Some voices pine for the good old days. David reminds us that the good old days weren’t always so good. David Hayden recalls the best and the worst of the good old days of his childhood in 1948 in small town Montana. Farmers and ranchers and an Indian reservation surround his small town of primarily white folks.
David’s father is the sheriff. His granddad was the sheriff before his father. David’s uncle Frank is one of the town doctors. During last days of summer of 1948, the housekeeper for David’s family, Marie Little Soldier, a Sioux, becomes chronically ill that appears to be pneumonia. Uncle Frank is summoned. Marie refuses to be alone with Uncle Frank. After much prodding, Marie says that the Dr. sexually assaults Indian girls and women. Marie receives medicine, but then Marie dies suddenly. Brother must investigate and ultimately arrest brother. It is ugly. Granddad gets involved. Guns are fired. Brother commits suicide.
The family is permanently ruptured. The sheriff does not seek re-election but he and his family move away so he can pursue a career as an attorney.
In the telling of his story, Watson masterfully leads us into the tensions and fragility of family life, small town living, and the pervasiveness of racism.
The good old days? Yes, some of those old days were good. David tells of running around with his friends, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, knowing all the neighbors, and eating pie. But, sometimes those old days had plenty of bad in it. Racism was unquestioned. Sexual perversion was ignored especially if done to “those” people. Justice was often a long time coming or didn’t come at all for those who needed to be held accountable.