Montana 1948

David Hayden Character Analysis

David is the story’s contemplative and highly perceptive narrator. He tells the story as a grown man of 52 looking back on his childhood. The events of the summer of 1948 mark for David a rude transition into the unpleasant and more complicated realities of adulthood. David is a thoughtful and somewhat quiet and solitary boy, who loves living in the countryside and going on long hikes, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. At 12, he believes he is in love with his caretaker, Marie Little Soldier, but when he is older he recognizes that this love was chaste and innocent, though still very real. David’s childhood was pleasant and uneventful prior to the summer of 1948, but when unsettling rumors about his Uncle Frank come to light, David must contend with some very adult and unpleasant realities: his uncle is a sexual predator and a murderer, many of his heroes are bigots, and his life will never be carefree again. When David grows up he teaches history—he is in part interested in history because of all of the untold stories and tragedies he believes are contained in many historical accounts; for the story of Frank and Marie Little Soldier was not recorded anywhere, but in many ways describes life in Montana better than any official history could.

David Hayden Quotes in Montana 1948

The Montana 1948 quotes below are all either spoken by David Hayden or refer to David Hayden. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
). 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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“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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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David Hayden Character Timeline in Montana 1948

The timeline below shows where the character David Hayden appears in Montana 1948. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
The narrator, a man named David, reflects on the “summer of his twelfth year” in 1948 and tells us that the... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
David mentions other images—broken glass, rotting vegetables—but notes that his memory does not separate these images... (full context)
Chapter 1
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...and the climate is difficult—residents must deal with extreme changes in temperature and never-ending wind. David guesses that the harsh and demanding climate keeps people so busy they can rarely find... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...War II is still palpable in Mercer county. Many men had been in combat—though not David’s father Wesley, who has a bum leg due to a kick from a horse—and now... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...general rule, being the Sheriff of Mercer county doesn’t require great strength or courage. Young David is disappointed in this fact, and wishes his father’s job were more exciting. He notes... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Wesley does not meet David’s standards in this way, but he also fails to meet his wife Gail’s standards. Wesley... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
David tries to explain his mother’s thinking. Grandpa Julian Hayden (Wesley’s father) had once been Sheriff... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Another reason David’s mother wants them to leave Montana is that she fears for her son’s development. David... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
David’s mother works as a secretary, so they have hired a housekeeper, a Sioux woman named... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Marie has a boyfriend named Ronnie Tall Bear, whom David worships. Ronnie is perhaps the most accomplished athlete to ever graduate from Bentrock high school... (full context)
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...ground floor of the house, even though there is a spare bedroom upstairs. One day David passes the door and hears horrible coughing. When Gail returns for her lunch break, David... (full context)
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David checks in on Marie frequently. She sleeps fitfully and mumbles deliriously. Once she calls David... (full context)
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When David’s parents return home his father remarks that David is “babysitting the babysitter.” This is the... (full context)
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David first learned of his father’s racism when he was about seven or eight. He received... (full context)
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Wesley gets on the phone immediately. David hears has father tell his Aunt Gloria to put Frank on the phone. Gloria is... (full context)
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When Frank arrives David is struck by how handsome and charismatic he is. He feels sorry for his father,... (full context)
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Wesley tells David to come wait outside on the porch. They hear muffled shouts of “no” coming from... (full context)
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...moment Gail comes outside and confirms that Marie will be staying at home with them. David notices that his mother seems angry. Though she has never been a huge fan of... (full context)
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Gail tells David to go into the house. Instead of doing so, he tracks around the side of... (full context)
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...women, and makes them do demeaning things to themselves in the name of “medical treatment.” David is shocked at the sound of his mother’s voice pronouncing these words. David expects his... (full context)
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David quickly runs back in the house so his parents won’t know he’s been eavesdropping. They... (full context)
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When Wesley and Gail leave Marie’s room they tell David that Marie is tired and needs rest. Wesley says he is going to talk to... (full context)
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...how Marie is doing. Gail cannot believe he has an appetite after all that’s happened. David realizes she is seeing his father differently: not as her husband, but as a brother... (full context)
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...want this all over town, reminding her that they have no proof of anything yet. David sees a familiar disagreement between them: his father, touting proof and evidence, his mother relying... (full context)
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Gail emphatically asserts that David will never be treated by Frank again. David is nervous about being addressed, and hopes... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...the reservation, though he has no jurisdiction there, to investigate Marie’s accusations. Later that day, David sees him at the Coffee Cup (a café where he often goes to sit and... (full context)
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When David gets home, Marie is asleep. He notices the house is unusually quiet—Marie usually plays the... (full context)
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When his parents get home, David overhears them. Wesley tells Gail he wants to talk to Marie again, but that he... (full context)
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While Wesley talks to Marie, Gail takes David for a short walk outside. David works up the courage to ask her what’s going... (full context)
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The following Sunday, David and his parents are on their way to Grandpa Hayden’s house. Gail and Wesley had... (full context)
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...large and expensively decorated in a way that Wesley believes is cliché and tacky. But David loves the house, because it is big enough for him to disappear into. (full context)
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Grandpa Hayden greets them in a traditional western shirt and a cowboy boots. When David sees him, he realizes that Grandpa Hayden would never let anything bad happen to Frank,... (full context)
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David hears his father ask Grandpa Hayden if he has a minute to talk about Frank.... (full context)
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This is the second time David has heard his Grandfather say something about Frank and Native American girls. At Frank’s wedding,... (full context)
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David sits between his grandmother and Aunt Gloria at dinner. David has had a crush on... (full context)
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After dinner David quickly excuses himself. He wonders if they will talk about Frank once he leaves, but... (full context)
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David goes outside and shoots off several rounds of ammunition. He likes watching the dirt spray... (full context)
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David goes for a ride on his horse Nutty around his Grandfather’s ranch. As he rides,... (full context)
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On the way home Wesley tells Gail he talked to Frank. David pretends to b asleep in the backseat so that they will feel comfortable discussing it... (full context)
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...Away, another Native American woman, is there watching over Marie, whose condition has improved remarkably. David tells Marie about hunting coyotes at Grandpa’s, and she remarks that coyotes are hard to... (full context)
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...comes home shortly after 5 pm and finds her lying dead in her bed. When David comes home from fishing, neighbors are out on the porch staring at the house, and... (full context)
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...the best possible care, but this does not make Gail feel better. Daisy suggests to David that he go next door and eat some of the pie she’s just made, clearly... (full context)
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David hesitantly asks Len, “did you see something?” wondering if Len knows what he knows. Len... (full context)
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That night, David believes he can feel death in the house. He becomes panicked, and can hardly breathe.... (full context)
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...tries to rationalize this information. Perhaps Frank was merely checking in on his patient. Perhaps David was confused. David mentions that Len probably saw Frank, too. This changes things for Wesley.... (full context)
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David sleeps fitfully, and has dreams about the Native Americans he knows play-acting in western cowboys—and-Indian... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...long hours, and looks more and more exhausted. He is socializing more than usual, and David knows his father is trying to get people on his side before he makes an... (full context)
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...and simply directs Frank to the basement. They stay down there a long time, and David can’t hear any of their conversation. His father comes back upstairs alone, and looks out... (full context)
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...a jail cell. Gail can hardly process what Wesley is telling her. Wesley explains to David that Frank has broken the law and needs to be locked up. David says he... (full context)
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...Gloria the truth, and tell her immediately. Before Wesley leaves to do this, he calls David outside and says that they will have to give the house a new coat of... (full context)
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...Frank is (Gloria has talked to them). Grandpa Julian is yelling relentlessly at Wesley, and David feels sorry for his father, and wonders what his father’s childhood must have been like. (full context)
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David is sent upstairs but he listens to the conversation through an air vent in the... (full context)
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...not respond. Grandma Hayden cries. Finally Julian says he won’t resort to begging and leaves. David is not sure what to do. What finally drives him to go back downstairs is... (full context)
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When David goes downstairs, his father is on his knees with his head in Gail’s lap. David... (full context)
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That night David cries for the first time since the beginning of these tragic events. He is crying... (full context)
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The next day Wesley leaves to see what other arrangements he can make for Frank. David thinks about how his family, once associated with power, prestige, and influence, will now be... (full context)
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On the way to the grocery store, David thinks about how—in spite of small town life having a reputation for closed-mindedness and intolerance—the... (full context)
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David cannot see women around town without wondering if they number among Frank’s victims. He is... (full context)
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Later that day David notices a truck circling the house. He recognizes one of his grandfather’s employees, Dale Paris,... (full context)
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David runs to his dad’s offices but cannot find Len or his father anywhere. He runs... (full context)
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...the kitchen, Gail asks Len how Frank killed Marie. She no longer cares about what David hears. Len responds that Frank could have done it easily—with pills or a pillow. Then... (full context)
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...Wesley says he simply can’t imagine living with himself if he lets Frank go free. David suddenly feels that there is distance growing between his parents, and between him and the... (full context)
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That night, David wakes up to the sound of breaking glass. He goes downstairs to find his parents... (full context)
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David doesn’t sleep well and wakes too early the next morning. When he goes downstairs he... (full context)
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Wesley gets up to make coffee and tells David a story about one day when he and his friends were being chased by bullies,... (full context)
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...him up if he isn’t awake already. He disappears downstairs and after a few seconds David hears his father scream. David runs downstairs and sees his father bent over the dead... (full context)
Epilogue
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In December of 1948 David’s family moves away from Bentrock. Frank’s death has been explained away as an accident, and... (full context)
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As they drive away from the house, David tells his parents to wait and jumps out of the car. He runs up a... (full context)
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The rest of David’s life has not gone poorly. His father got a job as a lawyer, much to... (full context)
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Len and Grandpa Hayden have both died of strokes—David wonders if the strokes were caused by their keeping the secret of Uncle Frank for... (full context)
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One memory of Marie has stuck with David after 40 years. He, Marie, and Ronnie had been playing football in the yard, and... (full context)
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David’s wife, Betsy, is fascinated by David’s story of what happened in the summer of 1948.... (full context)