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The Jesus Road

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For a wild place, Buffalo had many soothing beauties. In the mid-1920s, after they had left the homestead and moved into town for good, in the summer evenings the family would drive in the car up Fort Road along Clear Creek. At one turn-in, you could park and look down on the water where Crow families gathered to practice the ritual of baptism. While townspeople watched from their cars, ate sandwiches wrapped in wax paper from the sidewalk service window at the Busy Bee Café, and drank from sweating bottles of pop, brown children played along the bank, and solemn young people and older women waded out to the preacher standing in the middle of the creek. Nell sat still on the Ford seat, squinting down the bank, her husband beside her at the wheel. Wind ruffled the tag alder while grasshoppers spun in wide buzzing orbits through the reeds and cattails and across the creek rocks. Westering from the Bighorns, the light blew dense and slanted, a yellow shelf dotted with cottonwood lint. In suit and tie, pant legs rolled up, the preacher declaimed the word of God in Crow and then, with one hand cradling the backs of their heads like babies and the other gently pushing on their chests, he dipped his people in the water, setting them out on the Jesus road.
(from Chapter 4, “The Keeper of the Partial”)

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