Winter McQuillen is an incredibly bitter man. As a white boy, he went to live with his Indian mother and her people. When she was killed in one of Custers raids, he was banished from the tribe and sent back to live with white people. This orphan knocked around the West until he hid in a wagon eating a ranchers apples.
Reading this book the first time, I thought Captain Russell should have been cut up in small pieces while still alive and then buried. Now that Ive read this amazing book several times, I understand the wisdom of Winters volunteer guardian.
If you will think about the words to the Johnny Cash tune, A Boy Named Sue, I think you will understand where Im going with this. Children as offspring of a white and Indian marriage were never accepted in either society.
From the time Winter was seven, he worked for the captain and at the end of the month was given wages. Then he sold Winter an acre of ground for his money. Finally, the captain convinced Winter to play a game of checkers -- and wager that acre double or nothing. Winter never won a game before he was 12! Those had to be hard lessons!
Captain Russell was teaching Winter some valuable truths: Only the very strong survive. Never give away what is yours.
I think the captain also knew Winter would be lonely; he would only be accepted by a few enlightened individuals. Because of Winters hardness, the captain gave the center 20 acres + the house to Winters wife. Winter was not married and it forced him to look outside of himself for a solution.
Personally, I think Captain Russell knew exactly what he was doing and he did it out of love. I think it took Winter a long time to understand that.
5 Stars An incredible story!