WESTERING


“‘It wasn’t Indians that were important, nor adventures, nor even getting out here. It was a whole bunch of people made into one big crawling beast. And I was the head. It was westering and westering. Every man wanted something for himself, but the big beast that was of them wanted only westering. I was the leader, but if I hadn’t been there, someone else would’ve been the head. The thing had to have a head.

Under the little bushes the shadows were black at white noonday. When we saw the mountains at last, we cried – all of us. But it wasn’t getting here that mattered, it was movement and westering.

We carried life out here and set it down the way those ants carry eggs. And I was the leader. The westering was big as God, and the slow steps that made the movement piled up and piled up until the continent was crossed. Then we came down to the sea, and it was done.’ He stopped and wiped his eyes until the rims were red. ‘That’s what I should be telling instead of stories.’

When Jody spoke, Grandfather started and looked down at him. ‘Maybe I could lead the people some day,’ Jody said.

The old man smiled. ‘There’s no place to go. There’s the ocean to stop you. There’s a line of old men along the shore hating the ocean because it stopped them.'”

-Steinbeck, The Red Pony

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