By the time Sheriff Pym arrives at the DeCuellar home, Davy has been missing for seven hours. The only details they know are that he took a police-issue revolver and that a posse is being formed. Swede contends that a posse of twelve hundred couldn’t catch Davy. Dad is hard with at this comment, saying, “Swede, if you can’t talk sense, don’t talk at all.”
The next day is excruciating for Dad. He fears Davy’s capture, but fears his death at the hands of a member of the posse more. Deputy Walt Stockard describes the posse with unconcealed glee at Davy’s escape. Then, the “support” of the community changes again. People begin to cheer for Davy to get away for good. The way he had done it was to ask Deputy Stube Range to come into his cell, because the toilet wouldn’t flush. Stube then woke up propped against Davy’s cell wall, and Davy was gone. Ironically, as a result of losing his job over this incident, Stube begins a new career as a school janitor. They were hiring you see.
The search for Davy grows cold, which Reuben believes is the way it was from the very beginning. Even a bloodhound can’t pick up Davy’s scent, and Sheriff Pym becomes so frustrated that he threatens to order a house-to-house search, which, of course, is unconstitutional. One afternoon, a farmer named Nelson comes into Montrose and files a complaint about a stolen horse. This is less than two miles from Montrose. Now they know that Davy has a horse for his escape. Pym disbands what’s left of the posse, and the Land family goes home.
The next morning, Reuben finds lying neatly on the floor beside his bed more of Swede’s epic. It tells about Sunny perhaps being saved by his bride from being hung. However, Swede hasn’t written the ending of that adventure and admits that she couldn’t write the part where Sunny defeats Valdez. It makes Reuben feel like Valdez is no invention, but someone real bearing down on them. He knows the feeling is preposterous, but because of his fear, he has to form a wall against it in his heart, the deepest place he owns.
Walt Stockard tells the family that the mare that had been stolen has come trotting for home, none the worse for wear. So Davy is out there somewhere with different transportation, and no one knows where. He then becomes the object of an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press called Ride, Davy Ride. Unfortunately for Dad, there is no comfort in such supportive news. He seems to believe he’s lost his son forever. Reuben says he reads his Bible so much that he’s “fraying the King James.” It’s during this time that Dad’s headaches begin, headaches that totally incapacitate him. Meanwhile, time moves on and it becomes early December. A blizzard moves in, and all the snow makes them miss Davy all the more, when they remember the times he played in it with the kids.
Reuben and Swede do not go back to school, and Dad allows them to manipulate him. He just doesn’t seem to have the will to force the issue. Swede, of course, continues her poem after reading Frank O’Rourke westerns from the library. She like his women characters, because they don’t talk all the time, and they ride like men. So she puts a woman character into the poem to help Sunny, but she’s not Sunny’s wife. This bothers Reuben who thinks the character should be his wife. The only way Swede can get him to settle on the matter is to tell him that Sunny just thinks of her as a great sister. Reuben still feels bothered some about it, because after the “beauty with the long black hair” saves Sunny, she kisses him.
The story of Davy’s escape is both exhilarating and fearsome at the same time. Dad is particularly worried, but Swede believes no one can ever capture her brother once he is free.
The poem once again parallels their lives. It is interesting that Swede cannot kill off her villain. It makes Reuben afraid that he’s real, not an invention, and that he is bearing down on them. It’s also ironic that his moral standards make him feel uncomfortable about the poem, but he was willing to help his brother break out of jail.
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Peace Like a River".
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