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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 722

The anthropologist introduces a young Mero to sex by showing him Native-American stone drawings of female genitalia.

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Louise Corn
Louise calls Mero to let him know about his brother’s death. She expresses concern over Mero’s choice to drive from Massachusetts to Wyoming, instead of flying.

Mero Corn
Mero Corn is an old man haunted by his ranching past, which he must face when he drives to his brother’s funeral—a journey that ultimately kills him. Sixty years before the story begins, at the age of twenty-three, Mero fled his family’s Wyoming ranch and has never thought about going back until he hears that his brother is dead. Mero has tried many ways of escaping his past, including becoming a vegetarian, serving in World War II, and getting rich through investments. However, during the journey, he is plagued by painful memories that chip away at the calm, confidence, and mental awareness that he has built up since leaving the ranch. Most of these memories concern his father’s girlfriend, a woman whom Mero describes as having horselike characteristics. In a nightmare, Mero associates horse breeding with the act of slaughtering cattle, a disturbing image that helps him decide to leave the ranch for good the next morning. He also leaves because he has witnessed Rollo’s desire for the girlfriend, and Mero wants to have a woman of his own. The journey back to the funeral does not go as planned. Mero gets a traffic ticket, has his first car accident, and eats food that does not agree with him. By the time he reaches Wyoming, the long journey and the painful memories have left Mero weak, hungry, and confused. As a result, he is unable to find his family’s ranch and ends up getting stuck in the snow when he makes a wrong turn. He mistakenly tries to get the car back on the main road, breaking the car’s window and killing the engine in the process. At the end, frozen and delusional, Mero realizes that he is dying and envisions death as the half-skinned steer from one of the girlfriend’s stories.

Rollo Corn
Rollo Corn is Mero’s brother, who is killed by an emu on the family ranch, which has been turned into an Australian-themed attraction. The news of Rollo’s death prompts Mero to take his crosscountry road trip to attend his brother’s funeral. This journey prompts bad memories of his ranch experiences, including Rollo’s attraction to his father’s girlfriend, and these memories make Mero weak and susceptible to his tragic fate.

Mero’s Father
Mero’s father is an old man who lets the family ranch deteriorate, while he gets a postal job and spends his free time in an alcoholic haze. Mero and his brother, Rollo, wish that their father, who is often referred to as the old man, would move in with his girlfriend so that Mero and Rollo could reclaim the ranch. Instead, the old man’s girlfriend stays with the Corn men, where she openly flirts with Mero and Rollo. Mero’s father does not notice or does not care, and this attitude helps inspire Mero to leave the ranch—and Wyoming—to find his own woman.

Mero’s Father’s Girlfriend
Mero’s father’s girlfriend, sometimes referred to in the story as simply the girlfriend, influences Mero’s decision to leave the ranch at twenty-three. The woman, whom Mero describes in horse-like terms, creates tension among the Corn men, since she is officially Mero’s father’s girlfriend but flirts with Rollo and Mero, too. However, Rollo is the only one who expresses interest, since Mero wants a woman of his own. The girlfriend tells many stories about Tin Head, a poor rancher with a defective metal plate in his head, which affects his brain functions. One story in particular, the tale about the half-skinned steer, prompts Mero to have a nightmare, and he leaves the ranch the next morning.

Tin Head
Tin Head is a character in Mero’s father’s girlfriend’s story; he believes that he is cursed when a half-skinned steer escapes and the mutilated animal fixes him with a hateful stare. Tin Head has a galvanized metal plate in his head, which affects his brain functions.

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