In the dawn, a man (referred to in the Characters list as the digger) progresses over the plain. He makes holes in the ground using a two-handled instrument made of steel, thereby “striking the fire out of the rock which God has put there.” Behind him, wanderers move mechanically from hole to hole, “monitored by escapement and pallet”; they seem prudent and reflective, but they are not. Their movements seem like the validation of causality. Some wanderers seek for bones; others do not. The man strikes fire in another hole and withdraws his instrument. “Then they all move on again.”
The digger seems to be an anonymous hero rising up with fire against the Judge’s night of war. Perhaps he is building a fence, or laying a railroad track, thereby bringing order and lawfulness to the American frontier. The terms “escapement” and “pallet” refer among other things to parts of a typewriter. It is worth noting that the events that inspired Blood Meridian are historical, though not a very well known history. Perhaps the digger is a figure for the novelist himself, striking fire out of the dead holes of history, bearing witness, though it is not at all clear that those following understand.