Tayo and Rocky join the Army because Rocky wants to join and because they both want to travel. However, the young men did not plan on seeing the Philippine jungle and the death that occurs there. Tayo cannot bring himself to shoot Japanese soldiers because they all resemble his uncle Josiah. Rocky is killed, and as the rain pours down incessantly, Tayo curses it and begs for it to stop.
Back at Laguna, New Mexico, Tayo sees the result of his curse. The land is dry, and nothing is growing. Tayo is as sick as the land. He keeps throwing up and cannot eat. Tayo’s family decides that he needs a healing ceremony, so the tribal healer, Ku’oosh, is called in to cure him. His ceremony, however, does not cure Tayo’s sickness. Ku’oosh, knowing that Tayo needs a special ceremony, sends him to a medicine man named Betonie.
Betonie cures with elements from contemporary culture, such as old magazines and telephone books, as well as with native ceremonies. He explains Tayo’s sickness to him. It is the witchery that is making Tayo sick, and it has the entire Native American population in its grip. The purpose of witchery is to prevent growth, and to grow is to survive. Betonie explains to Tayo that a new ceremony is needed and that he is a part of something much larger than his own sickness.
The Navajo medicine man makes a sand painting for Tayo to sit in to reorient him. When the ceremony is over, Betonie remarks that it is not yet complete. There are a pattern of stars, some speckled cattle, a mountain, and a woman whom Tayo has yet to encounter.
The speckled cattle are of Mexican origin, designed for the hard existence of northern New Mexico. Uncle Josiah bought them before he died, but when they were set loose to graze, they started south and kept moving, and neither Tayo nor Josiah can find them. Tayo realizes that part of his ceremony is to find these cattle.
He begins his search at the place where they last saw the cattle and soon meets a woman who lives in a nearby...
(The entire section is 829 words.)