Summary and Analysis
Once past Fort Pitt, True Son and Half Arrow travel openly, moving deeper and deeper into Indian territory. During the summer, they camp in a quiet glade and trap fish, swim, relax, and enjoy their journey. At the Forks of the Muskingum River, True Son rejoices that he's near home. When he finally reaches his Indian home, Cuyloga welcomes his son.
Here in Chapter 13, Richter emphasizes a central theme in the book: a return to freedom "as the Great One had made it." True Son is glad to see no roads, cultivated fields, fencing, or clocks, all of which are symbols of white dominance. A "constant wheeling unfoldment of the river" becomes a seemingly unobstructed path back to Indian territory.
Traveling alone and freed of the control of their Indian fathers, True Son and Half Arrow enjoy days of "primitive deliciousness," hunting and fishing, "forgetting all else and by all else forgot, abandoning themselves to the forest and the bounty of its wild beasts." They hunt at night by jack-lighting. Lashing a lighted pine knot to the bow of the dugout, the rower steers close to animal watering spots. While the animals stand riveted by the light, the hunter shoots at the prey. To celebrate that their tribe will soon recognize them as men rather than as boys, True Son and Half Arrow notch their ears and pull out the hair on the sides of their scalps to produce a brave's roach, a tall ruff of hair that forms a defining ridge from the center of the forehead to the back of the scalp and trails off in a scalplock.
Another focus of the slow homeward journey is the diversity of characters whom the boys encounter on their way over the final stretch. They hear dogs bark and see Shangas, the Exhorter, a tribal preacher. Nearby is a strong man, a crippled son, and a girl who formerly flirted with True Son. Next is a man who was scalped in battle, a friendly squaw, a big black dog, and a stutterer. By describing this mix of people and animals, Richter avoids the one-dimensional savage or stoic natives who are too often found in second-rate frontier fiction.
Richter rounds out the scene with True Son's reunion with his Indian family. Richter's intent is twofold: to establish the normalcy of a native village and to contrast the hostility of whites who greeted True Son on his arrival at Fort Pitt, Carlisle, and Paxton with the warm welcome by True Son's father and the entire tribe.
paroquet the small, long-tailed parakeet that once flourished in the eastern wild before hunters slaughtered them wholesale.
brush net a net dragged behind a boat to snare fish.
arbutus creeping forest heather that blooms pink and white and produces red berries.
thwart the rower's seat, which crosses a boat and attaches to each side To place an object athwart means to lay it crosswise, from side to side, which is the safest and handiest way to rest a rifle when the boat is in motion.
northern meridian the designation of midsummer, which falls on June 24.