The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

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Holy Track Summary

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Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 621

After this, Mary Anita is neutral toward Evelina, who still talks about her at home and longs for her attention. Her family, hearing that the nun’s last name is Buckendorf, are intrigued. Mooshum clearly knows something about the Buckendorfs which he cannot tell in front of Mother. 

Mooshum says the name “Holy Track” before describing how, when he and Junesse rode back to the reservation, the tribal police at first claimed their horses, saying they were stolen, until the priests stopped them. Mooshum was able to buy a cow and a windmill, but he also began to drink.

On the edge of Mooshum’s land lived a boy with his mother, who had tuberculosis. Eventually she was to go to a sanatorium in Canada. She asked Mooshum to fix a cross to the sole of each of her son’s boots to protect him. Mooshum took the boy to his great-uncle, Asiginak, to live. Because his footprints bore crosses, he became known as Holy Track.

Holy Track was taught to make baskets to sell. Mooshum and his friend Cuthbert Peace tried to persuade Asiginak to buy them some alcohol with this money. Asiginak told them to leave Holy Track alone, for he was meant to be a priest.

They followed the boy and Asiginak down to the Lochren farm, where the house was wide open and the cows were groaning to be milked. Then they heard a baby crying. Asiginak went to leave, thinking the place cursed, but Cuthbert went in and rescued the baby. Everyone in the house had been murdered. Within the barn, one of the cows was dead, but the men milked the others and fed the baby some milk.

They agreed to send a message to the sheriff that the baby was still alive and should be sent for. Before they left, they brushed away Holy Track’s footmarks so the sheriff wouldn’t know they had been in the house and think them guilty.

Mooshum stops talking. Mama emerges and says Geraldine is on her way. Then Mooshum says that the town men, the Buckendorfs and Wildstrands, came for Asiginak that night after another man had gone to get the baby. Asiginak bolted, and Mooshum dragged Holy Track out of the house.

They ran to Father Severine, where Holy Track, starved, ate the communion wafers in the church. The priest thought the boy was there to confess, but Holy Track told him the family had been dead already.

The townsfolk arrived at the church and announced they had caught Asiginak and meant to hang him. Holy Track came out and said he would go with his uncle; the men tied his wrists together and threw him, with Asiginak and Mooshum, into their wagon. Cuthbert, too, had been caught.

Just after the murders, Electa Hoag’s brother Tobek ran away, and her husband Oric’s cap was missing. But she said nothing. One day, Mushoom’s friend Johann saw his father, Frederic Vogeli, speaking German in his yard to the Buckendorfs, who were smoking cigarettes he had rolled. Then Frederic made him saddle up, and they rode after the Buckendorfs. 

The sheriff caught up with Vogeli and the Buckendorfs before they were able to hang their suspects. Colonel Lungford, with him, pointed out that Holy Track was just a boy, but the white men were insistent on hanging the Indian men, even though Cuthbert told them what had really happened.

Johann began to sob, until his father punched him in the face. The pair then began to fight, Johann attempting to strangle his father.

Nooses were placed around all the Indian men. The Buckendorfs drove the horses forward to pull up the ropes and hang them.

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