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SHORT PLOT / CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The novel tells the coming of age story of Tom, a Ute Indian who is raised in the wilderness by his parents. When they die when he is still young, he adopts the old Ute ways and builds a lodge for himself and lives off the land. Blue Elk, however, forces him to go back to the reservation, where he must attend school for the first time. In truth, Blue Elk had no interest in Tomís well-being; he really just wanted to steal the things in Tomís lodge.
Living back in civilization is very alien to Tom, and he finds life on the reservation and in the white manís world very difficult, largely because people are always telling him what to think, feel, and do. Because of the control he experiences, Tom feels constantly frustrated and suppressed; he even believes he has lost his own identity. In response, he grows very angry.
Tomís anger leads him to a rough career. Seeing his toughness, Red Dillon offers to train Tom as a bronco rider. He spends most of his life touring with Dillon. Even after his mentor dies, Tom continues in bronco riding and becomes well-known. When he has a major accident, he is forced into early retirement from the ring. He returns to Pagosa and accepts a job as a sheep herder. Spending much of his time alone in the mountains with the sheep, he questions who he really is. One day he has a dream in which the Indian All-Mother calls him her son; it changes his life.
Tom makes peace with himself; he then apologizes to the All- Mother for forgetting his Ute roots and running from the place where he belongs. In response, he builds another lodge on Granite Peak and makes everything he needs to live. He vows never again to forget the ways his parents have taught him. He will live the rest of his life with pride in his heritage.