25 pages 50 minutes read

Annie Proulx

55 Miles to the Gas Pump

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1999

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Character Analysis

Rancher Croom

The story’s first paragraph focuses on Rancher Croom and contains a wealth of details that shed light on his character. With his “handmade boots and filthy hat” (Paragraph 1), Croom appears to live a hardscrabble life that he compensates for with frenetic physicality. He is quick-footed, whether dancing or running “down the cellar stairs to a rack of bottles of his own strange beer” (Paragraph 1). He drinks to excess, he races around on his horse, and one night, he steps over a cliff. Even that does not immediately subdue his vitality, as everything from his arms to his clothing is in motion as he dies. In fact, it is not wholly clear that he does die, as the first paragraph ends with a description of Croom “ris[ing] again to the top of the cliff like a cork in a bucket of milk” (Paragraph 1)—whether literally or figuratively is unclear.

The story’s second paragraph reveals more about Rancher Croom: He was a serial murderer of women for many years, judging by the decayed state of the bodies Mrs. Croom discovers in their attic. He channeled his explosive energies not only into dancing, drinking, and riding his horse but also into murder and (implied) rape.