A Yellow Raft in Blue Water By Michael Dorris Summary and Analysis Rayona: Chapter 7

Summary

When Evelyn finds Rayona, who is staring at the yellow raft moored in the blue lake, Rayona expects Evelyn to be upset with her. However, Evelyn is a picture of understanding and empathy. Rayona concedes that the family story that she told Evelyn and Sky is all a lie, and Evelyn asks Rayona what she wants to do now that her real life story is out in the open. When Rayona asks Evelyn why Evelyn is being so kind to Rayona, Evelyn responds, "Because somebody should have done it for me." Evelyn obviously has had a life as hard as Rayona — if not harder — and is being protective of her.

Although the Fourth of July is the busiest day for Sky and he makes the most money of the year on this day, Evelyn and Sky drive Rayona to Havre, where a large Indian rodeo is taking place; Rayona thinks that her mom will be there. However, once they are at the rodeo, Rayona realizes that her mom is not there. However, Foxy Cree, Rayona's cousin who earlier made fun of Rayona because of her mixed racial heritage, is at the rodeo, and he's too drunk to compete in the bareback bronco event.

Incredibly, Foxy realizes that he's too drunk to ride and cajoles Rayona into riding for him by pretending to be him. With his blue jeans jacket on her, and his black Navajo hat sitting above her long, thick braid of black hair, Rayona looks like a long-haired Indian boy. Ironically, Dayton, with whom Rayona's mom is staying, owns the horse that Foxy is to ride. Annabelle, Foxy's girlfriend, confronts Rayona about what she's doing dressed in Foxy's clothes, and Rayona explains the situation to her.

When Rayona rides Dayton's horse in competition, she's thrown from the horse. Vowing not to give up, Rayona again mounts the horse, named Babe, but is thrown again. A third time Rayona tries to ride, and a third time she's thrown. Her attempts at riding Babe are utter failures, but at the awards ceremony, she surprisingly gets a "hard-luck buckle" award for the rider with the most spirit and determination. Proud of herself, Rayona removes her hat and jacket; the crowd is stunned when they realize that Foxy is really Rayona and that Rayona is a female. The crowd erupts in excitement and cheers Rayona.

Analysis

The yellow raft as a symbol of safety is again important here in Chapter 7. Focusing on the raft, Rayona thinks that if only she stares at it long enough, it will cure all her personal problems. Ironically, then, the yellow raft is as much a symbol of false hopes as it is safety, for no matter how long Rayona stares at the raft, her problems will not go away.

Evelyn's acceptance of Rayona without judging her, even after Evelyn realizes that Rayona has lied about who she is, is an important step in Rayona's maturing. Until now, every adult has abandoned Rayona, but Evelyn is different. For example, she tells Rayona after listening to her relate her past and then wanting to know why Evelyn is willing to still help her, "Because somebody should have done it for me." Rayona realizes that Evelyn has had as hard a life as she has so far, and yet, Evelyn is a powerful woman who has a sense of who she is; Rayona now has hope for herself.

Rayona's riding Babe in the rodeo is another step in her finding a personal identity. Although she knows that she's not qualified to ride and might get hurt, she takes a chance, possibly the first chance she's taken all her life. She has matured enough to realize, "The ride on Babe is a boundary I can't recross, and I'm stuck on this side for better or worse." Ironically, her riding Babe foreshadows the reckless yet independent and, therefore, individualized behavior that Christine demonstrates about herself in her narrative section.

At the awards ceremony immediately following the rodeo, Rayona finally acknowledges publicly who she is. Thanks in large part to Evelyn and Sky, she can now claim a personal identity of her own, independent of what people want her to be.

Glossary

B.L.S.P. T-shirt a Bearpaw Lake State Park T-shirt.

"Fry Bread Power" bumper stickers pro-Indian political bumper stickers. Fry bread is particularly emblematic as a staple Native American food. An authentic recipe for fry bread calls for mixing 4 cups of white flour, 5 teaspoons of baking powder, and 11/2 teaspoons of salt together in a large bowl and then slowly adding and stirring in about 2 cups of water until the dough is smooth and shiny. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside for 30 minutes. Shape the dough into 16 balls, about the size of an egg, and roll them on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness or less. Melt lard in a heavy frying pan until it is 11/2 inches deep and heat until just before the smoking point. Place the dough into the hot lard, turning with a fork when it is browned on one side until it is golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or honey, or eat them plain. This recipe serves six to eight people.

H. Earl Clark Museum The museum is located just west of Havre on Highway 2 and contains information about the history and development of the area around Havre, not far from the fictional Bearpaw Lake State Park and the reservation where Aunt Ida lives.

muscatel a sweet wine made from muscatel grapes.

to stay straight here, to stay sober — not to get drunk until after the bronco riding contest is over.

the MC the master of ceremonies.

hogtie here, to tie together the four lower legs of a calf as fast as possible.

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