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Blood on the Wind, by Lucile Bogue

Review by Martha Quillen

Utes – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Blood on the Wind The Memoirs of Flying Horse Mollie a Yampa Ute The Story behind the Meeker Massacre
by Lucile Bogue
Published in 2001 by Western Reflections
ISBN 1-890437-50-6

BLOOD ON THE WIND is a novel; specifically it’s a novel about the Meeker Massacre written for “young adults and older readers.” And that creates a bit of a problem.

In the last year of so, we’ve had quite a few letters and articles in Colorado Central about historical accuracy, and it’s something that most of our book reviewers mention frequently when reviewing histories and guide books.

But an historical novel is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax, and although I suspect readers like to learn a little something while they’re being entertained, if Larry McMurtry is any example, historical accuracy isn’t paramount.

Even if it were, however, Blood on the Wind seems accurate enough when it comes to telling about the real event. Bogue’s book mixes real characters and incidents with fictional characters and incidents, which means the reader will have to do a little research if he wants education with his entertainment, but that’s true of all historical novels.

At points in Bogue’s book, however, the reader is bound to wonder whether the main character, Flying Horse Molly, is at all plausible — since she tends to combine the traits of characters in numerous young people’s stories. The heroine is an intrepid young woman who adores horses, and you can see a bit of National Velvet, Nancy Drew and Black Beauty lurking in these pages.

That’s not entirely bad, of course; kids’ books are great. But in this book, the reader also glimpses enough of the Meeker Massacre to realize what a truly great adult novel it could inspire.

Blood on the Wind is a pleasant enough little book — 142 pages of pretty lightweight reading. But the characters in the real Meeker Massacre — an arrogant, self-absorbed, ardently bigoted Indian agent so opinionated and authoritarian he could barely get by in the white world; a band of Indians who loved horses, hunting, and gambling but who were slowly losing all of those things; government bureaucrats; Victorian women taken hostage and repeatedly raped — suggest a more complex, less resolvable plot than the average young people’s novel offers.

Bogue manages to portray more of the distrust, misunderstanding, antagonism, and bitterness that plagued the relationship between Meeker and the Utes than you’d expect in such a diminutive novel. But considering the real-life events, this book is a little too short and sweet.

The Meeker Massacre was about rape, murder, racism, and zealotry. Blood on the Wind is about a young girl who loves horses and has a crush on a young man. Molly’s a smart, courageous girl cast as a central player — in short, she’s a heroine.

But the reader tends to ask questions that the book doesn’t bother with: Can Molly help Josephine Meeker without betraying her own people? When Molly elicits help for Josie, is she a traitor? Would Mollie’s family and friends see her as a traitor if they knew?

How does the violence and rape affect Molly’s own emerging sexuality? Does it change the Utes? How can they put all of the deaths and trials and rage and retribution behind them?

INSTEAD OF DEALING with such conundrums, the author heightens the romance by making Molly’s young man assist in Molly’s efforts to save Josie. And despite everything — including a rather honest assessment of the events and what they will mean to the future of the Utes — the book ends with Molly and her suitor marrying and living happily ever after.

Written to be suitable for twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls, Blood on the Wind ducks the obvious heavy-duty moral dilemmas and sexual implications implicit in its plot. Yet the book isn’t written in such simplistic, kid-book English that it repels adults. On the contrary, the book is engaging enough to keep most thirteen-year-olds and adults reading.

The book’s greatest strength, however, is that it makes you curious about the events portrayed. (I found myself perusing Massacre: The Tragedy at White River and numerous other histories.) Blood on the Wind tells enough of the true-life tale to spark your interest, but not enough to quench it.

–Martha Quillen