When the Legends Die

When the Legends Die

3.8 51
by Hal Borland

View All Available Formats & Editions

When his father killed another brave, Thomas Black Bull and his parents sought refuge in the wilderness. There they took up life as it had been in the old days, hunting and fishing, battling for survival. But an accident claimed the father's life and the grieving mother died shortly afterward. Left alone, the young Indian boy vowed never to retum to the white man's…  See more details below


When his father killed another brave, Thomas Black Bull and his parents sought refuge in the wilderness. There they took up life as it had been in the old days, hunting and fishing, battling for survival. But an accident claimed the father's life and the grieving mother died shortly afterward. Left alone, the young Indian boy vowed never to retum to the white man's world, to the alien laws that had condemned his father.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.85(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

When the Legends Die

By Hal Borland


Copyright © 1963 Hal Borland
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-3234-7


He came home in midafternoon, hurrying through the alley. She was sitting on the back step of the unpainted two-room house, peeling willow twigs with her teeth and watching the boy chase butterflies among the tall horseweeds. She looked up and saw her man come in from the alley, through the horseweeds toward her. His face was bloody, his shirt torn and bloody down the front. She clapped a hand to her mouth to stifle the cry of hurt and surprise, and he stepped past her, into the house. She followed him and he gestured her to silence and whispered, in the Ute tongue, "They will come after me. Bring water to wash. Get the other shirt."

She went outside, filled the tin wash basin from the water pail on the bench beside the door, and brought it to him. She got the other shirt while he washed his face. There was a cut over his left eye and a darkening bruise beside his mouth. He washed his face, then his hands, and gave her the pan of red-stained water. She took it outside and poured it on the ground among the weeds, where it sank into the dry soil and left only a dark, wet spot. When she went inside again he had taken off the torn shirt and wrapped it into a tight bundle with the bloody places hidden. He pulled the clean shirt over his head, tucked the tails inside his brown corduroys and said, still in the Ute tongue, "I shall go to the stream with black-stem ferns on Horse Mountain. Come to me there." He went into the other room and came back with the rifle. He tucked the bundled shirt under his arm and went to the door, looked, waited, then touched her face with his free hand and went outside. He hurried through the weeds and down the alley to the place where the scrub oak brush grew close by. He went into the brush, toward the river. The magpies screamed for a moment, then were silent. He was gone.

She wiped the water from the table where he had spilled it, searched the floor for spots of blood, and wiped the tin basin with the rag. She went outside and put the basin beside the water pail and looked at the place where she had emptied the basin after he washed. The wet spot on the ground was almost gone. She came back and sat on the step again.

The boy, who was five years old and only an inch or so taller than the horseweeds, came and stood at her knee, asking questions with his eyes. She smiled at him. "Nothing happened," she told him. "Nobody came. Nothing happened. Remember, if they ask." He nodded. She handed him a willow twig. He peeled the bark with his teeth, as she had done, chewed the bark for a moment, tasting the green bitterness, and spat it out. "Go catch a grasshopper," she said, and he went back among the weeds.

She waited half an hour. Then they came, up the street and around the house. They came and stood in front of her, the tall man who always came when there was trouble, the short, fat one from the sawmill, and Blue Elk, with his squeaky shoes, his black coat and derby hat, his wool-bound braids, his air of importance. She looked up at them, each in turn, and she clapped her hand to her mouth and began to wail. "You bring trouble!" she cried. Then, to Blue Elk, in the Ute tongue, "My man is hurt?"

The tall man, the sheriff, watched her and said to Blue Elk, "See what she knows."

Blue Elk rubbed his hands together. They were the soft hands of a man who has not worked in a long time. He said, "Bessie! Stop the wailing. The wailing is for another woman. Let her make the mourning."

"My man is not hurt?"

"You know he is not hurt. Where have you hidden him?" They both spoke Ute.

"He is not here. Why do you come here for him?"

"He was here. He came here."

"If you know this, then find him." She gestured toward the house.

"What does she say?" the sheriff asked.

"She says he is not here. She says we should look."

The sheriff and the sawmill man went inside. She sat waiting. She asked Blue Elk, "Why do you want my man? What happened?"

"He killed a man."


"Frank No Deer."

"That one." Scorn was in her eyes.

"I know. Frank was a thief, a no-good. But George killed him. Where did George go?"

She shrugged.

The sheriff and the sawmill man came back. "No sign of him. What does she say now?"

Blue Elk shrugged. "Nothing."

The sheriff and the sawmill man talked in low tones. Blue Elk turned to her again. "Where is the boy?"

She glanced about the weed patch before her eyes met Blue Elk's. She waved her hand vaguely. "Boys play, go where they will."

"They will watch you," Blue Elk said, still in the tongue.

"If they want me, I am here."

The Sheriff turned to Blue Elk. "Tell her we'll find him if we have to run down every little bunch of Utes in the mountains, every fishing and berry camp. If he was here, he covered his tracks. Or she did. Tell her we'll find him."

Blue Elk said to her, "You heard. For the cost of two horses I could settle this."

"I have not the cost of two horses."

"One horse," Blue Elk offered.

She shook her head. "I have not the cost of one goat."

"What does she say?" the sheriff asked.

"She says he did not come here. She says she has not seen him."

"I think she's lying."

"My people," Blue Elk said in English, "do not lie."

The sheriff grunted. "They just kill each other over a lunch pail. Some day one of them is going to kill you, Blue Elk."

"I am an old man who has done much for my people."

"He's probably hiding in the brush down along the river," the sheriff said. He turned to the sawmill man. "We'd better go find Frank's woman. She's probably heard by now, but you better tell her you'll pay for the funeral."

"For a coffin," the sawmill man said. "Fifty dollars for a coffin. That's all."

Blue Elk's eyes had darted to him when the money was mentioned. The woman on the steps saw, and she said to him in Ute, "The cost of two ponies?" There was scorn in her voice.

"What does she say?" the sheriff asked.

"She says she is glad it was not her man who was killed."

"You know where to find Frank's squaw?"

Blue Elk nodded, and they left.

She sat on the steps another ten minutes. Then she said, "Come now," and there was a movement among the horseweeds near the alley. The boy stood up and came to her and they went indoors. She praised him. She walked about the house, choosing certain things, not taking them from their places, but choosing them. The extra box of ammunition for the rifle. The package of fishhooks and spool of line. Two butcher knives. Spare moccasins for herself and the boy. The boy's blue coat. Two brown blankets.

She sent the boy for kindling, started a fire in the iron stove and put the piece of meat to boil. She neatened up the house, to leave it clean ... and to occupy the time. It was a company house. The man at the pay desk took money from her man's pay every week to pay for rent of the house and for buying the furniture, the old iron bed, the dresser with the broken leg, the four chairs, the table, the stove. For two years he had taken money to pay for these things and he said there was still more to pay. By now, she told herself, they had paid for the two blankets, and that was all she was taking, the blankets. The butcher knives were hers, from before they came here. She had made the moccasins, and the coat. She was no thief.

Her choosing done, the house neat, she went outside and sat on the step again. The boy sat with her, in no mood for play. When the meat was cooked, they would eat. When it was dark, they would pack the things and go. Two years ago Blue Elk had brought them here, from Horse Mountain. Now, in a way, Blue Elk was sending them back to Horse Mountain.

She thought of the summer two years ago.


It was hot, that summer of 1910. They lived near Arboles on the Southern Ute reservation in southwestern Colorado, and her man had a cornfield. The drought came and the corn burned up. In July her man said one evening, "We are going fishing."

"Who is going?"

"Our friends, Charley Huckleberry, too, so it is all right." Charley Huckleberry was a member of the council. "Maybe we will smoke fish, so take salt."

The next morning they went, in six wagons. They went up the Piedra to the reservation line and camped. The men caught fish and they ate their fill, and it was like the old days when they were children and all summer they ate fish and picked berries and there were no cornfields to worry about. In the evening the men wrestled and ran races and the children threw stones at the magpies and the women sat and talked. It was a happy time.

The next day someone said they should go in to Piedra Town and buy candy for the children. Charley Huckleberry said it was all right to go. So they broke camp and went in to town and bought candy for the children and the women went to the store and fingered skirt cloth and admired it, but they had no money for skirt cloth. They had spent all the money they had. Then someone said, "Let us go on up the river and camp and catch fish." Charley Huckleberry said he guessed that would be all right, too.

They went on up the river and camped, and there were plenty of fish. Serviceberries were ripe. The men caught fish and the women and children picked berries, as in the old days, and they set up racks and smoked the fish they didn't eat.

They stayed there a week. Then they went up the river another day and found a place where there were more berries, more fish. And the men killed two fat deer that had come down to the river to drink. The venison tasted good after so much fish, and the women told the men to go up on Horse Mountain and get more deer and they would dry it, the old way, for winter. There were many deer on Horse Mountain and they made much meat. Nobody remembered how long they were there because it didn't matter. When they had made meat for the winter, they said, and had smoked fish and dried berries for the winter, they would go back to the reservation.

Then Blue Elk came and found them there, and Blue Elk said they were in bad trouble. He said the police would come after them because they had come to Horse Mountain without a permit.

They all gathered around Blue Elk to hear this news. Charley Huckleberry said there wouldn't be any trouble because he was in charge and he was a member of the council. But Blue Elk said the council had sent him to find them.

"The council sent you?" Charley asked, and everybody knew that Charley Huckleberry was worried.

"They said when I found you," Blue Elk said, "I should tell you this. That there is trouble."

Then Charley asked, "Who paid you to come? Somebody always pays you to come to tell of trouble. The council didn't pay you. Who did?"

"I worry about my people," Blue Elk said. "That is why I came."

Charley said, "The sawmill man in Pagosa pays you to do these things." But Charley was worried. Everyone knew it. He said, "We came here because our cornfields are burned up. We came to dry fish and berries and make meat for the winter. Nobody can make trouble of this. We did not kill sheep or cows for meat. We killed deer. You are the one who is making trouble."

"I came to warn you," Blue Elk said, "and to tell you that this trouble can be taken care of."

Johnny Sour Water said, "Maybe we should let our women put you on the drying rack, like a fat fish, and smoke you, too."

Everybody laughed at that because Blue Elk looked a little like a big, fat fish. But they didn't laugh much. They didn't know how this would come out.

Bessie's man, George Black Bull, said, "We made meat for the winter, and that is all we did. We will go back now and there will be no trouble." Bessie was proud of him.

"If you go back with me," Blue Elk said, "I can take care of this for you."

"How?" Charley Huckleberry asked.

"I can get permits, and that will make it all right. When you have the permits I can get work for you and you will not have to worry about the winter."

"We do not worry about the winter," Charley said. "We have made meat."

Blue Elk said, "You made meat without permits. Do you think you can keep that meat? You are not so foolish as to think that!" Then he said, "Your cornfields are burned. Your blankets are thin. Your women need new skirts." Which was true. They had torn their clothes and worn them thin picking berries and smoking meat. "And," Blue Elk said, "you already owe money to the trader."

Then Charley Huckleberry asked, "What do the sawmill men pay for you making this talk to us?"

Blue Elk said, "I am an old man. I have nothing but the clothes I wear. I worry for my people. That is why I tell you now that the sawmill man will give you jobs. He has bought many more trees and he needs more men to work. He will pay two dollars a day, silver. And he will pay those dollars to you, not to me."

There was talk, at that. Two dollars, silver, for each day's work! The men talked among themselves, and the women talked to the men.

Charley Huckleberry said, "Don't listen to old Fat Belly! He speaks lies about these things."

Blue Elk didn't answer. He went off to one side and let them talk. And Charley Huckleberry said Blue Elk was right about the permits. It was all right to go on a fishing trip and stay a few days. The council would not make trouble over that. But they had come too far and stayed too long. About that, Blue Elk was right. Probably they would have to pay a fine for that. A fine that the council would write down in the book and they would pay when they had money to pay it. That was not big trouble. And that was all the trouble there would be, Charley Huckleberry said.

But there still was this other matter, this two dollars a day, silver. The women said this might be a good thing, and even some of the men said it might not be too bad a thing. The women said they needed new skirts. They said the beans in tin cans would taste good with the meat they had made. The men said that if all of them went together to Pagosa it would be a happy time, maybe. And they said they did not have to stay very long. In two months, at two dollars a day, they would have more than a hundred dollars. The women said that was many dollars, and all silver.

That was the way it was decided. They broke camp and went back to the reservation with Blue Elk. Charley Huckleberry told the council what they had done and where they had gone, and Blue Elk said everything Charley had told the council was true. Blue Elk said that there should be a fine for this so that they would remember next time, and since they had no money he said it would be right for the council to take the meat they had made and the fish they had smoked. That was done. Then Blue Elk got permits for them to go to Pagosa and work in the sawmill so they would not have to be hungry that winter. The trouble was taken care of.

So they went to Pagosa and Blue Elk helped the men to make their sign on the papers that said so much would be kept out of their pay each week to pay rent for the houses and to buy the furniture. And on the papers it said they could buy what they wanted at the company store and it would be paid for by taking part of their wages. The papers said they could not quit and go away while they owed money for these things. Blue Elk helped them sign the papers.


That was two years ago. Some of them wanted to quit after they had been there two months and go back to the reservations, but they owed money to the company store and they had no money to pay it. Sometimes when pay day came they had only two or three dollars instead of two dollars a day. So they could not quit because they had signed the paper.

One day Blue Elk came to the house and told Bessie that she and George must get married. Bessie said, "George is my man. That is enough. That is married, as it always was."

Blue Elk said, "There is the boy. You must be married for the boy, and he must be baptized."

"What is this 'baptized'?" Bessie asked.

"The preacher sprinkles him with holy water and gives him a name."

"I wash him with water when he is dirty," Bessie said. "I have given him his name. Can the preacher do more than this?"

"It must be done," Blue Elk said. "It will cost five dollars."

"I do not have five dollars," Bessie told him. "They take my man's money and do not pay it to him."

"I will see that he gets five dollars this week," Blue Elk said. And he did. George got the five dollars from the man at the pay desk and gave it to Blue Elk and he took them to the preacher. The preacher said words and wrote on a paper and they were married. Then he asked what they wanted to name the boy. Bessie said, "He is Little Black Bull. He will choose when he needs another name."

The preacher said he must have another name now, and he said Thomas was a good name. They could call him Tom, he said. And Bessie said it didn't matter because Little Black Bull would pick his own name when the time came. So the preacher sprinkled water on the boy's head and Bessie laughed when it ran into his eyes and down his nose. The preacher said, "I christen this child Thomas Black Bull, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost." So Bessie and George were married and the boy was baptized when he was two years old, almost three. George got no pay at all at the desk the next week because he had gotten that five dollars to pay Blue Elk for the marriage and the baptism.


Excerpted from When the Legends Die by Hal Borland. Copyright © 1963 Hal Borland. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

When the Legends Die (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the Ledgends Die is a great book that i very much enjoyed reading and i reccomend it to anyone who likes to read. If you like suvival stories this is the book for you. This book is about a young Indian boy named Tom who runs away with his mom in the middle of the night to be with his father who is wanted for murder. After Tom's father dies his mother also dies in grief. Tom being all alone decides to return to his ancesters ways of life. Tom lays down a vow saying that he will never return to the white man's world. This is a good story because it shows how Tom finds his true idenity. The story is full of Tom facing obstacles in the wild and how he learns to survive them. The conflicts in the story are man vs society and man vs nature. If those are the book you like then this is the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A real life look at what the Native people had to go through. A great book with much insight if you want to find it. Yes it is sad but definitely not boring. We read it every year in school and the students always gain a new appreciation and perspective on life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is truly a masterpiece. It had some of my favorite qualities in a book. Some of these qualities include suspense, survival, and heart. The book did have some parts where you wonder why didn't he do this or that. In towards the end you figure out why. The author leads you on leads you on, then just as you think something is going to happen the author sends you another direction. I love it when the author does that! Something in this book I do not like is when something is going so perfect then a bad guy comes in and ruins it, but that adds suspense. This book takes you on a ride without one dull moment. It will keeping you awake late at night and you won't close the book until the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it and im only halfway through!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am the Thomas Black Bull that became a famous cowboy and was in the film with 'Richard Widmark' called 'When The Legend dies' released in June 1972 and is still sold in video. I won twenty(20) World titles and will soon put my web site on the internet. I have spent the last 25 years in Brazil working in the Amazon - I hold Rodeo titles in all the Nations of South America, Again, get the video with 'RICHARD WIDMARK' it will be the greatest rodeo ever 'When The Legend Dies' I'm still alive--Thomasblackbull@hotmail.com
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked this book, but at the end when he was going through all this wierd stuff, it got pretty stressful. you start to feel like the character in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow this books is like my most favorite book in the whole intire would!! well i just have to read it again. LOVE ALWAYS. Sasha Dennis
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to see this in eBook format. Love this book!
Neroon More than 1 year ago
I read this as a teenager back in the 70's. It is one of the few books that made be gasp when I set it down. I sat there for felt like an eternity pondering the book, its story, and the impact on me. I think it was one of the reasons I got a degree in Anthropology and the reason I supported the Judge Boldt decision that changed fishing rights in Washington State forever.  -- Michael
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm in 5th grade and i understood every detail
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read this book about 20 yrs ago and I loved it then and have been looking for it to read again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hey i'm Mike Crossen and I just wanted to share that I thought this book was very thought out and written well. I thought the plot was very creative, how Tom and his mother leave in the night to be with his father who is a fugitive. Then Tom's father dies and later his mother dies in grief. I thought it was creative that Tom stays in the wild by himself making a vow that he will never return to the white man's world. I thought the detail put into the story was good and it so that i could image what was going on at times. For example i could picture Tom all alone surrounded by tons of forest waiting and preparing to kill for food. I give this book three and a half stars and recomend it to anyone who likes survival stories or just likes to read. Bye
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hal Borland writes an action packed novel involving descriptions of the Ute Indian tribe, the transition from a Native American way of life to the ¿white¿ ways, and the dangerous life of a rodeo star. I liked this novel because it had great messages for the reader. The author did a great job of explaining how isolated a person can feel when life does not go as planned. I would recommend this book to young adult readers interested in learning about the struggle to find out who you are. Thomas Blackbull, the main character in the novel, is a person that everyone can relate to in one sense or another.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the ledgens die would have to be some of my fav. books ever. Tom grew up in the mountains he only speaked ute and only new the old way.One day a old family friend searched for tom and convinced him to come with him and teach the old ways. He tricked tom and had him at a reservation school and changed his came to thomas. he refused to learn the white mans way and sune found his way riding bronks to death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for Native American Arts class, and it soon became one of my favorite books! Not only was it impecably written, but it was written at a level where just about anyone 7th and up could understand it. It addresses many issues that are apparent in today's society especially discovering one's own identity. This is an excellent must read book for people of all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book started out as a task but as I read on the need to read more and more overcame me. It was like breathing or eating. It brought up new thoughts and old thoughts I never wanted to deal with, but seeing Tom's courage made me get out of my seat and do something. If you like to have new thoughts provoked then this book is the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about finding who you are...but it is a little too slow for my taste at first. After a while, when the story is developed, it gets exciting. This is a good book for people of all ages, especially guys.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In When The Legends Die Hal Borland expresses the themes mistreatment and discrimination of indians.Borland gives good details and ideas to support those themes.One of Borlands main characters Bessie, is a loving and traditional person.She wants to keep her Ute heritage going.I really liked this book, one because it gave mental images and makes you want to keep reading. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about indians and how they live.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In When Legends Die Hal Borland stresses the theme of searching for yourself. He invisions this theme by having Tom have flashbacks and looking into his thoughts. Tom wants to destroy his past of being a Ute indian by being a rodeo rider. Thomas is a confused man that wants to take his feelings out on the horses. I really liked this book. This book is very easy to get into to and you will not want to put it down. The only part that I didn't like about this book was that it had to much detail and went on to long.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In WheThe Legends Die Hal Borland discusses the themes of Respecting your heritage. Hal Borland covers these topics very well. The words he chooses create vivid pictures in your mind. His words also allow you to hear the inner thoughts of Thomas Black Bull. Tom wants 'to be a rider' to help destroy his past. He believed 'the old way is finished' until one day he says to himself 'I have forgotten who I am'. This book allows you to really understand what the character is thinking. I did not personally enjoy reading this book. I believe this book drags on too much. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the importance of respecting your heritage and the mistreat of indians.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In When The Legends Die Hal Borland infers the question 'who are you.' Borland covers this topic exceptionally well, by creating images that are extremely realistic you feel as if you are part of the story. Tom swears he will never return to the white man's world. He will dress in 'his moccasins and his clout.' I enjoyed this book for many reasons. I found the book outrageously interesting, never wanting to put it down. If you enjoy books that you feel incorporated in, this is the book for you. Borland creates realistic images that pull you into the book. I also found this book encouraging in that Tom accomplishes something no one thinks he can
Guest More than 1 year ago
In When the Legends Die, Hal Borland writes about a young indian boy, Tom Black Bull, trying to perseverve through the discrimanation he suffers and trying to find his identity and heritage. Borland does a good job of drawing out these themes through the words and actions of the characters in the story. Red uses words such as 'And they all wind up broke. Especially if they are Indians or Mexes.' to discrimanate and control Tom. Several events through the book cause Tom to think about 'forgetting even his own identity'. I did not like this book personally because it drags on at times and the ending was not very good or realistic.