The story begins in Piedra Town, Arboles, on the Southern Ute reservation, in Southwestern Colorado. When Tom, the protagonist, turns five, his parents take him to Horse Mountain. After his parents pass away when he is still young, he is taken back to Piedra Town against his wishes and forced to attend school. He manages to run away to Horse Mountain in order to search for his lost friend, a bear cub. When he finds nothing left of his lodge, he returns to Piedra Town in disappointment. Tom grows up and moves to Bayfield, where he works with Albert Left Hand. He then joins Red Dillon and trains him to be a bronco rider. His shows take him to various places like Aztec, Bernalillo, Carrizozo, Socorro, Eastern New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, El Paso, Fort Stockton, Sonora, Fredericksburg, Uvalde Country, and Odessa, Texas. After Red dies in Odessa, Tom travels alone to Albuquerque, Wolf Point, New York, and Pagosa. He becomes a well-known bronco rider, who is feared by all. After he has an accident, Tom is forced to retire. He returns to Pagosa and settles down at Granite Peak. CHARACTERS
Thomas Black Bull/Killer Tom Black The main character and protagonist of the novel. Originally raised by his parents in the wild, he adopts Ute Indian values. When he grows up, he becomes a famous bronco rider. Bessie
Tom's mother, who is a Ute Indian. She is wise and can see people for what they are. She also teaches Tom about all the old Ute traditions and customs.
George Black Bull
Tom's father, who loves his wife and son dearly. He imparts his knowledge to Tom and teaches him how to survive in the wild. He is an honest and hard working man. He kills a thief who repeatedly steals his hard-earned money. Blue Elk
A member of the Ute tribe who lives in Piedra Town. He is a greedy old man, always seeking to make a profit from any situation. He lies and cheats his own people for monetary gain, claiming to work for their good.
A stocky thirty year old Ute man who works as a vocational instructor in charge of a carpenter shop on the reservation. He teaches Tom to be practical and adapt to the new ways of the white world.
Albert Left Hand
A short, fat man who owns a little band of sheep on the flats at the northern edge of the reservation. In need of a helper, he hires Tom when he is only eleven years old. Red Dillon
A wiry red-haired man with a crooked nose. Even though he is a gambler and an...