Montana 1948

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Milkweed Editions edition of Montana 1948 published in 1993.
Prologue Quotes

A story that is now only mine to tell. I may not be the only witness left—there might still be someone in that small Montana town who remembers the events as well as I, but no one knew all three of these people better. And no one loved them more.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden, Marie Little Soldier
Page Number: xvi
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Prologue to the novel, David Hayden lays out the plan of the book in clear, lucid terms. David was a child during the events he's going to tell us about, and now he's an adult--so his recollections of the events might be imperfect. Nevertheless, David feels a need to tell his story again: the story concerns people he loved dearly, and so by telling his story, he'll be honoring their memory. 

David is an important character in the novel because he's both an active participant in and a passive observer of the events. His main duty is to record the past--as a historian, he'll examine the evidence, in the process uncovering some information that certain people might like to forget. David suggests that the story is "his," not only because of his proximity to the people involved, but because he loved the people involved.


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Chapter 1 Quotes

The harshness of the land and the flattening effect of wind and sky probably accounted for the relative tranquility of Mercer County. Life was simply too hard…nothing was left over for raising hell or making trouble.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, David immediately draws a connection between the people of Mercer County, Montana, and the natural world. The environment itself is harsh and desolate--there's not much around but wind and dust. Humans have had to fight a long battle with the natural world in order to build civilization in this part of Montana. Such a battle is so long and difficult that there's not much time left over for "mischief." In other words, Mercer County is a calm, tranquil place because everyone works so hard just to get by.

The passage is suspenseful, even theatrical, because it immediately suggests that there was, in fact, some "trouble" in Montana--and that's what David is going to tell us about. And yet, as David will show, much of the "trouble" in Mercer County took place in secret, beneath this facade of tranquility and hard work. As David matures, he'll become more aware of the secret evils taking place in his beloved hometown.

As long as my father was going to be a sheriff, a position with so much potential for excitement, danger, and bravery, why couldn’t some of that promise be fulfilled?

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Wesley Hayden, David's father. Wesley isn't at all like the stereotypical sheriffs David has met in "cowboy and Indian" Westerns--on the contrary, he's polite, laid back, and generally mild-mannered. In this, Wesley seems to be a disappointment his son: David wants a father who fights heroic battles and arrests lots of criminals.

In short, David is bored. He wishes that his life in Montana were a little more interesting--as far as he can tell, nothing of any importance happens anywhere nearby. As David learns more about his community, though, he'll come to realize that there is, in fact, a great deal of crime going on beneath the surface--and furthermore, he'll come to see how childish and narrow-minded his longings for violence and crime (and his ideas about heroism) were all along.

The sheriff of Mercer County was elected, but such was my grandfather’s popularity and influence—and the weight of the Hayden name—that it was enough for my grandfather to say…now I want my son to have this job…It would never have occurred to my father to refuse.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Grandpa Hayden (Julian)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David explains that his family is, essentially, Montana royalty. David's grandfather, Julian Hayden, is a well-known figure, prosperous and well-respected. As a result, David's father, Wesley, has a lot to live up to: he wants to impress his father and honor the Hayden name. Thus, when Julian pulls some strings to ensure that Wesley will become the next sheriff, Wesley has to accept: he doesn't want to disappoint his dad.

The passage shows the first hints of corruption in town. For now, the corruption is pretty "standard," just some "good ole boy" nepotism (a father getting his son a good job, but potentially ousting others who were more qualified). And yet the passage shows signs of a tension in the Hayden family: Wesley is loyal and indebted to his family, but he also seems to resent his father telling him what to do at all times. Deliberately, Watson doesn't tell us right away what the crime in Montana was--he leaves us to guess. For now, it seems possible that the crime might have had something to do with Wesley and his father.

I never wondered then, as I do now, why a college didn’t snap up an athlete like Ronnie. Then, I knew, without being told, as if it were knowledge that I drank in the water, that college was not for Indians.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Ronnie Tall Bear
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David mentions some of the racism and bigotry inherent in Montana society in the 1940s. David knew of a young Native American man named Ronnie Tall Bear, who was an exceptionally gifted athlete. Ronnie would have made a fine athlete at any number of great colleges--and yet, David recalls, Ronnie never attended a college. At the time, David didn't think too deeply about why Ronnie never went to college; he just accepted that college wasn't a place for Native Americans like Ronnie. Now, it seems perfectly obvious to question why Ronnie would never have been allowed in a college--and to see the unwritten racist rules of higher education and society itself. Thus, the passage conveys the extent of the apartheid state in America in the 1940s: certain races and ethnicities simply weren't treated fairly.

“Are you telling me this because I’m Frank’s brother? Because I’m your husband? Because I’m Marie’s employer?...or because I’m the sheriff?”

Related Characters: Wesley Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden, Marie Little Soldier, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wesley becomes aware that his brother, Frank, may have been molesting Native American patients. Wesley's wife, Gail, has been talking to Marie Little Soldier, a Native American woman whom Frank may have molested recently. Wesley is at first reluctant to believe that his charismatic, heroic brother could be a criminal. He lashes out at Gail, asking her why she's telling him about his brother. He wonders if Gail is speaking to him as Frank's brother, the sheriff, Marie's boss, etc.

In short, the passage shows Wesley in the grips of an identity crisis. He isn't sure what he is: should he define himself by his profession, his father, his brother, etc.? By investigating his brother's indiscretions, Wesley will have to come to terms with family loyalty and unbiased justice, and he'll also learn to carve out an identity for himself.

I was beginning already to think of Uncle Frank as a criminal…Charming, affable Uncle Frank was gone for good.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Frank Hayden
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

David begins to believe what his mother has been saying about Frank: that he's a molester of his patients, abusing his relationship with Native Americans. It's worth noting how quickly David changes his mind about Frank--it happens almost immediately. David isn't quite old enough to understand the nature of Frank's sexual improprieties (he barely understands his own sexuality, much less his uncle's), but merely witnessing his parents' fraught exchange about Frank has already changed the image of "Uncle Frank" in David's mind forever. The old idea of the "charming, affable Uncle Frank" whom David was unquestionably loyal to was a kind of innocence for David, and once that innocence has been lost--even if it turns out that the charges against Frank are baseless--it can never be wholly gotten back.

He was not only her husband, he was a brother…brother to a pervert!

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David becomes aware of his father's resemblance to Uncle Frank--a man David now suddenly regards as a sexual pervert. David notices that his father is calmly eating a piece of pie--a strange behavior, considering how recently he found out about Marie's molestation. Furthermore, David is disgusted by Wesley's resemblance to Frank, and suddenly finds it impossible to look his father in the face.

The passage is interesting because it shows David adopting an instinctive moral pose. He seems to be judging his father for acting so casually--suggesting that David has matured almost overnight because of the incident with Frank. Furthermore, while David's response to his father's resemblance to Frank is a little immature, it brings up a serious point: should we ever be judged for our family's actions? Intuitively, it seems, the answer is no: Wesley might look like Frank, but he's not responsible for Frank's sins in any way. Wesley's actions, however--trying to downplay the accusations against Frank, and (at this point) seemingly choosing family loyalty over unbiased justice--are worth judging.

Chapter 2 Quotes

All of these accomplishments made Ollie the perfect choice for white people to point to as an example of what Indians could be.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Ollie Young Bear
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we’re introduced to Ollie Young Bear, a Native American man who’s somewhat respected by the town’s white community. Ollie married a white woman, and his appeal in the white community seems to be based on his marriage more than anything else. David notes Ollie’s popularity even among bigots.

While David doesn’t get into why, exactly, a Native American man who’s married a white woman would be more appealing to the white community than a Native American who stays within his own culture, it’s easy enough to guess. Ollie seems to want to be a part of white America—he's internalized the racist worldview that whiteness equals superiority, and so tries his hardest to escape his own culture and "assimilate." This makes him a great token figure for racists to point to--both to try and prove that they're not racist and to try and prove that all the other Indians are somehow not living up to their potential.

Had I any sensitivity at all I might have recognized that all this talk about wind and dirt and mountains and childhood was my mother’s way of saying she wanted a few moments of purity, a temporary escape from the sordid drama that was playing itself out in her own house. But I was on the trail of something that would lead me out of childhood.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David spends some time with his mother, Gail. Gail is very careful when talking to David about the incident with Frank and Marie: she mentions to him that it’s “possible” that there will be “trouble” in the future, but gives almost no other details about the matter. In such a way, Gail does her son the courtesy of keeping him informed, but holds back on the more unsavory details of her brother-in-law's possible acts of molestation. Instead, she speaks in a metaphorical way about the wind--a constant factor of the landscape, and a symbol of both harshness and potential change.

In all, the passage shows the divide between David and Gail at this point in David's maturity: David is so concerned with figuring out more information about Frank’s crimes that he is unable to understand his mother's feelings. He wants to know more, while Gail wants an escape from the horrible things that are coming to light around her.

Looking in the dead bird’s eye, I realized that these strange, unthought-of connections—sex and death, lust and violence, desire and degradation—are there, there, deep in even a good heart’s chambers.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David is walking around outside, shooting off ammunition. He fires at a bird, killing it immediately. As David looks at the dead animal on the ground, he’s deeply moved, and he feels guilty for resorting to shooting to help himself feel better. As he stares into the bird’s eyes, he comes to realize that all people have the capacity to do evil: David, who’s just killed a bird for no reason; Frank, who molests women; and perhaps even Wesley. Even in a "good heart's chambers" lies the potential for death and sadism, for a particularly sexual kind of violence.

The passage is a key turning-point in David’s coming-of-age, because it shows David becoming more cautious in his investigation of Frank’s crimes. He’s no longer desperate for information at any cost—on the contrary, he beginning to realize the full extent of his uncle’s crimes. Furthermore, he’s beginning to think all people are capable of committing crimes, whether or not they actually do. Realizing one’s own capacity for evil is a key mark of maturity, Watson suggests.

“That’s not the way it works. You know that. Sins—crimes—are not supposed to go unpunished.”
Even then I knew what the irony of the conversation was: the secretary lecturing the lawyer, the law enforcement officer, on justice.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gail tells Wesley the truth about Frank’s crimes. Wesley has just had a conversation with Frank, and Frank has supposedly promised to stop molesting women. Wesley seems satisfied with the matter, but Gail insists that Frank needs to be punished for the crimes he’s already committed: he can’t be allowed to get away with sexual assault for so many years. David is mature enough to recognize the irony that Gail is telling Wesley, a law enforcement officer, how to do his job.

In a sense, Gail is exactly right: Frank deserves punishment. But it’s easier for her to say than it is for Wesley. Wesley is Frank’s brother, and he can’t bring himself to punish one of his own family members. In the end, we’ll see, Gail’s advice inspires Wesley to become a more committed sheriff, standing up for what he knows to be right instead of sweeping Frank’s crimes under the rug.

“You know what your granddad said it means to be a peace officer in Montana? He said it means knowing when to look and when to look away.”

Related Characters: Len McAuley (speaker), David Hayden, Grandpa Hayden (Julian)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David has a strange encounter with Wesley’s deputy, an old, recovering alcoholic named Len. Len is a loyal follower of Wesley’s father, Julian—at times, he seems more loyal to Julian than to Wesley himself. Here, Len repeats for David a lesson that Julian has often given Len: being a law enforcement officer means knowing “when to look and when to look away.” In other words, it’s implied, Julian thinks that police officers should be able to take the law into their own hands—choosing when and when not to dole out justice.

We’ve already seen that Julian is willing to bend the law to suit his own family’s needs. But here, it’s suggested that Julian might even be willing to ignore his son Frank’s horrific, serious crimes, simply because Frank is his favorite sun. Julian subscribes to an unfair, biased interpretation of justice, in which family loyalties, economic power, and racial prejudices are more important than the law itself.

He had long since stopped being my father. He was now my interrogator, my cross-examiner. The Sheriff. My Uncle’s brother.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David explains to his parents that he’s seen Frank walking to and from the house the previous afternoon. Wesley is very curious about David’s story: he asks David lots of questions about when, exactly, Frank was walking around the house, and what he looked like. As David answers his father’s questions, he can feel his father transforming into a different kind of person altogether. Wesley isn’t acting fatherly at all: on the contrary, he’s acting like a sheriff—deliberate, sharp, serious, etc. David also notes that Wesley is acting like Frank’s brother. The big question in the second half of the book is whether or not Wesley is capable of being sheriff and Frank’s brother (and David's father, as David himself is now involved) at the same time—how to parse out the different parts of his identity, weighing loyalty against justice, family against the law.

I imagined all the Indians of our region, from town, ranches, or reservation, gathered on top of Circle Hill to do something about Marie’s death. But in my vision, the Indians were not lined up in battle formation as they always were in movies, that is, mounted on war ponies, streaked with war paint…Instead, just as I did in my daily life I saw them dressed in their jeans and cowboy boots, their cotton print dresses, or their flannel shirts.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Marie Little Soldier
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David thinks about the death of Marie Little Soldier—a death that may have been caused by Frank. David has a feverish nightmare in which he imagines Marie Little Soldier’s fellow Native Americans preparing for vengeance. Although David is used to thinking of Native Americans dressed up in war paint, preparing for a charge—as in typical Western movies—in the dream he instead thinks of them dressed in civilian clothes.

It’s important to notice that David imagines the Native Americans in a more peaceful, and yet still highly Americanized pose. As he learns more about his Uncle Frank, David seems to be making a subconscious effort to treat Native Americans as human beings, rather than Hollywood caricatures. This dream shows Native Americans as still subject to white American racism--they're dressed in the clothing of the culture that oppresses them--but also as powerful figures in their own right. People don't need to fight bloody, exciting battles to be heroes; they can be heroic just by standing up, as normal people, for what is right.

Chapter 3 Quotes

He was building a case, and my father did this the same way he ran for reelection—by gathering in friends and favors. I suppose he was collecting evidence as well, but that part was never as obvious to me. What he seemed intent on doing—just as boys at play do, just as nations at war do—was getting people to be on his side.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David watches his father being more social than usual—a practice that usually means that Wesley is running for reelection as sheriff. This time, Wesley is trying to build as much community loyalty as possible before he arrests Frank for molesting Native American women: he wants to be sure that when he arrests a hugely popular local, his own brother, people will support him in his actions.

As David notes, Wesley seems to be becoming like Frank in the act of preparing to arrest him: in other words, he’s being witty and social, generally charming people into agreeing with him. One could say that Wesley is changing his entire personality as he pursues his brother. Wesley is no longer content to sit back and allow his brother to occupy the spotlight—nor is he willing to let his brother get away with crime. Watson suggests that Wesley is acting both out of an abstract sense of justice and a highly personal desire to boot his brother off the “pedestal.”

I suddenly felt sorry for my father—not as he stood before me at that moment, but as a boy. What must it have been like to have a father capable of speaking to you like that?

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Grandpa Hayden (Julian)
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Wesley faces his parents’ fury when he suggests that their son is a molester, and should be in jail for his crimes. Here, Wesley’s father, Julian, yells at him, furious that Wesley is attacking Julian’s favorite son, Frank. David is sorry that Wesley had to grow up in a house in which Julian was such a harsh, prejudiced master: Wesley must have endured a lot of verbal abuse over the years.

The passage shows that David is becoming more mature: he’s beginning to put himself in other people’s shoes and see the world from their point of view. By recognizing that even his father used to be a child, David asserts his own wisdom, and ceases to be a child himself.

“Screwing an Indian. Or feeling her up or whatever. You don’t lock up a man for that. You don’t lock up your brother. A respected man. A war hero.”

Related Characters: Grandpa Hayden (Julian) (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, David eavesdrops on his grandfather Julian as he verbally abuses Wesley, David’s father. Wesley is suggesting to Julian that Frank—who’s always been the favorite child—should be sent to prison for molesting his Native American patients. Julian doesn’t deny that Frank has molested some Native American women; he simply says that such actions aren’t really crimes at all.

Put bluntly: Julian is an openly racist character—someone who doesn’t consider Native Americans “real” Americans, or even real humans, deserving of basic dignity and rights. Thus, he lashes out at Wesley for suggesting that Frank is anything other than a great man. Julian argues that Wesley shouldn’t arrest his own brother—and yet Frank, in spite of being Wesley’s brother, is a vile criminal, and deserves to be locked up. One wonders how much of Wesley’s motivation for arresting his brother is an abstract respect for the law and how much is his desire to assert his independence from his own family and his overbearing, racist father.

A murderer may have been locked up a floor below and the molecules of his victim’s dying breath still floating in the air, yet these were not strong enough finally to stand up to my boy’s hunger for chocolate cake.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Marie Little Soldier, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we’re reminded that David is still a young boy. He’s learned a lot of disturbing stuff about his family recently, and yet he’s still a fairly immature 12-year-old kid who likes cake. Wesley brings home some chocolate cake the afternoon after his argument with Grandpa Julian, perhaps to take care of David and reassure him that everything is going to be okay. Wesley’s kindness to his son contrasts markedly with Julian’s cruelty toward his own child, Wesley. Wesley seems to have learned how to be a good father by doing exactly the opposite of what Julian did to him.

But our name was no joke. We were as close as Mercer County came to aristocracy. I never consciously traded on the Hayden name, yet I knew it gave me a measure of respect that I didn’t have to earn.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David thinks about his status as a Hayden. For his entire life, David has had a measure of respect among his peers and community, simply because of his last name. David’s grandfather, Julian, is a famous man, well-respected throughout Mercer County and beyond. Therefore, the rest of Julian’s family is considered to be highly respectable and trustworthy, David included. At its best, the Hayden family is a mandate to be great: Wesley and Frank had a lot to live up to growing up, and the greatness of their father gave them their own aspirations of greatness. And yet the Hayden family name has its dark side: it allows certain members of the Hayden family, such as Frank, to get away with crimes without punishment. Frank molests Native Americans for years without punishment, confident that if he’s ever caught, he’ll get off scot-free because of his father. Frank’s cynical confidence in his own privilege mirrors the social privilege that allowed white people throughout the American West to exploit Native Americans with impunity.

“He’s guilty as sin, Gail. He told me as much…Goddamn it! What could I have been thinking of? Maybe a jury will cut him loose. I won’t. By God, I won’t.”

Related Characters: Wesley Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wesley spells out some of the consequences of arresting his brother for the murder of Marie. Frank has most definitely killed Marie—he admitted it to Wesley moments before. Now, Wesley is prepared to arrest Frank for his murder, in spite of the fact that they’re brothers. Wesley recognizes that it seems unjust to punish one’s own family so harshly, and yet he also recognizes his duties as the sheriff of the community.

It’s important to note that Wesley’s philosophy of justice, and that of the townspeople, reverses 180 degrees here. Previously, it has seemed that Wesley might pardon Frank for his actions, acting out of brotherly loyalty and respect for the Hayden name. Now, however, it’s clear that Wesley will enact justice “by the book,” while the jury might clear Frank out of respect for the Hayden name. As Wesley investigates Frank’s crimes further and further, his commitment to justice becomes more intense.

You see, I knew—I knew! I knew! —that Uncle Frank’s suicide had solved all our problems.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Frank Hayden
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Chapter 3, Uncle Frank, imprisoned in the basement of the house, slits his own wrists with broken glass jars, ending his own life. Frank doesn’t want to be humiliated in public for his acts of molestation, and perhaps he finally feels some guilt for his crimes—we never know. David thinks that Uncle Frank’s suicide will end the family dispute: Frank will never be taken to court, never tried for his actions, and never tarnish the family name or unfairly escape justice.

Of course, it’s important to take David’s words with a grain of salt. Frank’s suicide does not end the family’s problems at all; it just starts some new problems. Frank’s death will always be a black mark on the family history; furthermore, we’re given every reason to believe that Julian will blame Wesley for his favorite son’s death: Frank will be a martyr from now on. David is still an immature kid, naively confident that Frank's "disappearance" suddenly solves everything.

Epilogue Quotes

I wondered again how it could have happened—how it could be that those two people who only wanted to do right, whose only error lay in trying to be loyal to both family and justice, were now dispossessed, the ones forced to leave Bentrock and build new lives.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that David’s parents, Gail and Wesley, are essentially forced to move away from Montana after Uncle Frank’s suicide. Wesley never speaks to Julian again, and his role in Frank’s suicide makes his continued existence as sheriff in Montana impossible. Thus, David is forced to watch as his beloved parents pack up and leave their house, taking David with them. David is mature enough to recognize the injustice here; even though Gail and Wesley were only trying to do right, while Julian was trying to conceal a racist murderer’s crimes, it’s Wesley and Gail who have to move, and Julian who remains in his position of power.

This injustice within the Hayden family then highlights the regular plight of Native Americans, for whom this kind of thing happens all the time on an institutional as well as individual level. Indeed, it's suggested that nothing changes in the status quo of Mercer County after all this--Julian, along with his racist ideals and white community support, remains in power, and the Native Americans who were molested (and killed, in Marie's case) by Frank don't even receive the comfort of having their suffering acknowledged.

I find history endlessly amusing, knowing, as I do, that the record of any human community might omit stories of sexual abuse, murder, suicide.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker)
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that David grows up to be a successful history teacher. He teaches his students what the books tell him to, but inside he knows that this must not ever be the whole story--his experiences as a child (those related in the novel itself) have taught him as much. Because Frank's suicide was ultimately ruled an accident, and his crimes of rape and murder were never investigated, all these events were essentially erased from history (except, of course, the history related in David's writing). Thus David has personal experience with the way history is inherently biased and incomplete, constantly being told and revised by the "victors"--those in power who want to cover up their crimes and erase the suffering of their victims.

I believe I remembered the incident so fondly not only because I was with Marie and Ronnie, both of whom I loved in my way, but also because I felt, for that brief span, as though I was part of a family, a family that accepted me for myself and not my blood or birthright.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Marie Little Soldier, Ronnie Tall Bear
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David answers a strongly implied question in the novel: what other options are there in place of literal, biological family? Wesley’s family is in ruins, since his brother, Frank, has turned out to be a molester and murderer of Native American women, and has committed suicide when confronted with his crimes. Furthermore, Wesley's father has essentially banished Wesley from Montana, and never speaks to him again. Here, though, David suggests that it’s possible to make one’s own family connections—not a family based on blood, but one built around human connection and love. David isn’t literally related to Ronnie or Marie, but he feels a close connection to them both, particularly in this singular moment that stays with him forever. Perhaps it’s intimate, voluntary connections, not the solemn traditions of a “family name,” that define a real family.

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