Deep Dive: The Buffalo Runner

Steve Carr's Chronicle story, The Buffalo Runner, is a classic, straightforward read that uses simple language and narrative techniques to build something greater than the sum of its individual parts. We love this story for its description of place, its level of detail, and the way that it generates emotion through physical action.

The beauty of Carr's story opens up from the first paragraph, "Joe lived alone in a trailer on a stretch of prairie amidst a sea of yellow prairie grass." This description immediately grounds the reader in the place, which is critical to this story's success. The Buffalo Runner is a story about movement, about physical interaction, about distances and empty spaces. Rustbucket's repeated presence outside Joe's trailer is meaningful because there is so much other space that Rustbucket could easily occupy. 

The emotional impact comes out of this relationship - the bond we have with animals that can never be fully explained. The great openness of the prairie and Rustbucket's determination to see Joe, day in and day out, eventually catches up with him. After having spent three days running through the great distances with Rustbucket by his side, Joe loses track of the buffalo on the fourth. 

When we learn, alongside Joe, that Rustbucket has died in a twist of fence, trying to get to Joe days before, the emotional impact doesn't come from knowing Joe's thoughts or feelings. Because of this story's straightforward style, we experience Rustbucket's death for ourselves, as if we were in Joe's shoes. Rather than dwelling on this fact, the story just ends, leaving us without an answer as to how Joe will react - the important thing is that we've experienced it ourselves.

You've read the analysis, now read The Buffalo Runner on Chronicle.

About the author:

Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had nearly sixty short stories published in various journals and magazines. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. His plays have been staged in several states. he lives in Richmond, VA.