‘Ghosts, Cowboys’ by Claire Vaye Watkins

I return to this story again and again when I don’t know what or how to write. It gallops through time and history, from story to story, from the Comstock Lode and the very founding of Reno, Nevada, to Spahn Ranch where the narrator’s father came to live with the Manson family, and the narrator’s mother witnessing the Nevada nuclear tests in the 1960s. Much of it is autobiographical (Watkins’ father was indeed in the Manson family), and much of it is non-fictional. The incorporation of the essay form into the short story is one of my favourite things to read. 

Originally published in Hopkins Review, Spring 2009 and available to read here. Collected in Battleborn, 2012, Riverhead/Granta, 2013