The second crossing ends with Billy returning to New Mexico without his brother and without a chance to fight for his country leaving him with little option but to make a third crossing of the border.
Having kept the story moving at a steady pace McCarthy suddenly puts the foot down and in a couple of pages speeds through three years of Billy’s life as he gets to the point where he is ready to make the journey back to Mexico.
He leaves for the second time after his brother Boyd, who he had tried to help recover from a shot in the back, disappears with the girl they had met together earlier in their travels. Boyd makes Billy promise that he will go and fetch the girl and then after three days Billy wakes to find them both gone.
He searches for them for a while but inevitably ends up drifting back towards home and arrives at the border crossing to be told the war has started. Despite three attempts he is turned down for military service because of a heart murmur and then wanders for three years working at ranches all over the place.
He finally decides to go back and try to find Boyd but retracing the steps they took those years before is initially a fruitless activity. Then he is told that his brother died and the girl disappeared but you sense that the truth might be different otherwise the future looks bleak for loner Billy.
There is a real sense with the placing of a date – the Second World War – that the sound of horse’s hooves clicking down the street is already something from a different time. The old ranchers have to suffer the death of their sons on far away battlegrounds and the age of cowboys is coming to an end. The only refugee is to head to Mexico where things are slightly removed from the world and the ways of the past do not seem to be so unusual.
More, maybe the end, will come tomorrow…