The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 16 : The Going On | Summary



The section starts with a story about a "buffalo with horns of steel." A man fought it, and it killed his horse. He climbed a tree and fired arrows, all to no avail. Then "something spoke to him" and he learned its weakness. With his last arrow, he killed it. The historical paragraph tells the story of the killing of a "buffalo, a poor broken beast" in Carnegie, Oklahoma. It was set loose, and two old Kiowa men "ran that animal down and killed it with arrows." In the third paragraph, the author remembers seeing a small herd of buffalo. They approached a resting calf and the mother chased them away. He recalls, "Our hearts were beating fast and we knew just then what it was to be alive." The line "its steel horns flashed once in the sun" is repeated on the following page next to an illustration of the steel buffalo.


The author here pairs the story of a man fighting a steel buffalo in the ancestral voice with the story of old men killing a weakened buffalo in the historical voice. It is not a young, fit warrior who fights the weakened creature. What comes across in both stories is that courage is present in both the old and the young, and the Kiowa men treat their opponents with respect. When the author sees a calf and is pursued by the cow, he is exhilarated—an experience that calls back to the history of the Kiowa, who were impressive hunters. He sees beauty in the experience. In this segment, the author shows although time has passed and the world has changed, the collective Kiowa experience of regard and respect for the buffalo and for the hunt and the chase has remained a part of the collective experience.

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