to gray.

"What? Where? Where's Ramsey?"

"Nowhere. Or next door to it. Where's the nails?"

"Nails?"

"They supposed to be sending nails with you. You were going to pick them up in Camp Lowell. Didn't you do that?"

"I didn't go to Camp Lowell."

"You come through Tucson, didn't you?"

"I did. But I didn't go to Camp Lowell. I stayed in a hotel."

"Hotel? You stayed in a damned hotel? Hotels is for rich bastards, fine ladies, whores, and thieves. Which of those is you?"

"I wanted a bed."

"And we're wanting nails, which you didn't get. What the hell good are you? And what's all that over there?" He nodded toward the crates.

"Weather instruments."

"Whether what?"

"Weather. Rain. Snow. Wind. Weather."

Brickner looked around at the depth of blue in the sky. "Weather. Goddamn. Ain't none here."

Ned stood in the middle of the desert, his head and shoulders wet, his belly already starting to bloat from the near canteen full he had drunk. He had no idea what use he might be. "I haven't slept in a real bed in almost two months."

"I ain't slept in a bed in years. What other complaints you got about your miserable life?"

Stung, the boy stood and glared, saying nothing.

"That's what I thought. Get in the wagon here, Marybelle. And don't talk to me. It makes me sick to look at you."

They rode in silence. The small breeze stirred by their motion carried the dust and the smell of the mules back to them. Ned held another canteen in his lap, taking small swallows from time to time. His thirst was mostly memory by now, but a memory of which he could not completely rid himself. He kept his eyes straight ahead, looking only occasionally over to Brickner. The heavyset man's face was shining in the afternoon light from the sweat that came down in enough quantity to combine with the dust to form a light sheen of mud, which streaked into his beard. The rest of his skin was dotted with rough patches, burned and peeling.

"You know what time it is?" Brickner asked.

"I don't have a watch."

"I won't take it from you."

"Can't. Someone else did."

"Damn." Brickner looked off toward the horizon where the Dragoon Mountains gave way to the Little Dragoons farther to the west. "Three, maybe four, o'clock," he said. "Who got your watch, then?"

"A sergeant. Back at Jefferson."

"How'd he get it? He just take it off you?"

"Him, three jacks, and a pair of fours."

"And what was you holding?"

"Not enough."

"I reckoned that. What, exactly?"

"Three sevens, if it makes any difference to you."

Brickner snorted and snapped the traces against the haunch of the nearest mule. The team picked up and then settled back to their same pace, man and mule seeming in agreement that this was all to alleviate the boredom of the road. "Take these. Go on, take them. I ain't going to hurt you." Brickner handed Ned the reins while he loaded and fired a long-stemmed clay pipe.

"It does make a difference. A man could go ahead and lose his watch on three sevens. That's bad luck. Bad luck is better than stupid."

"It seems to all come out about the same."

Brickner drew on his pipe as if thinking this over. "Not so. Luck changes. As I see it, stupid is as constant as sunshine."

"Sunshine isn't all that constant."

"It is out here. Sun and stupid don't give up out here. Both of them will kill you as soon as you forget to worry about them. That kepi you got there for instance." He nodded at the short-billed blue cap Ned wore. "Sun going to bake your brains into a johnnycake you wear that Army issue out here. When we get to Bowie, you buy yourself a broad-brimmed hat and save your head."

"I don't have any money left."

"Well, you're dead, then. Hope you liked them whores."

They made their way up a gradual but noticeable ascent, the mules digging them through the path -- hardly a path but a pair of wheel ruts -- past mesquite, yucca, and creosote. Black-banded grama grass grew knee high over everything Ned could see.

They rode mostly in silence. Ned held the canteen between his knees, keeping it capped against the violent lurching of the wagon as it passed over rock and rut, counterpointed by the obscenities of Brickner, who held a bottle of whisky between his knees. He did not offer to share it.

Dear Thad,

It is stranger country than any you could make up or even hope to hear of. There are no real trees, though there are plants that might stand for them. Mostly it is grass and large bushes, perhaps the size of a grand pussy willow, though they lack any of that charm.

Yesterday, I saw plants as tall as any oak or pine at home, but bearing no leaves at all. They were large bare trunks rising straight up with just the occasional branch almost as thick as the trunk about halfway up. Their skin is a thick green hide, near to leather, with ridges of thorn long enough to pierce a finger or hand.

They would seem the very sentries of hell, for it is hot enough here to qualify. From a distance, you would think that the sun had scorched the earth until there was nothing of the surface left. Up close, though, I am surprised to see that everything is full of life, though a hard and scraggly one.

I have seen a rattlesnake, though I was not bitten by it.

I trust you will keep a watchful eye on our mother, whose great sorrow is a burden for her small shoulders. Take care, too, of our father, whose sorrow and anger continues to grow, in great part the result of mine own actions...

The letter broke off in his head, as it always did when he got to the part where he had to ask for the forgiveness he needed. He felt as though his shame were too great a burden to be carried by words. The weight bore on him trem...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781416561194: Shavetail: A Novel

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  1416561196 ISBN 13:  9781416561194
Publisher: Scribner, 2008
Hardcover

9781410409249: Shavetail (Historical Fiction)

Thornd..., 2008
Hardcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley 2010-05-04 (2010)
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Ebooksweb COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley 2010-05-04, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

2.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Vital Products COM LLC
(Southampton, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

3.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Qwestbooks COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

4.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Booklot COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

5.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Bookhouse COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

6.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
BookShop4U
(PHILADELPHIA, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

7.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Mega Buzz
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

8.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Best Bates
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0425234134. Seller Inventory # Z0425234134ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

9.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley Trade
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New Paperback Quantity Available: 4
Seller:
Academic Book Solutions
(Medford, NY, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley Trade. Paperback. Condition: New. New, unread, and unused. Seller Inventory # HORS-1091-1076

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 1.38
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

10.

Cobb, Thomas
Published by Berkley Trade 2010-05-04 (2010)
ISBN 10: 0425234134 ISBN 13: 9780425234136
New Softcover Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
BookOutlet
(Thorold, ON, Canada)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Berkley Trade 2010-05-04, 2010. Softcover. Condition: New. Softcover. Publisher overstock, may contain remainder mark on edge. Seller Inventory # 9780425234136B

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 3.99
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 6.00
From Canada to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book