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Finding Billy White Feather

ISSUE:  Spring 2013

Oliver Campbell had never met Billy White Feather. He had never heard the name. But the note tacked to his backdoor had him out on the reservation at nine on a raw Sunday morning. Twin Appaloosa foals at Arapaho Ranch, the note said. To purchase, find Billy White Feather. The note was signed, Billy White Feather. He’d stepped out to find the note and no sign of anyone. He looked at his dog on the seat next to him. The twelve-year-old Lab’s big head hung over the edge of the seat.

“You’re not much of a watchdog, Tuck,” Oliver said. “You’re supposed to let me know when somebody’s in the yard.”

The dog said nothing.

Oliver didn’t want to make the drive all the way up to the reservation ranch just to find no one there, so he stopped at the flashing yellow traffic signal in Ethete. Ethete was a gas station/​store and a flashing yellow light. He got out of his pickup and walked through the fresh snow and into the store. He stomped his feet on the mud-caked rubber mat. The young clerk didn’t look up. Oliver moved through one of the narrow aisles to the back and poured himself a large cup of coffee. He picked up a packaged blueberry muffin on his way back and set it on the counter.

“Three dollars,” the young woman yawned.

“Three dollars?” Oliver said in mock surprise.

“Okay, two-fifty,” the woman said, without a pause or interest.

He gave her three dollars. “I’m looking for Billy White Feather.”


“He left me a note about a horse.”

“No, I mean why are you looking here?”

“I think he lives here. On the reservation, I mean.”

“Indians live on the reservation.”

Oliver tore open his muffin and pinched off a bite, looked outside at the snow that was falling again. “Do you know Billy White Feather?”

“I do.”

“But he’s not an Indian?”

She nodded.

“His name is White Feather?”

“That’s something you’re going to have to talk to him about. He ain’t no Arapaho and he ain’t no Shoshone and he ain’t no Crow and he ain’t no Cheyenne. That’s what I know.”

“So, he might be Sioux.”

“Ain’t no Sioux or Blackfoot or Gros Ventre or Paiute neither.”


“He’s a tall, skinny white boy with blue eyes and a blond ponytail and he come up here a couple of years ago and started hanging around acting like he was a full blood or something.”

Oliver sipped his coffee.

“He liked on Indian girls and dated a bunch of them. Bought them all doughnuts ’til they got fat and then ran out on them. Now he’s in town liking on Mexican girls. That’s what I hear.”

“His note said there are some twin foals up at the ranch,” Oliver said. “Heard anything about that?”

“I heard. It’s big news. Twins. That means good luck.”

“So, what’s White Feather have to do with the horses?”

“I ain’t got no idea. I don’t care. Long he don’t come in here I got no problem with Billy whatever-his-name-is.”

Oliver looked at her.

“Because it sure ain’t no White Feather.”

Oliver nodded. “Well, thanks for talking to me.”

“Good luck.”

The door opened and in with a shock of frigid air came Hiram Shakespeare. He was a big man with a soft voice that didn’t quite fit him.

“Hiram,” Oliver said.

“Hiya,” Hiram said. “What are you doing up this way, brown man?”

“I came to see the twins.”

“Word travels fast. Twins. Something, that. How’d you find out?”

“I got a note from somebody named Billy White Feather.”

“You know him?”

“Never met him.”

“Stay away from him, though. He’s bad medicine.”

“I’m gathering that.” Oliver looked at his cup. “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you take me up to see the foals.”

“You drive.”

“You bet,” Oliver said.

“I hate driving in snow,” Hiram said. “Can’t see shit in the snow. Course I can’t see shit in the bright sunshine.”

Hiram grabbed his extra-large tub of coffee, and Oliver paid for it. They walked out into the wet falling snow and climbed into Oliver’s truck. Tuck moved to the middle and sat, his head level with the humans.

Hiram rubbed the dog’s head. “He’s looking good.”

“For an old guy,” Oliver said.

“I wish somebody would say that about me.”

“I’m saying.”

Hiram looked through the back window into the bed of the truck. Oliver had thrown a bunch of cinder blocks in the back wheels to keep the truck from fishtailing on ice. Hiram nodded, “That’s good, them blocks.” He then started to fiddle with the radio. He settled on a country station.

“You like that crap?” Oliver asked.

“It’s country music,” Hiram said. “Indians are country people.” He sang along with the song. “So, how do you know Billy White Feather?”

“I don’t know him. Never heard of him until today when I got the note saying to contact him about buying the foals. When were they born?”

“Last night. It’s George Big Elk’s mare.”

“So, they don’t belong to Billy White Feather.”

Hiram laughed loudly. “Billy White Feather?”

“His note said that if I was interested in buying the foals, I should contact Billy White Feather.”

“More like Billy White Man. He doesn’t own the shirt he’s wearing. If he’s wearing a shirt.”

“George’s, eh. Did George know she was having twins?”

Hiram shook his head. “The mare looked plenty big, but not crazy big, you know? Nobody up here was going to pay for a scan.
Nobody does that. You know how much them scans cost?”

Oliver nodded. He turned his defroster on high and used his glove to wipe the windshield. “You must breathe a lot or something.”

“Indians breathe a third more than white people. A quarter more than black people.”

“Why is that?”

“This is FBI air.”


Hiram laughed. “Full Blooded Indian.”

“I wonder why that guy put that note on my door.”

“Bad medicine. I wonder how he knew about the foals. I heard tell that Danny Moss and Wilson O’Neil run him off the reservation a few weeks ago. Beat him up pretty good.”

“I wonder if I’ve seen the guy without knowing who he was,” Oliver said.

“You’d remember him, all right. He’s a big guy with red hair and a big mustache.”

Oliver took the turn onto a dirt road that had not been plowed. “Think we’ll be okay on this road?” he asked.

Hiram shrugged. “Long as the tribe hasn’t plowed it yet. Those guys come by and make everything impassable.”

“County does the same thing. They can take a messy run and turn it into impassable in a few hours.”

“Two gallons of shit in a one-gallon bucket. Probably go to the same classes.”

“Have you seen the foals yet?”

Hiram shook his head. “I hear tell they’re damn near the same size and pretty strong.”

“That’s unusual.”

“I heard that. I haven’t seen them. They say the mare’s good, too. Vet came up and couldn’t believe it.”

“Who’s the vet?”

“Sam Innis.”

Oliver nodded.

The snow let up a bit.

Hiram was looking out the window at the Owl Creek Hills. “My father wouldn’t set foot in these mountains,” he said. “Scared him. Said there were witches out here.” Then he laughed.

“What’s funny?” Oliver asked.

“That priest over at Saint whatever-it’s-called asked me the other day if I believed in God. I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Why the hell not.’ Then I told him the question is, does He believe in me. He didn’t like that. I don’t think he liked me saying hell in church.”

“What were you doing in the church?”

“I go in there for that communion wine. It’s the only booze I get. My wife won’t let me have beer or nothing.”

“Mine, either.”

“You’re married? Who would marry you?”

“She’s crazy,” Oliver said. 

Oliver pulled the truck into the yard of the ranch. There were several people standing outside the barn corral. The snow had stopped falling, and the sun was even breaking through in the west. They got out and walked over to the huddle of men standing near the gate. Tuck stayed close to Oliver.

The foals were standing, spindly legged clichés next to their mother, a fat-rumped, well-blanketed Appaloosa. The two colts were identical, buckskin in color, with matching blazes. Like the sire, Oliver was told. Who could tell yet whether they would thrive, but they were standing.

“What was the birth like?” Oliver asked.

A fat man named Oscar threw his cigarette butt into the snow. “I knew it was happening at about nine last night. I called Innis and he drove up, got here about ten. Then it went real fast. Vet pulled the first one out, but it wasn’t easy. The head and hoof were showing. He said a bunch of stuff, talking to himself. You know how he is. He reached his hands in there to untwist her leg and I heard him say, ‘What the fuck.’ I never heard Innis swear before. He said he couldn’t believe it, but he felt another head. I couldn’t believe it, either.”

A couple of the men whistled even though they’d heard the story.

“Vet said there was another one and there he stands. He gave them some shots and left a couple of hours ago.”

Oscar looked at Oliver. “What are you doing here?”

“I got a note about these guys.”

“Sam Innis was here all night,” Oscar said.

“The note was from Billy White Feather.”

The men grew quiet.

“How do you know him?” one of the men asked.

“Never met him,” Oliver said.

“Why is he leaving you notes?”

“I don’t know.”

“He’s an asshole,” Oscar said. “He owes Mary Willow two hundred dollars,” Oscar said.

“For what?” Hiram asked.

“Something about a horse trailer. She paid him to rewire it, but I guess he skipped with the money. Asshole.”

“So, nobody suspected twins,” Oliver said.

“Naw,” Oscar said.

George Big Elk, a Northern Cheyenne man, came out of the house and moved to the rail. He greeted Oliver. “News travels fast,” he said.

“Around here,” Oliver said.

“Looks like they’re okay.”

“They’re beautiful. Has she thrown before?”

“Twice. Lost the first one. Almost lost her, too. It was a mess. I thought she was all torn up inside, but then she had a foal the next year.”

Oliver looked at the mare. She was tall for an App, with great conformation. “The sire as pretty as she is?”

“You bet,” George said. “Handsome. He’s handsome.”

“Billy White Feather offered to sell them to ol’ Ollie,” Hiram said.

“I wish that wasichu would come around here,” George said.

The men laughed.

“Well, I can now say I’ve seen the twins,” Oliver said. “I will see you men later. Hiram, do you need a ride back down to Ethete?”

“I’m all right. But if you want to come back later, I’ll have some buffalo triplets to sell to you.”

“Come on, Tuck.”

It was snowing again when Oliver arrived home to find Lauren rearranging the furniture in the living room. The rug was rolled up and shoved to one side. She had put towels under the feet of the sofa so that she could slide it across the floor.

“You’re going to hurt yourself,” he said.

“I won’t complain if you help me.”

“Do you know what you’re doing?”


“Well, okay then.” He helped her move the sofa across the room and turn it. He stood away with her and looked at it. “What do you think?” he asked.

“Nope. Back where it was.”

They pushed it back.

“So, where’d you run off to this morning?”

“Went to see twin foals up on the rez.”

“That’s cool.”

“It was pretty cool. Big App mare, identical babies, mother and children doing well. A real beautiful scene.”

“Somebody’s going to die,” she said.

“You got that right.”

“Why are you such a pessimist?” she asked.

“Hey, I didn’t say it, you did.”

“I only said it because I knew you were thinking it.”

“Seriously though, I hope those babies make it. They looked strong.”

“So, who called you?” She followed him into the kitchen.

Oliver grabbed a couple of mugs and poured coffee from the pot that was sitting out. “Got a note. Tacked to the backdoor when I came in from feeding. It was from Billy White Feather.”

“Who the hell is Billy White Feather?”

“Some white boy with an Indian fetish from what I gather. I’d never heard of him.”

“So, why’d he leave you a note?”

“Beats me. It’s pretty weird.”

“While you’re in town I want you to pick up a package waiting at the post office.” Lauren sipped her coffee.

“Who said I’m going into town? I just got back. I’ve got work to do around here.”

“Please? It’s snowing. I hate driving in the snow.”

“Everybody hates driving in the snow,” he said.

“Pretty please?” 

“I love it when you beg. I’m leaving Tuck here.” He looked at the dog. “Be a watchdog. Watch.”

“Hey, he’s old.”

“He’s still employed.” He gave the dog’s head a rub.

The new post office was right beside the old post office. Oliver wondered if a post office needed an address. The only part of the old one used was its parking lot. It wasn’t that the new lot was ever crowded, but the lines of the spaces had been so closely painted that no one could fit a truck into one. Oliver walked inside and handed the slip to Pam, the clerk, a large woman with large hair.

“You don’t look like a Lauren,” Pam said, looking at the paper.


He watched as she waded through the piles of boxes in the back. He looked at the bulletin board beside him and wondered when they quit putting wanted posters on the wall. Someone was missing a tabby cat. There were some free shepherd-mix puppies to a good home. And there was a sheet with tear-off numbers offering guitar lessons from one Billy White Feather. Oliver tore off one of the tabs.

Pam came back with the box. “Here it is, Lauren.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Just sign right here.”

“Pam, have you come across a Billy White Feather?”


“You’ve met him?”

“No. He came in here and caused a ruckus a while back while I was out to lunch. Drunk.”

“You know his address?”

“Yeah, Ethete.”

“Ethete? But he’s a white guy.”

“You get kicked by a horse? His name is White Feather.”

“Folks up at Ethete say he’s a white guy.”

“Well, maybe he ain’t Arapaho, but he’s an Indian. Got a jet-black braid down to his narrow ass.”

“Then, you’ve seen him.”

“I wish I would see him. After what he said to that Dwight girl.”

“Duncan Dwight’s daughter?”


“What did he say?” Oliver asked.

“I can’t repeat it. But Duncan Dwight will shoot him if he sees him. And I wouldn’t blame him.”

Oliver picked up the package. “Thanks, Pam.”

“You have a nice day now. Barn journey, as the French say.”

Behind the wheel of his truck, Oliver called the guitar-lesson number on his mobile phone. A recording informed him that the line was not in service. Of course, he thought. He put the phone away and stared ahead through his windshield at the old post office. He was near laughing at himself, taken, as he was, by what seemed to be a mystery. The irony was double-sided, as he on one hand really had no interest in Billy White Feather, whether Indian or white, and on the other he recognized that pursuing an answer here was the same as falling for whatever con game this Billy White Feather was running around playing. But why had this guy left him a note? Why had he been at his place?

Oliver felt uneasy and so he called Lauren.

“You get my package?”

“Yep.” He didn’t want to alarm her, but he had to ask. “Has anybody come by today?”

“No. Why?”

“Just asking. Keep an eye out.”


“I’ll be home directly.”

Even though he was anxious about getting home, his next stop was Duncan Dwight’s office. He was an attorney and a cattle detective. He’d done Oliver’s will and living trust. He was a short man who was comfortable with his size. He never rode a horse, but he was a real cowboy.

Duncan was chatting with his receptionist when Oliver walked in. “Howdo, Oliver. What brings you around?”

“Just came from the reservation. An App just dropped twins.”

“Really?” He led the way into his office. “Come on in.”

“All healthy so far,” Oliver reported.

“Pretty cool.”

“They’re gorgeous. Born last night. And somebody tacked a note to my door telling me about it.”

Oliver watched Duncan respond to his tone. “Okay, a note,” Duncan said. “Why are you saying it like that?”

“A note from Billy White Feather.”

Duncan pulled a cigar from the box on his desk, snipped off the end and put it in his mouth. “Billy White Feather.”

“You know him?” Oliver asked.

“Never met him.”

Oliver walked over and looked at a wall of photos. Duncan posed with various people, maybe famous. There were a couple of pictures of Duncan standing with prized beef. “Do you know anything about him?”

“Heard some people talking about him. Nobody seems to like the guy very much, if at all.”

“I heard he said something to your daughter.”

“I heard that too, but she says she never saw him.” Duncan lit his cigar. “What are you after, Oliver?”

“You know the folks up on the rez say Billy White Feather is a white guy?”

Duncan blew out a cloud of smoke. “White Feather sounds awfully Indian to me. What’s eating at you?”

“This guy left me a note about buying horses that weren’t his to sell. Left the note tacked to my door.” He sighed, thought about Lauren at home and said, “I’d better get home.”

“Maybe Billy White Feather isn’t Shoshone or Arapaho, but everybody described him as an Indian guy to me,” Duncan said.

“What else did they say about him?”

“Great big guy.”


“I heard big. Could be he’s fat.”

“Woman up at Ethete described him as a skinny blond man to me.”

Oliver and Duncan stared out the same window.

“Well, I gotta go,” Oliver said.

“I’ll ask around some,” Duncan said.

Oliver nodded and left.

Oliver arrived home to find Lauren dragging a bag of fertilizer across the yard. He got out of the truck and picked it up for her. “You’re going to hurt yourself,” he said. “This shit is heavy.”

“You can carry my shit any day, cowboy,” she said.

“Where do you want it?”

“By the hydrangeas.”

“And which ones might those be?”

Lauren pointed.

Oliver put down the bag.

“What was that phone call all about?” she asked. “You got me all nervous and scared.”

“Sorry about that. It’s just that I found out about the twins up on the reservation from a note left on our door. And I started worrying because someone had been on the place.”

“Well, you got yourself another note.” Lauren pulled a paper from her sweater pocket, handed it to him. “It’s from Billy White Feather.”

“He was here?”

“No, some woman brought it by.”

“Indian woman?”

“White. Never saw her before, but she was wearing one of those pale blue uniforms from that fast food place near the grocery store. What’s it called?” She searched. “Tastee Freez.”

“What did she look like?”

“Twenty-five, maybe a little older. Thick body, but not fat. Blond hair. Bad makeup.”

“Did she say her name?”

“No, but her name tag said billie with an i-e.”

“Very funny.”

“I kid you not.”

Oliver looked at the note. Sorry about this morning. Beautiful twins, but not mine. Call me if you need a ranch hand.

“You sure you don’t know this guy?”

“Now I’m not so sure. Maybe from awhile ago. Maybe he used a different name. I’m trying to remember if I know any tall, short, skinny, fat, white Indians with black blond hair.”

That night Oliver couldn’t sleep. He pulled on some jeans and a sweatshirt and walked downstairs. Tuck raised his head from his bed when Oliver sat in the mudroom to put on his boots. He told the dog to stay and Tuck put his head back down. The snow had stopped and the clouds had blown clear, allowing the temperature to take a serious drop. He folded his arms over his chest and walked out into the pasture with his donkeys. They stirred at the bottom of the hill and plodded their way up, investigating, hoping for treats.

Oliver thought about the twin foals and hoped they would be all right. He then considered Billy White Feather, or rather he tried to consider him, tried to imagine him. He wouldn’t have cared at all, except that the note had been left on the door of his home. It irked him even now that a stranger had stood on his porch without his knowledge. He worried for Lauren. Then the fragility of it all, everything, became so apparent. Strangers always had access to one’s home. He could not be there all the time. He decided to find a companion for Tuck.

The donkeys came and stood around him, became still and peaceful. One of them lay down. Perhaps they were asleep. Who could tell? Perhaps he was still asleep and only dreaming that he was standing out in a pasture. The cold air bit at him some more and he decided, dream or not, he’d go back inside.

The next morning, after feeding the horses, after fixing a near-downed section of fence, and after a light breakfast of yogurt and toast, Oliver drove into town to the Tastee Freez. He arrived at a little after eight to discover they opened at eight thirty. He sat in his truck with his dog and listened to the news and weather on the radio. It seemed winter was coming early and hard.

An old model blue Buick 225 rolled in and parked in a spot on the far side of the lot beside the Dumpsters. A man got out and walked toward the restaurant. Oliver got out and waved to him.

“We’ll be open in about twenty minutes,” the man said.

“Does Billie work here?” Oliver asked.

“Who wants to know?” The man was rightly suspicious.

“My name is Oliver Campbell. Billie brought a note by my place yesterday, and I just want to ask her about it.”

The man looked Oliver up and down. “What kind of note?”

“It was a note about some horses. She delivered it to my place for Billy White Feather.”

“Fuck Billy White Feather. If you’re a friend of his, then you ain’t no friend of mine.” The man started to move away.

“I’ve never even seen Billy White Feather. I just want to know why I’m getting these notes.”

“Yeah, well, that guy’s got problems.”

“You know him then,” Oliver said.

“He came around here about three months ago messing with every waitress he could talk to.”

“White guy?”

“Hispanic, I think. Anyway, that’s what the girls told me.”

“You never saw him?”

“I wish I had.”

Oliver nodded. “Does Billie work today?”

“She should be here soon.”

“Mind if I wait?”

“Suit yourself.”

Oliver returned to his truck.

Another man arrived by bicycle. A tall, skinny, older woman parked her late-sixties Cadillac Coupe de Ville beside the Buick. A stout young woman with blond hair was dropped off by a man in a white dually pickup. 

Oliver got out of his truck and called to her. “Excuse me, ma’am. Are you Billie?”

The woman looked at Oliver and then at the door of the Tastee Freez as if she was considering running. When he was closer he could see that her nametag did indeed read Billie.

“It’s okay,” Oliver said. “I just want to ask you a couple of questions. You left a note with my wife yesterday. The note from Billy White Feather.”

The woman’s face showed some kind of relief, but she was still uncomfortable. “And?” she said.

“I just wanted to ask you about Billy White Feather.”

“I delivered that note for my idiot roommate. I don’t even know Billy White Feather.”

“Your roommate.”

“Yes, my roommate.”

“And where might I find your roommate?” Oliver asked. He felt suddenly exhausted and perhaps overwhelmed. He certainly had no idea what he was doing in the parking lot of the Tastee Freez.

“Not here,” she said.

“You think I can drop by and see her?”

“Not here meaning not in town. She’s gone. She’s on her way to Denver to meet up with that guy.”

“Billy White Feather.”


“Listen, I’d really like to track down this guy. Did she give you a forwarding address or anything?”

“I can’t tell you that. I don’t know you.”

“I understand.” He looked at the sky. “But you’ve seen my place, my wife. You know I’m not some crazy killer.”

“I don’t know that.”

“I’ll give you ten dollars for the address.”

“Listen, I’m late for work.”

“Twenty dollars.”

“You’re not a crazy?”

“No, ma’am.”

She gave Oliver the address and walked on into the restaurant.

Oliver returned home to do his chores. It was time for his horses to have their shots and so he waited for Sam Innis, the vet. Innis always delivered the vaccine and left it to Oliver to administer the shots. He drove in while Oliver was combing out his mare’s tail.

“I’ve the drugs,” Innis said, conspiratorially, stepping out of his rig.


“First one’s free.” Innis looked around, then at the sky. “Any animals need looking at?”

“Everybody is standing. Got time for coffee?”

“A quick cup sounds good.” The vet followed Oliver across the yard and into the house. 

Innis sat at the table in the kitchen. Oliver pulled some mugs from the cupboard and reached for the pot.

“Where’s Lauren?”

“Food shopping.”

“Shoot. The only reason I come all the way out here is to see her. You can tell her I said that.”

“I will.” 

Oliver poured the coffee.

Innis yawned. “Sorry. Late night.”

“Out partying?”

“I wish. Some foals died up on the reservation.”

“The twins?” 


“Damn. What happened?”

“Beats me. Failure to thrive. They looked good, real good. I can’t believe both failed. Twins are difficult.” Innis sipped his coffee. He handled the information like someone used to death.

Oliver was shaken by what he’d just heard. “I can’t believe it,” he said. He sat at the table, too. “They looked good.”

“I’m going to do autopsies on them, but nothing is going to turn up. It just happens.”

Oliver looked out the window at Tuck sniffing at the vet’s tires. “George must be pretty disappointed.”

“I think he is, but who can tell with him.”

They drank for a couple minutes without talking.

“It’s a tough thing, all right,” Innis said. “Twins are a complicated business. Complicated.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well, gotta run.”

“Thanks for bringing the meds over,” Oliver said.

Oliver checked the tractor and the plow blade. He would apparently be needing them soon. The sky had become fat and gray. Like a city pigeon. That was how his father had described a snow sky. He’d told Lauren the news about the foals and her eyes had welled up, but she didn’t cry. She’d seemed more worried about him. Then he’d started talking about Billy White Feather again. She hadn’t laughed at him, but she did stare at him with concern. She’d watched him unfold and fold the piece of paper with the Denver address. 

Now he walked into the house to find on the kitchen table a paper sack and a tall thermos bottle standing next to it. Lauren was sitting, drinking tea.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Some sandwiches, some cookies, some coffee.” She looked him in the eye and offered a weak smile. “How long have we been married? That was a rhetorical question.”

“I thought so.”

“I know you, Oliver Campbell. Go to Denver. Figure this out. Otherwise you’re going to drive me crazy.”

“I thought I did that anyway.”

“It’s a long drive, so stop for the night in Laramie.”

“You’ve got this all figured out.”

“Pretty much.”

“Well, bolt the doors. I’ll put the 12 gauge by the bed.”

“You’re scaring me again. I won’t need it.”

“Humor me.”

Lauren nodded.

“Want to ride with me?” he asked.

“And who’s going to take care of this place?”

“Just what am I looking for?”

“Billy White Feather.”

“And why?”

“Beats me.”

Oliver started toward the stairs, stopped. “He came to our home, Lauren. Stood on our porch.”

“I know.”

The drive to Denver, though long, was a familiar one. He knew when he promised Lauren that he would stop for the night that he would not. It was only two in the afternoon when he reached Laramie and with only three more hours of driving it made little sense to lay up for the better part of a day. He grabbed a hot dog at Dick’s Dogs, a place that he could never visit if he were with Lauren, then continued on. He reached Denver just about in the middle of rush hour.

Sitting in the traffic turned out to be better for his thinking than the driving. He looked at the faces of the other drivers. Any one of them could have been Billy White Feather. He had decided that Billy White Feather was actually a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound Filipina. Or a tall black man with a disfiguring scar down the center of his face.

If he found the man, what was he going to say? “Hey, why are you leaving me notes?” Or maybe, “Stay out of my yard.” Being there felt suddenly stupid. He had half a mind to turn around and head back to Laramie for the night. But it was only half a mind, after all. The rest of his mind wanted to see what a Billy White Feather looked like. Was he a native guy or was he white? Oliver knew he wouldn’t be able to tell by looking. Maybe everybody had him wrong. Maybe he was an Indian, but he sure wasn’t Arapaho or Shoshone. Maybe he was a white guy with dark skin and a ponytail going around telling all the wasichus that he was an Indian. None of this thinking answered the question of what he was going to say if he found the man.

He got off the freeway and made his way through town. He found the street and the address. It was a dingy neighborhood, made dingier by the fact that it was dusk now. Oliver parked in front of the small white house. A couple of teenagers eyed him as they walked by. He decided that sitting in his truck like that might get him into trouble, so he got out and walked to the door.

No one answered his knock. He walked around back, feeling uncomfortable as his head passed windows. He expected a pit bull to come running at him at any moment. In the back was a poorly maintained rectangle of grass, one of those circular clothes-drying racks, and a partially disassembled motorcycle under a cheap aluminum cover. He tripped a motion-activated yard light over the paint-peeled screen door. His hands were shaking, but once he realized it, they stopped. He knocked on the backdoor and still there was no response. He sat on the concrete steps and looked at the battered Honda bike. It was fast becoming dark now. He looked again at the door.

Oliver got up and went back to his truck. He found some paper, the back of something on the floor, and wrote a note. He walked around to the back of the house again. As he attempted to wedge his note between the screen door and the jamb, the backdoor opened. A woman in a dingy yellow terrycloth robe stood rubbing her eyes.

“Who the fuck are you?” she asked. She was tall and extremely skinny. Oliver thought she looked like a user of some kind of drug, but decided he didn’t know enough to tell. She had small features set on a narrow face with a sharp nose that was pointed at Oliver.

“Is this where Billy White Feather lives?”

“It’s where he’s supposed to live soon,” she said.

“I was leaving him a note. Are you his girlfriend?”

“I’m her roommate.” She sniffed like she had a cold. “What do you want with Billy?”

“Billy left me a note at my place up in Wyoming,” Oliver said.


“I don’t know this Billy and I want to know why he left me a note.”

“You drove all the way from Wyoming for that?”

When she said it, it did sound sort of crazy.

“I’m calling the cops if you don’t leave,” she said.

“Do you know Billy?”

“Suppose I do?”

“Is Billy White Feather white or Indian?”

“What kind of question is that? You’d better get away from here.”

“He put a note on my door and I don’t know him. I just want to know what he looks like. Tall? Short? What?”

“Fuck you,” she said and slammed the door.

Oliver left the note wedged inside the screen. He walked back to his truck and fell in behind the wheel. The teenagers were walking back in his direction. He heard a siren in the distance. He cranked his engine and drove away. 


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Jill's picture
Jill · 7 years ago

I found the story compelling and interesting throughout...until the end. Bread crumbs of  seeming clues seemed to move the story along until the ending which made no sense to me.

D. S. White's picture
D. S. White · 6 years ago

Loved this story in and out. Like most people, wondered about the end. I find most writers struggle with the beginning or the end. If they struggle with the middle, they aren't good writers. And Percival Everett definitely is a good writer. It reminded me at times of the ending of many of Cormac McCarthy's books, not necessarily solid either, but strong triumps nonetheless. 

RNardi's picture
RNardi · 6 years ago

The fastest I've read 20 pages (O.Henry Prize Stories-2015/Anchor) in a long while. Every sentence was clean and led to the next quickly. Midway I started thinking of Raymond Carver. I think I got the ending, and I will happily re-read this; so I get to enjoy it twice. 100% writer, 0% bullshit.


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