Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 408

Illustration of PDF document

Download The End of Old Horse Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The narrator, a young Acoma Indian boy, and his brother Gilly are in the habit of visiting their neighbor Tony during the long summer days that pass in much the same uneventful way, week in and week out. Nothing, he thinks, ever happens in the summer, so he expects nothing unusual to happen on one particular day when he and Gilly wander by Tony’s place.

Tony has tied up his dog, Old Horse, which chews on the rope, snarling to get free. Feeling no sympathy for the dog, the boys do not equate its desire for freedom with their own; they only laugh and tell Tony that his dog “is going nuts.” Tony, busy with chores, replies that Old Horse is a “dumb dog,” and Gilly agrees.

The boys next go to the creek, where they have a good time playing. They try to chase trout upstream to a trap they have made, but this day they have no luck. As they prepare to go home, Tony arrives. Not smiling or joking as he usually does, he tells them that Old Horse has choked to death while trying to break free. Although the boys felt no particular affection for the dog, the news of its death evokes unexpected emotional reactions, which they try to hide. When the narrator suggests that perhaps Tony should not have tied up the dog, Tony erupts with anger, pushing him into bushes and frightening him. A moment later, however, Tony picks him up and apologizes.

The boys start home, and Gilly begins to cry. The narrator does not know what to say except to repeat that Tony should not have tied up Old Horse. He, too, is about to cry, so he challenges Gilly to a race, but Gilly continues sobbing. After saying “The hell with you,” the narrator runs by himself until his lungs hurt “more than the other hurt.” His exhaustion makes him so sick that he goes to the side of the road to vomit.

By the time that Gilly catches up, he has stopped crying, and the narrator apologizes for telling him to go to hell. The boys arrive home late for dinner. After they sit down, their father asks what Tony is doing these days. Gilly replies, “Tony choked Old Horse to death, hellfire.” The mother warns Gilly not to use that kind of language. The narrator does not want to talk about it and remains silent.