• Outside magazine photo by Dan Winters

  • “Letting me go dovetailed nicely with Dad’s conviction, which I’ve seen grow over the years as car seats became mandatory and helmets proliferated … that being a good parent means guarding against being too careful.”

    — “This Is How We Roll”

  • Still from “Eat Like What You Eat,” by Tak Cheung

  • Detail of “Interior with Meat,” a painting by Alex Kanevsky

  • “Undressed and goofing around, we no longer looked like government employees: GS-5s, GS-7s, and GS-9s. Naked we resembled something else: a group of predators presiding over the slaughter of vast herds far too numerous for us to eat ourselves; industrial slaughter is predation writ large.”

    — “The Way of All Flesh”

  • Photo: Nicholas deVore III

  • “ ‘Well, at least you got the best of life/Until it got the best of you’ a song consoled a hobo who fell off a train and died. Few could claim as much, I thought; I wanted them to be able to say that about me.”

    — Rolling Nowhere

  • My class at corrections academy.

  • “Then tell me, Conover, if I understand correctly. It says in this article that the government is planning right now for the new prisons they’re going to need in ten or twelve years. I got that right?” Again I nodded.

    “That’s wrong.”

    “What’s wrong about planning ahead?”

    “Because, dig this: anyone planning a prison they’re not going to build for ten or fifteen years is planning for a child. Planning prison for somebody who’s a child right now. So you see? They’ve already given up on that child!”— Newjack

  • Government truck yard, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • “Teo,” asked Jesús, “how do you say it when a girl is wearing perfume? What do you say to her? I like your smell? Is that it?”

    “I like the way you sm —– ?”

    “Yes, yes, that’s it, ‘I like the way you smell,’” he interrupted. “Well, you know what I said to my girlfriend there one night?”

    Jesús had dated a number of American girls, none of whom spoke Spanish. I shook my head.

    “We were driving in the owner’s car—that old Cadillac he gave us—and she smelled good, so I took her real close, like this, and I said, ‘Baby, I like the way you stink.”

    — Coyotes

  • Just in from Sonoita, waiting for a ride in Phoenix.

  • “ ‘I don’t want to be rude,’ I said to her, ‘but I really would like to live to the end of this trip.’ We consulted, and soon Li Lu announced from the back seat that we both really wished Mr. Zhu would slow down a bit. Zhu looked at me sidelong and then, if anything, speeded up.”

    — The Routes of Man

  • Pausing for a view over the Yellow River.

  • “At chow that evening, somebody commented that the [tear gas] exposure had caused ‘the worst pain I ever had.’ I thought about that, and about the instructor’s remark—kinds of pain, kinds of bad memories. For a pain of fifteen-minute duration, this was probably the worst. But I’d had worse pain, duller and more long-lasting, from various injuries. And how did you compare these nerve-related pains with heartache, or with the pain—call it soulache—of imprisonment, the kind of pain, no one seemed interested to observe, that we were going to administer in our chosen profession?”

    — Newjack

  • Walking the ice road in Zanskar.

  • “A blocked road is a thwarted intention.”

    — The Routes of Man

  • Crossing the Andes in rainy season.

  • “I hit the rails to learn and because, as Lonny said, when you become afraid to die, you become afraid to live.”

    — Rolling Nowhere

Latest from the Blog

June 18th, 2014 Comment

This Is How We Roll

Asa on a grainer in Wyoming.

Before I had kids, I used to wonder what would happen when they read my books. What kind of example was I setting with some of the chances I was taking? Early last year, my son read Rolling Nowhere, my account of riding freights with hoboes. First he said he liked it. Then a week [...]