The rural way is a funny thing. For one, it’s relative.
(Small communities also remind me of The Pace Of Being Known.)
I once spoke to a girl, born and raised in L.A. She thought it was funny she went to a university that was larger than my “hometown.”
When I said that I also went to a university that was larger than my hometown she nearly died at the irony.
I am still not sure I understand her glee about the whole thing.
But the point is that most consider “rural” to mean “small.”
When people talk in this way, it is often a cliche about a town of a few thousand that is a 30-minute car ride to the next town.
I mean, in some ways, I consider Lubbock to be rural. It’s not a “small” town. But it’s five hours in the car to get to a larger town.
That is not what McMurtry is referring to here.
The rural way of his parents and grandparents was more like: There’s not much of a road or fence (west of the Mississippi river) between Mexico and Canada.
Understand: Urban folk don’t get rural folk.
In a Narrow Grave was in effect a kind of summing up of what I had observed during the passing of the rural way: the way of my father and mother and their people. It also happened to be the best-designed book I will ever have. Bill Wittliff was reaching his peak as a book designer just about then.