Page 26. " When she left the set the trap was sitting naked on the ground with only a handful of dirt over the waxed paper covering the pan "

When the Parhams come upon their exposed traps, they are following in the footsteps of Echols, Seton and McBride who all recorded similar instances of a hunted wolf having dug out their traps.

Although one character likens trying to get the best of a wolf with trying to get the best of a child (‘It aint that they’re smarter. It’s just that they aint got all that much else to think about’ [p.27]), this does a disservice to the wolf’s fearsome intelligence and almost preternatural awareness of its surroundings.

The embedded video, taken from PBS’s recreation of Seton’s hunt for the wolf Lobo, includes expert testimony to that intelligence and the difficulty involved in trapping such an animal.


Mexican Grey Wolf
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMexican Grey Wolf - Credit: Eric Kilby

Page 33. " and came upon three vaqueros "
Painting depicting a vaquero roping cattle in 1830s Spanish California
Public DomainPainting depicting a vaquero roping cattle in 1830s Spanish California - Credit: The Old West (Time Life Books)

A vaquero is a Mexican cowboy.

Though popularly considered American, the traditional cowboy began with the Spanish tradition. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate sent an expedition carrying 7000 head of cattle across the Rio Grande River into New Mexico. From this beginning, vaqueros drove cattle from New Mexico and later Texas to Mexico City. Mexican traditions spread both South and North, influencing equestrian traditions from Argentina to Canada.

Page 33. " Adiós compadrito, they said. Hasta la vista "

Goodbye little friend, they said. See you later.

It is not surprising Billy Parham speaks perfect Spanish, growing up with a Mexican grandmother in a state where Hispanics account for 45% of the overall population.

While the use of Spanish adds an extra realism to the novel, it can be a source of frustration for those not fluent in the language.

A translation of individual Spanish words can be found in some bookmarks and in the glossary.

For a translation of longer passages click here.

Page 34. " Well mama we aint got an ox in the ditch but we sure got some heifers in one "

An ox in the ditch refers to a task which can’t be postponed, a phrase derived from Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when questioned about performing miracles on the Sabbath day:

'Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?'  (Luke 14:5.)

Page 35. " These people were burnin. The lake was on fire and they was burnin up "

A lake of fire appears, in both Ancient Egyptian and Christian religion, as place of punishment for the wicked after death. The image was used by Hippolytus of Rome in about the year 200 and continues to be used in Christian theology, appearing in four verses of the Book of Revelation.

Fire and dreams will both come to play an important part in the novel.

Page 37. " While the horse was drinking an old man in a Model A pickup truck pulled up out at the fence "
Ford Model A pickup truck
Creative Commons AttributionFord Model A pickup truck - Credit: John Lloyd

The Ford Model A was the second huge success for the Ford Motor Company, after its predecessor, the Model T. Model As were produced in large numbers and in a variety of styles from 1927 to 1932.

The wider availability of the automobile changed the character of New Mexico, marking the start of large scale immigration to the state from elsewhere in the United States, particularly throughout the years of the Great Depression after programs were put in place to rejuvenate the state.

Page 38. " Got some blueticks out of the Lee Brothers’ line "
Bluetick coonhound
Creative Commons AttributionBluetick coonhound - Credit: bark

The Bluetick Coonhood is a breed of dog, typically bred in the southern United States for hunting rodents and other prey.


The Lee Brothers were renowned dogbreeders in the Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. Ernest Lee, the eldest brother, was one of the instrumental founders of the Bluetick when it was established as a registered breed separate from the English.

Page 38. " There was a mountain lion crossed about a mile down here yesterday evening "
Mountain lion
Public DomainMountain Lion (Puma concolor) - Credit: United States Department of Agriculture

The mountain lion (also known as cougar, puma, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region)  is a large cat native to the Americas.

It has the greatest range of any large wild land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.

Page 40. " He took down a book called Trapping North American Furbearers by S Stanley Hawbaker "

Subtitled ‘A complete guide on trapping all North American Fur bearers for both Amateur and Professional, also bear hunting, tracks and tracking, lures and baits, skinning and handling fur, etc.’ , Hawbaker’s book was first published in 1941 and remains in print today.

Hawbaker describes himself as ‘a naturalist and professional trapper’ on the title page - arguably something of a contradiction in terms given the behaviour of most trappers and hunters during the first half of the 20th century.

Page 41. " the next morning on the road to Animas "

Animas is a small ranching community in west central Hidalgo County. Today, it has a population just over 1,000, which would have been significantly less in the 1940s.


Animas, New Mexico
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAnimas, New Mexico - Credit: BAlvarius

Google Map


Page 47. " He said that the boy should find that place where acts of God and those of man are of a piece. Where they cannot be distinguished "

Spoiler Warning: The following bookmark contains plot information relating to The Crossing.


Don Arnulfo offers Billy the cryptic clue that he should place his traps in ‘Lugares donde el fierro ya ésta en la tierra… Lugares donde ha quemado el fuego’ ('Places where the iron is already in the earth… Places where the fire has burned'); in ‘such places that God sits and conspires in the destruction of that which he has been at such pains to create’ [p.47]. It will be the trap Billy places in the ashes of the vaquero’s campfire which finally catches the wolf.

In No Country For Old Men and The Road, fire is employed as a symbol of hope; but its more destructive elements are brought to the fore in The Crossing. Fire as a motif for destruction and apocalypse recurs throughout the novel, from Boyd’s dream of a lake of fire to the shadow of the atomic bomb towards the end.

Fire as the invention of man, ‘that malignant lesser god’ [p.17] - McCarthy may well have had in mind the Manhattan Project’s Robert Oppenheimer and his famous quotation from the Bhagavad Gita.

Page 48. " People say he is brujo "
Hamatsa shaman undergoing ritual possession, by Edward Curtis (1914)
Public DomainHamatsa shaman undergoing ritual possession, by Edward Curtis (1914) - Credit: Library of Congress

A brujo is a male witch, descending from the Spanish word brujería (witchcraft).

As an amalgamation of various beliefs and practices, the definition of what constitutes a bruja was not fixed, but amongst Hispanic cultures the term invariably held negative connotations. The practice of brujería was feared as a manifestation of evil, and to refer to somebody as a bruja or brujo was essentially to label them an ‘evil doer’.

Don Arnulfo's name comes from the Scandanavian Ernouf, or Arnulf, meaning wolf eagle. This is significant not only because he helps Billy catch the wolf but also because the brujo were considered accomplished shapeshifters, possessing the supernatural ability to transform themselves into various animals.


Page 48. " He has the sin of Satanás. The sin of orgullo "
Illustration of Satan being cast out of Heaven in Paradise Lost (1886), by Gustave Doré
Public DomainIllustration of Satan being cast out of Heaven from Milton's Paradise Lost (1886) - Credit: Gustave Doré
Eve, Serpent and Death (1512), by Hans Baldung
Public DomainEve, Serpent and Death (1512) - Credit: Hans Buldung

Orgullo is Spanish for pride, the sin which brought about Satan’s fall from Heaven.

As an imparter of secret, even forbidden, knowledge, the figure of Don Arnulfo is a reminder that it was Satan who tempted Eve into eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge and that Satan is also known as Lucifer (meaning light-bearer).