Page 52. " When he rode through Cloverdale it was just gray light "

Cloverdale began around 1889, when the Victor Land and Cattle Company purchased the nearby Cloverdale Ranch. After other ranches sprang up the community became known as Cloverdale. At its height, the town had a population of about two hundred people.

Now a deserted ghost town, all that remains is an old store, an abandoned flagstone house and the wooden dance pavilion which Billy passes in the novel.


Cloverdale ghost town
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumCloverdale ghost town - Credit: Paul Boyd

Google Map


Page 52. " The drag had caught in a cholla "

Cholla garden
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCholla garden - Credit: Florian Boyd

A cholla is a type of cactus native to North, Central and South America.They vary in size from tiny plants only noticeable when blooming to small trees about 10 feet in height.

The cane cholla is the most common species of cholla in New Mexico. It is a bushy cactus with spiny, finely barbed stems which are notoriously difficult to remove from flesh.


Page 54. " When he got the loop in his hand he had to pay the whole forty feet of rope back through the honda and begin again "
Demonstration of lasso
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDemonstration of lasso - Credit: Deutsche Fotothek‎

A honda is a type of knot used to make a lariat or lasso.

The knot closes as strain is applied to the edges of the rope allowing for the securing of an animal from distance.



Page 72. " he had an old Saltillo blanket "
Young woman wearing serape (c. 1901)
Public DomainYoung woman wearing serape (c. 1901) - Credit: Jacob Fowzer

Saltillo blanket is a form of traditional serape made in the Mexican state of Coahuila in north-eastern Mexico, near the city of Saltillo.

Saltillo blanket patterns often consist of a dark base colour with bands of yellow, orange, red, blue, green, purple or other bright colours.

Page 72. " like some pale djinn "
Djinn as depicted in the Kitab al-Bulhan (14th century)
Public DomainDjinn as depicted in the Kitab al-Bulhan (14th century) - Credit: Oxford Digital Library
Relief of Assyrian djinn (c. 716–713 BC)
Public DomainRelief of Assyrian djinn (c. 716–713 BC) - Credit: Paul-Émile Botta

Djinn, or genies, are demons in Arabic mythology which are said to occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. Together, djinn, humans and angels make up the three sentient creations of Allah.

Linking back to the novel’s motif of fire, the Qur’an describes the djinn as beings made of smokeless flame or 'the fire of a scorching wind'.

Page 72. " As if the darkness had a soul itself that was the sun’s assassin hurrying to the west as once men did believe, as they may believe again "
15th century Aztec Sun Stone sculpture
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike15th century Aztec Sun Stone sculpture - Credit: Ancheta Wis

Reverance towards the sun and an instinctual fear of darkness has probably been with us since the dawn of man. Myths relating to the sun are a feature of almost every human civilization on record.

The Aztecs famously sacrificed thousands of human victims in the belief that their Sun God Huitzilopōchtli required a constant supply of blood to replenish the energy he spent throughout his continual battle with the darkness.

Page 73. " He made his camp in the lee of an arroyo "
Arroyo near Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeArroyo near Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico - Credit: Floyd Muad'Dib

An arroyo (Spanish for brook) is a dry river, creek or stream bed that temporarily or seasonally fills and flows after sufficient rain.

Page 73. " A world construed out of blood and blood's alcahest "
The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone by Joseph Wright (1771)
Public DomainThe Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, by Joseph Wright (1771) - Credit: Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Alkahest (McCarthy sometimes employs archaic spelling or one all of his own devising) was a mystical substance sought after by alchemists.

The name is thought to have been invented by the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus, who believed the element alkahest was the elusive Philosopher’s Stone.

As alkahest was said to possess the ability to dissolve all other substances it presented the problem of containing the substance since it would inevitably dissolve the container.


Page 75. " Spare grass and ocotillo "
An ocotillo in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAn ocotillo in Joshua Tree National Park, California - Credit: PatríciaR
Ocotillo flowers blooming at Saguaro National Monument, Arizona
Creative Commons AttributionOcotillo flowers blooming at Saguaro National Monument, Arizona - Credit: Debbie

Ocotillo is a desert plant of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. For much of the year, the plant appears dead, until rainfall when the ocotillo sprouts small leaves. Bright crimson flowers appear after heavier rainfall in spring and summer.