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The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band

Frances Washburn

Publication Year: 2014

Opening July 4, 1969, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band begins with a raucous Fourth of July gig that abruptly ends with the Red Birds ducking out of the performance in a hilarious hail of beer bottles. By the end of the evening, community member Buffalo Ames is dead, presumed to be murdered, just outside the bar. Sissy Roberts, the band’s singer and the “best female guitar picker on the rez,” is reluctantly drawn into the ensuing investigation by an FBI agent who discovers Sissy’s knack for hearing other people’s secrets.

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is part mystery, part community chronicle. Shaped by a cast of skillfully drawn characters, all of whom at one time or another are potential suspects, at the core of the story is smart and compassionate Sissy. Four years past high school, Sissy’s wry humor punctuates descriptions of reservation life as she learns more about Ames’s potential killer, and as she embarks on a personal search for ways to buck expectations and leave rural South Dakota to attend college.

Ames’s death is just an example of the undercurrents of violence and passions that run through this fast-moving novel of singing, loving, and fighting. Following Sissy as she unravels the mystery of both Buffalo Ames’s death and her own future, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is the story of Indian Country on the verge of historic change and a woman unwilling to let change pass her by.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-2

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Chapter One. Sissy

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pp. 3-4

Nobody ever sees me the way I see myself, but only the way that each person thinks I am. I met a guy from another town where a former classmate of mine had gotten a job. He’d asked her if she knew me, and what she thought of me. You know what the woman said? She said I was the...

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Chapter Two. The Scenic Fourth of July Rodeo and Dance

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pp. 5-26

Heat waves flickered across the road that became the wide, dusty main street of Scenic as the two-car convoy crossed the east–west railroad tracks driving north to Harley and Annie Ferrill’s Longhorn Bar at the northern end of what Scenic called its town. Sissy rode shotgun with Clayton Red Bird driving his old Chevy Impala, the backseat crammed...

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Chapter Three. Jackson

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pp. 27-40

Somebody shook her. “Leave me alone.” “Sissy. Sissy. Wake up. You’re home.” She was cramped on the passenger side of Clayton’s front seat while Sonny stood outside with the door open, poking a finger into her ribs....

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Chapter Four. The C & C on Saturday Night

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pp. 41-48

Saturday, Sissy helped her mom with the laundry and cleaning while her dad piddled around with his Ford Falcon pickup, changing the oil and so on. She wished he would trade it in for a better car, but he said it got good gas mileage. It also had a sticky clutch that wouldn’t pop back up after you pushed it down, so he wired it up with a bedspring, which made it hard to...

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Chapter Five. Chicken Cacciatore

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pp. 49-60

Clouds rolling overhead like thick gray sheepskin covered the sky, insulating the ground from the sun. Thunder grumbled halfheartedly but without the follow-through of rain. Temperatures dropped, a respite for humans and animals but slowing down the ripening of grain in the fields. Farmers looked anxiously at the sky, praying it wouldn’t come a long...

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Chapter Six. Interior Rodeo and Dance

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pp. 61-70

Melvin stirred the dust under his boots walking back and forth in front of the tumbledown picket fence in front of Clayton’s house. Sonny was a no-show, so either Clayton or Melvin would have to keep himself awake on his own coming home. “He’ll be there after the rodeo for the gig,” Sissy said. Clayton raised up from shoving more equipment in the backseat of...

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Chapter Seven. Dog Day Nights

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pp. 71-80

The rain that hit Interior was part of a broad front that reached all the way down to the wheat fields around Jackson. While the harvesters waited for the fields to dry out, they clogged the streets of the town, those with cars driving up and down the single main street along with the local farmers in town for repairs or groceries, the local high school kids cruising...

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Chapter Eight. Melon, Just Melon

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pp. 81-92

Kadoka sat right of the edge of the rez, too, but it was on the east side and a far different town than Scenic or Interior, because, unlike the other two, Kadoka was on the main tourist highway to the Black Hills. The town survived from the trade of local ranchers and farmers, but the gravy came from tourists passing through in their station wagons and campers...

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Chapter Nine. Auntie Ruth

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pp. 93-104

Sissy awoke from a dream of green-eyed monsters chasing her down endless corridors with doors that were all locked. Someone was pounding on the door. Her parents were still gone. She’d have to get up. Clayton stood on the back porch, his black hair gleaming, shirt...

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Chapter Ten. A Real Date

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pp. 105-116

Monday was a rough day at work for Sissy. She had less than six hours of sleep—she was one of the unfortunate people that needed not eight, but nine hours—so she was groggy and buzzy-headed when she walked through the doors of the steak house at 6 a.m., then Speedy didn’t show...

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Chapter Eleven. The Barrel Bull ride Winner

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pp. 117-128

When the region first organized itself as a county, two communities, Haysworth and Schmidt—each with no better name than that of its original founding family—vied for the honor of being county seat. Haysworth won one hundred twenty out of two hundred votes and became the county seat, but no one called the new town Haysworth. They...

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Chapter Twelve. The Golf Tournament

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pp. 129-138

Sissy slept late on Sunday morning, as she usually got to do, and woke feeling that something was out of whack, something missing, which she always felt when her parents were gone in the summers. Sunday mornings without the smell of chili and the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, without the sound of her dad’s strong right arm whomping pancake batter always...

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Chapter Thirteen. Allen’s Pow Wow and Carnival

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pp. 139-150

The Reynolds Carnival, with their usual little hardscrabble collection of rusty, run-down rides, half-dead animals, and creepy carny workers, had set up at the Allen Pow Wow every summer for fifteen years, not that the Allen community officials hadn’t tried to get a decent carny company instead. All the more respectable outfits were scared to death of the...

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Chapter Fourteen. Baseball Epiphanies

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pp. 151-164

Sissy woke up to whomp-whomp-whomp as her dad beat up the pancake batter on Sunday morning, smiled, turned over and went back to sleep. She looked forward to her dad’s breakfast, even without the usual chili since her mom wouldn’t have had time to prepare it the night before, but not to the ass chewing she knew she had coming for not keeping...

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Chapter Fifteen. Red Power

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pp. 165-176

On Wednesday afternoon when Sissy got home from her shift, she threw a load of her sheets into the washer. Her mom and dad had cleaned the downstairs rooms, but upstairs was her responsibility, something her dad reminded her of the night before when he had walked up the stairs just...

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pp. 177-178

I came home to Auntie Iris’s house from working at a nice little café by the college. The work was familiar; I liked my fellow waitresses, even the little weasel of a cook who whined all the time about everything but was a softie at heart. I picked up the mail from the dining room table and...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816598823
E-ISBN-10: 0816598827
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530823
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530823

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2014

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Fiction.
  • Country musicians -- Fiction.
  • Mystery fiction. -- gsafd.
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