ATPH and NCFOM connection

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  • 07 Oct 2017 at 2:35 pm #9834


    I’ve not seen this discussed before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been. Either way, I noticed a connection between ATPH and NCFOM on the last re-read.

    In Horses, when John Grady Cole is speaking to the judge at the very end of the book, the judge says to him, “I sent a boy from this county to the electric chair in Huntsville in nineteen thirty-two. I think about that. I dont think he was a pretty good old boy. But I think about it. Would I do it again? Yes I would” (292).

    Country opens with, “I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville…And I’ve thought about that a lot” (1).

    07 Oct 2017 at 3:44 pm #9835

    Richard L.

    I’ve never seen that connection pointed out before, and while I used to read all of the McCarthy crit-lit, it is an impossible task for me these days.

    Some of us were privileged to read NCFOM in pre-publication proof format. I recall that someone–and I’m thinking it was McCarthy scholar Edwin (Chip) Arnold–pointed out that Texas had never used the gaschamber and they had stopped using the electric chair in times contemporary with NCFOM, so word was passed to McCarthy’s agent and publisher of a possible anachronism. Word came back from his agent’s office that McCarthy was just trying to keep readers on their toes, or some-such. My memory is not certain of the wording, only the impression that I am recalling now.

    But, given the intertextuality of his novels in general, it is certainly interesting, as is the year. It might be possible to find a list of the Huntsville executions for 1932, and to see if McCarthy had some particular hombre in mind.

    [edit] Here we go:

    76 Alfred Jackson Black 51 M 08-Jan-1932 Murder
    77 Ira McKee White 33 M 08-Jan-1932 Robbery and Murder
    78 Jake White Black 45 M 01-Apr-1932 Robbery and Murder
    79 James Williams Black 28 M 20-May-1932 Murder
    80 Earnest Johnson Black 21 M 05-Aug-1932 Robbery and Murder
    81 Estamistado Lopez Hispanic 30 M 10-Jun-1932 Murder
    82 Charlie Grogans Black 25 M 28-Jul-1932 Rape
    83 John Green Black 19 M 05-Aug-1932 Robbery and Murder
    84 Richard Brown Black 20 M 10-Aug-1932 Murder, Rape and Robbery
    85 Richard Johnson Black 31 M 10-Aug-1932 Murder, Rape and Robbery

    Only one white man, it seems. Ira McKee, age 33. I subscribe to the newspaper archives, and maybe I’ll do a search next time I’m on the site, just to see what he did and look for coincidences. It’s probably nothing.

    [edit again] Amazing what you can find out in just a few clicks.

    Ira McKee, who was executed Jan, 18, 1932, might have avoided capture for a May 1, 1930 murder if he hadn’t smarted off to a farmer.

    McKee robbed a gas station in Sparenburg of the $2.50 in its till — about $35 today adjusted for inflation.

    A man heard the noise and charged out of his house with a shotgun. McKee shot him four times and drove away.

    Law enforcement officers heard rumors the killer was from Hobbs, but Lubbock County’s sheriff, Wade Hardy, thought otherwise after officers had a gunfight with an unidentified man near Ranger.

    McKee’s fatal error was in stiffing a Henderson County farmer who helped him pull his car out of the mud in mid-May.

    He offered the farmer $5 for the assistance of his horses. After the car was on dry ground, he said to the farmer, “See you in the funny papers. I was joking about the five dollars,” according to press accounts.

    The farmer wrote down the license number which connected to Lubbock County, and called the sheriff hoping to track the car down and collect the money.

    Hardy used the information to determine the car had been moved from Lubbock County to a farm near Athens, in Henderson County.

    Ultimately, Hardy’s chief deputy went to Athens and arrested McKee.

    I think if McCarthy had used Ira McKee’s story in his fiction it would work out something like this: he would have had a large man in a dark suit show up at the execution. McKee, assuming the man to be clergy, asks him if he is clergy come to pray for him.

    No the man says. I’m that farmer you owe five dollars. The room clears and they throw the switch. The executed man’s mouth opens as if in laughter, mock hilarious. The farmer waves him a goodbye, as if to say he’d see him in the funny papers.


    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Richard L..
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Richard L..
    09 Oct 2017 at 4:36 pm #9838

    Richard L.

    I might also point out here, although the first edition of NCFOM has gaschamber, as above, later after Moss picks up the hitchhiker, he tells her that he is just out of the pen where he had his head shaved for the electric chair.

    Details, details. . .

    13 Oct 2017 at 1:06 pm #9845

    Candy Minx

    Wow. This was very very exciting…and I can not believe how this didn’t come up before or if it did…I don’t remember.

    13 Oct 2017 at 8:36 pm #9846


    Harrogate talks about being saved from an inevitable date with the electric chair in an early draft of Suttree from an excised scene involving the Rev. Green. It’s a funny scene as Harrogate recounts to the parishioners, in excrutiating detail, some of the crazy trouble he’s managed to get himself into over the years. About midway through this public confession, someone in the crowd says, “Tell it all, brother.” So good. Great stuff. I don’t recall if Harrogate mentions the electric chair in the published novel.

    14 Oct 2017 at 9:38 am #9848


    It should also be mentioned that the No Country for Old Men Huntsville gas chamber “error” was also corrected in the pirated version of the screenplay for The Counselor that many of us have seen. On 69th page of 116 unnumbered pages WESTRAY says, “Your head tends to get muddled at the prospect of death and dismemberment, doesn’t it? What is it that you imagine she won’t she won’t say to stay out of the electric chair at Huntsville?” This line was not used in the published version of the screenplay (2013), but it would likely have appeared on p. 111 had it been used.

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