‘Job History’ by Annie Proulx

Job History by Annie Proulx, 1999

The magic trick:

Creating a biography out of only a man’s work history

Another great story from Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories collection.

“Job History” delivers on its title by distilling a man’s biography down to a record of the various work he takes over the years. Leeland, as you may guess, is not particularly successful throughout this job history. What’s interesting though is that the resume so effectively gives the reader insight into his character. It’s not simply a Linkedin profile; there is enough detail into the motivation behind the decisions and job changes to let the reader feel as if they’ve gotten to know Leeland.

And that’s quite a trick on Proulx’s part.

The selection:

Lori is good at saving money and she has put aside a small nest egg. They set up in business for themselves. Leeland believes people will be glad to trade at a local ranch supply store that saves a long drive into town. He rents the service station from Mrs. Egge who has not been able to sell it after Ed’s death. They spruce it up, Leeland doing all the carpenter work, Lori painting the interior and exterior. On the side Leeland raises hogs with his father. His father was born and raised in Iowa and knows hogs.

It becomes clear that people relish the long drive to a bigger town where they can see something different, buy fancy groceries, clothing, bakery goods as well as ranch supplies. One intensely cold winter when everything freezes from God to gizzard, Leeland and his father lose 112 hogs. They sell out. Eighteen months later the ranch supply business goes under. The new color television set goes back to the store.

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