Uncle and Shrike / Merrill Gilfillan

—with sumac candelabra

They were camped on the Arikaree River, six cars and six tents in a small palm of a place out of the wind. They had been there a few weeks, judging from the camp sprawl and the flat of the grass. They drove old Cadillacs and Continentals showing rust along the running boards—onetime Tory clans from the looks of it. We—my uncle and I—were pitched up on a knoll directly across the river.

My uncle surveyed them with binoculars now and then, our first days there, sized up their little camp, and finally deciphered their license plates. And one morning we cut down through the brushy `bottom and crossed the near-dry river to talk. They came from Pennsylvania and had been on the move for a year and a half now. They were jokey, good-tempered people; we could hear them laughing on and off throughout the day and every evening they built two big fires and played canasta or gin rummy on card tables set up tandem between them with greasy brown bags of popcorn on the side…


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