Summary and Analysis: Crazy Horse Dreams and The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore
An unnamed girl at a powwow who seduces Victor.
Adrian: Victor’s new sidekick in this story, who is about his age and lives on the Reservation.
Julius Windmaker: the new basketball star on the Reservation, who is fifteen years old.
Lucy: the new prospect for basketball stardom; a mere third-grader.
“Crazy Horse Dreams,” and “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore” are the fourth and fifth tales in the collection, respectively. Each story relates an adolescent escapade undertaken by Victor and his friends; together, they provide a broader picture of the lives of young men on the Reservation than was available in prior stories.
“Crazy Horse Dreams” focuses on a tryst between a still-adolescent Victor and an unnamed girl at a powwow. The brief romance begins when the two notice and tease each other at the vendors’ stalls. However, Victor departs because he imagines that they are mismatched. She is short with long braids. He is tall, on other hand, with short hair. Her expensive ribbon shirt only seems to underscore the differences between them.
Yet the two teenagers seem drawn to one another; they meet again while Victor watches a stickgame competition in the pavilion. The flirtation continues. She compares Victor’s readiness to place a bet with his inability to observe her approach; the conclusion is that he must not be “much of a warrior.” He counters with a reference to the riding and shooting skills of women from the Plains tribes, whom she doesn’t resemble. They share a laugh over his knowledge of tribal differences, which Victor attributes to his experience in the “Reservation University.” He reveals a few details, mostly in the form of jokes, about his own life on the Spokane Reservation.
Humor seems to finally form a bond between the two, and they depart for her Winnebago. They share stories in the dark, his of being stuck in an elevator and hers of losing at Bingo. The conversation distracts Victor and he realizes that a wide distance divides them; he sees into a future where this “child of freeway exits and cable television” rides a bus into the city and becomes the mother of children who beg for beer on the streets. This future is the only one he can offer her.
The spell is finally broken when Victor asks to see her scars; he has many, but she has none. He imagines that she is nothing more than “just another . . . Indian”; she similarly realizes that he is not the warrior that she desires. The story concludes as Victor leaves with a regretful admission that he makes only to himself that he cannot be her Crazy Horse.
The action resumes with playful banter between Victor and his friend Adrian one hot, summer afternoon on the Reservation in “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore.” Victor is now a former high school basketball star and thus presumably a few years older than he was in “Crazy Horse Dreams.”
Victor and Adrian notice each seemingly insignificant detail of life in the neighborhood; they play at shooting themselves with a toy pistol, notice that the stoplight has stopped working, and observe a group of young boys as they saunter by the porch where the two sit. The standout of this group is Julius Windmaker, a fifteen-year-old boy who has supplanted Victor in the role of star basketball player on the Reservation.
Victor contemplates Julius’s skill and future as a player; his victories are remembered as instances of cultural prowess and pride. In short, he is the unacknowledged hero of the Reservation. Yet Victor knows that this status will not last; he remembers his own fall from glory years before. He confirms that fact in a conversation with Adrian, as they reflect on great ballplayers of past years. The reverie is interrupted by a bout of laughter over the broken traffic signal, followed by speculation over the distant sound of breaking glass. A commentary on the nature of hope and heroism...
(The entire section is 1,673 words.)