Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Tom runs into Benny and another tracker at the foot of Horse Mountain. He returns to town with them. Now fluent in English, he stops speaking Ute permanently, marking the alienation he feels from his former life in the wild. Still, the boy only talks when someone speaks to him, never initiating a conversation himself.
Ed takes Tom into his cobblerís shop once again, and the boy settles into civilized town life. In spite of his quiet, routine existence, time seems to fly past as fall fades into winter and then into spring. In late March, preparations are being made for the Bear Dance. Tomís intuition tells him that "his" bear would actually visit the town during the festivities.
Tom waits for the bear. Then one day, he sees the bear approaching and runs towards it, singing the bear song. When the bear approaches, Tom screams at it in Ute, telling it to go back to the mountains or it will be shot. The bear whines and then leaves moaning. Tom walks with the bear through the trees as others watch the scene in silence. When Tom returns to town, nobody ever says a word about what has happened between him and the bear.
To mark that Tom has truly made a break with the past, the author has him stop speaking in his native tongue, the Ute language; it is almost like he has given up his identity as an Indian. Although he can speak English fluently, the dejected Tom only talks when someone asks him something.
When spring arrives and preparations for the Bear Dance are being made, Tom begins to anticipate that his bear cub will return to find him after emerging from his hibernation. One day, Tom does see the bear lumbering into town. With great sadness and emotion, Tom tells the bear, in the Ute language, that it must go back to the mountains or risk being shot. The bear seems to understand, for it whines and turns to depart. For a distance, Tom walks with the bear through the trees. He is upset, for he knows that this is probably the last time he will ever see "his" bear cub. In truth, Tom kills a part of himself when he asks the bear to leave, losing himself and his identity in the bargain.
When he returns to town, Tom does not say a word about the bear or what has happened, but the encounter has made a mark on him. There is a turbulence in his soul, which is reflected in his face. He suddenly looks like a deeply troubled man instead of a teenage boy.
Neil Swanson tries to make Tom into a plowboy, but farming has no appeal to his Indian mentality. When Swanson catches him making careless or intentional errors, he punishes him by sending Tom to clean the barn and milk the cows, which Tom despises. Another time the cows get into a cornfield and eat their fill. When the corn makes them sick, Tom is punished by Swanson by making him herd wild horses. Amazingly, Tom likes this new work, for he is out in nature, which he loves. He even tries to tame and ride some of the unbroken horses. When Benny catches him atop one of the wild broncos, he is taken off the job and sent back to the cow barn. Then in the spring, Tom is sent to Albert Left Hand to learn how to be a shepherd.
Unlike the days on his own in the wild, Tom is no longer in control of his own life. He is sent from one job to another at the whim of Swanson or Benny. He finds that he dislikes everything about farming; as a result, he makes many mistakes, for which he is punished by being sent to clean the cow barn. When he is finally allowed to be a herder of horses, he is good at the job and happy with the work. Through persistence, trial, and error, he even begins to tame some of the wild horses. This experience will influence his later life. Unfortunately, Benny is upset when he sees Tom riding one of the wild horses. As a result, he sends the boy to Albert Left Hand to become a shepherd.