Dall Summary

Synopsis

In Pam Houston's short story "Dall," the narrator is on her way to Alaska to assist her hunter-guide boyfriend, Boone. The narrator states at the beginning of this story that she is neither violent nor does she shoot anything. On top of this, she also does not like to be cold. Nonetheless, she agrees to go along on this trip despite the fact that she will be sacrificing all the creature comforts that she has become used to.

She and Boone set up a living space in a small cabin. But they will not be staying there for long. Once a paying customer shows up, they pack up their gear and head for the outdoors. They will be gone until their customer shoots an animal, which might be one or several days. Their main focus is on Dall sheep. Boone promises her that if the hunter is experienced, the death of the sheep will not seem brutal. It will be fast with little pain.

The narrator says that she and Boone made a good team, except when they fought. Their fights were often spectacular; more often than not, they argued not in the open field but rather only once they were safe and secure in their cabin, or any other place that offered them warmth and shelter. They did best when their lives were threatened by extreme cold, treacherous terrain, or by wild animals. While out in the wild, they also had their best sex. They waited until their hunter-customer started to s nore, then they would have raucous relations.

They had four hunters that season. Some were better than others. One merely wounded a ram and the animal's death was long and painful, nothing like what Boone had said it would be. But by the end of the season, the narrator had become less attached to the animals that were shot, a major change in her initial attitude. The first time they had come close to Dall sheep, the narrator had done her best to shoo them away so they would not be killed.

Houston's "Dall" was published in her first short story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, in 1992.  Often praised for her straightforward writing style, Houston is also lauded for how personal her stories are. Writing for the Denver Post, William Porter said it is because Houston creates characters from her own life experiences that make these "some of the most winning stories in recent American letters."

Ed. Scott Locklear