Author: Sid Gustafson
Horses They Rode
by Sid Gustafson
A dramatic novel of love, family, and changing cultures along Montana’s rugged Rocky Mountain Front. The novel lyrically weaves the protagonist’s journey through women, children, horses, and Indian spirituality, culminating in a thrilling cross-country horse race. His storytelling is full of rhythm and surprise.
“With Horses They Rode Sid Gustafson further establishes himself as a strong new voice among Montana novelists.”
—O. Alan Welzien, Drumlummon Views
“Horses They Rode is a one-sitting book. And it’s the kind of book about something important in a world full of books about unimportant things.”
—Brian Ames, Washington State Magazine
Horses They Rode - A novel by Sid Gustafson
Wendel Ingraham departs the devious workings of the Playfair Racecourse in Spokane, Washington, on the eastbound passenger train, Empire Builder. A forlorn man, he leaves behind a broken marriage and a small daughter he dearly loves. Although ticketed to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation east of Glacier National Park, he disembarks in the small resort town of Whitefish, Montana, where he was a good downhill ski racer in his youth. He looks for a drink and runs into Nancy, a former teammate. They spend the night reminiscing and making love.
The encounter confuses Wendel. By sunrise he finds himself in an empty boxcar headed over the Continental Divide. He barely survives the trip, encountering a grizzly bear on the way, and wakes up in a desolate railroad yard with his old mentor, Bubbles Ground Owl, a part-time Blackfeet Medicine Man.
After too much hard drinking, the pair head to a cattle ranch owned by a pretentious white rancher, Rip Ripley. It is the ranch where Wendel grew up, mostly without his parents. After a week of sobering up, Wendel and Bubbles fall into the ranch life they both once knew well.
The two become a team, reunited after a lost decade. They ride the range and tend to the horses and cattle. They help each other cope. Bubbles immerses Wendel in a native spirituality rooted in the depths of an ancient animal connectedness. Both learn to live in a more positive fashion.
Then the ranch owner’s half-blood Indian daughter, Gretchen, shows up with a 12-year-old son and announces that Wendel is the boy’s father. The son Wendel never knew he had is the only heir to the largest ranch on the reservation.
As autumn approaches, Wendel must reconcile two fatherhoods and an array of complex relationships with women. The story culminates in several exciting events—vision quests, divorce and marriage, death and inheritance, and a thrilling cross-country horse race along the rugged Rocky Mountain Front. The conclusion rings with native resonance as Wendel finally understands his life and the lives of his children.