“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” — Annie Proulx

“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” is a very short story by Annie Proulx.

Rancher Croom in handmade boots and filthy hat, that walleyed cattleman, stray hairs like the curling fiddle string ends, that warm-handed, quick-foot dancer on splintery boards or down the cellar stairs to a rack of bottles of his own strange beer, yeasty, cloudy, bursting out in garlands of foam, Rancher Coom at night galloping drunk over the dark plain, turning off at a place he knows to arrive at a canyon brink where he dismounts and looks down on tumbled rock, waits, then steps out, parting the air with his last roar, sleeves surging up, windmill arms, jeans riding over boot tops, but before he hits he rises again to the top of the cliff like a cork in a bucket of milk.

Mrs. Croom on the roof with a saw cutting a hole into the attic where she has not been for twelve years thanks to old Croom’s padlocks and warnings, whets to her desire, and the sweat flies as she exchanges the saw for a chisel and hammer until a ragged slab peak is free and she can see inside: just as she thought: the corpses of Mr. Croom’s paramours – she recognizes them from their photographs in the paper: MISSING WOMAN – some desiccated as jerky and much the same color, some moldy from lying beneath roof leaks, and, all of them used hard, covered with tarry handprints, the marks of boot heels, some bright blue with remnants of paint used on the shutters years ago, one wrapped in newspaper nipple to knee.

When you live a long way out you make your own fun.


10 thoughts on ““55 Miles to the Gas Pump” — Annie Proulx”

  1. In this story, I believe the detailed description of Rancher Croom is one given in sarcasm. I believe Annie Proulx writes this story to demonstrate the point of not judging a book by the cover. Her description is strictly of the outward appearance. The author shows in her story that Rancher Croom is an alcoholic without much of a day life. He drinks in the evening and rides the plains at night. She gives no detail of his financial stability, so I believe his condition now is one that has developed over time. He seems to be a troubled man, but is not making any attempts to improve his life.

    Mrs. Croom, has grown weary with having been a semi-prisoner in her home, One surprise for me is that she had not been in the attic of her home for twelve years. Having heeded Rancher Croom’s warnings and the padded doors of the attic. Finally she could no longer resist the urges to see into that attic. Most surprising to me is what she saw there. This vision the author describes eliminates any humor from this story. She described the bodies of dead women. She notes them as being desiccated and jerky. And the fact some were stained with paint from years ago is farther evidence that they had been in that attic for a very long time. Most surprising is Mrs. Crooms last statement. Having called the corpses Mr. Crooms paramours, gives me the feeling that she had knowledge of Mr. Crooms activities with these women. She may have been an active participant.


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