The novel "Montana - 1948" by Larry Watson begins as a story of a young boy growing up in rural Montana shortly after World War II. Watson's detailed description of the landscape and small town life lead the reader's first impression of the novel to be that of a carefree story with few real life lessons. However, as the plot develops, many complicated themes of lust, deceit, corruption, envy, anger and control unfold. The story centers on Davy, a twelve-year-old boy, and how his family deals with the revelation of crimes his Uncle Frank committed while serving as a physician on the nearby Indian Reservation, crimes against young Indian girls. Davy watches and listens as his father, the town Sheriff, wrestles with his sense of justice and his fear of confronting his own father who has controlled his whole life. The thoughts and emotions of this twelve-year-old boy are the heart of the story and of great interest to me. Studying theses emotions has developed a better understanding of myself and of those young people whose life I influence. That summer's events coupled with typical adolescent pressures and emotions led to troubling thoughts and actions. Nowhere are these emotions more evident than in a scene where Davy goes for a horse ride on his Grandfather's ranch.
On the surface, the scene started innocently enough, a twelve-year-old boy, at the opulent ranch home of his grandparents was given a gun and a box of ammunition by his grandfather in case he encountered any coyotes on his backcountry ride. The automatic feature of the gun, quantity of ammunition and freedom to "blast away", lead Davy on a shooting spree, carelessly wasting ammunition and littering the landscape with bullet casings. Along the way, Davy shot and killed a magpie. He didn't aim with any real purpose to hit it, only pulled the gun to shoulder height and haphazardly pulled the trigger. As he examined the dead bird, lying in the dust, a calm came over him and for the first time, he realized he had a need to kill something.