Returning from the Vietnam War to his native Savannah, Georgia, David Larson feels as “unremarkable” as when he left. This general sense of detachment is evidenced by his unemotional response to the loss of his parents in a traffic accident during his absence and the subsequent ease with which he distances himself from his sister because of her antiwar sympathies.
Purchasing a used car, David motors west. Chance lands him in Slut’s Hole, Wyoming, after he damages the car’s radiator while shooting at a jackrabbit. Forced to spend two weeks in town until his car is repaired, David acquires, in quick succession, a job and a place to stay. His time is largely divided among his undemanding caretaker chores at a highway rest area, his forays into Laramie with his new friend Howard Dale, and his life on the Sixbury ranch.
At the rest area, David engages in largely mindless tasks punctuated only by the daily arrival of the red-haired, gold-toothed prostitute Cecile, who offers entertainment to truckers, and by the short stopovers of highway motorists such as Damon Zacks, a preacher fascinated by the view from the cliff at the edge of the parking lot. David’s periodic trips to the city of Laramie are marked by barhopping and brawling and by an emotionally empty relationship with Sarah Newman, a counselor in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The heart of his existence, however, is the Sixbury ranch. David develops a close, comfortable relationship not only with Chloe Sixbury, the ranch’s elderly owner, but also with the land. “He liked the people and he loved the terrain,” Everett writes. In addition to helping out with the chores, David involves himself more and more in the affairs of Chloe and her son, Patrick. After discovering Patrick’s use of sheep as a sexual outlet, he convinces Sixbury to drive with him to the town of Casper to hire a prostitute for Patrick. Although she fails to stir Patrick’s interest, Olivia does become the temporary object of David’s concern and of his misdirected desire to redeem a wasted life.
His quest is interrupted by Patrick’s brief scuffle with his mother after she catches him in a sex act in the barn....
(The entire section is 898 words.)