A Cheyenne teen and his tribe struggle for survival with the arrival of technology.

The Winter of the Iron Bow

by William F. ‘Cap’n Billy’ Higbie

This Native American historical fiction book takes place in 1796 on the windswept Northern Plains. It is a coming-of-age story of the life of a teen-aged member of the Cheyenne tribe. Bull Calf‘s needs are those of any adolescent male: he wants to have friends, to be accepted as a grown man, to seek adventure and aches to find true love with a girl, Pretty Day Walking. As Bull Calf leaves his childhood behind to begin his new life as a warrior, his people are also emerging from the Stone Age in their own coming-of-age story, hurtling along on an unavoidable collision course with European technology. The introduction of firearms (“iron bowstrings”) leads to an arms race and war for survival with their enemies, the Absorkas. Having completed his vision quest, and now known by his man-name, Otters Circling, he must prove himself as a warrior and valuable member of his tribe, survive the warrior’s path and return to the girl who has stolen his heart. The author spent two years on the Cheyenne reservation researching his book for authenticity. This deeply researched novel is excellent for readers of all ages from 9 to 99.

ISBN 978-0-985243-10-4 • 6×9 paperback • 228 pgs • $15.95

About the author

Having spent over 30 years teaching English at the high school and college levels, William Higbie has studied the Cheyenne culture extensively. He was awarded a Geraldine Dodge Foundation grant to explore the tribe’s traditions while living with a Cheyenne host family on their Montana Reservation. He has contributed historical and ethnological articles to several national publications and wrote a young reader’s novel, A Circle of Power (Eagle’s View,1991). He is a NRA certified black powder instructor and a member of the Western Writers of America. He is also a historical re-enactor known as Cap’n Billy.


IronBowFinal“This fast-paced historical novel depicts life among the Cheyenne on the northern plains in 1796. Native culture is about to experience the upheaval wrought by white traders’ liquor and firearms (the iron bows). The author effectively creates a feeling of flux between the old and the new ways and illustrates some specific problems. In one instance, after a successful buffalo hunt using a mixture of bows and thunder weapons, two native hunters nearly come to blows as they both claim the same downed animal: unlike personalized arrows, lead balls all look the same and it becomes impossible to tell who made the killing shot. Not surprisingly, the advent of firearms on the plains also intensifies inter-tribal rivalries and contributes to an arms race. 
This novel is rich in native culture, including vision quests, naming customs, the value placed on valor in battle, contraries and He’emnane’e (half-men/half-women), courtship rituals, and horse raids. In fact, some of these features are skillfully developed into subplots. The author has studied Cheyenne culture in depth, and his knowledge comes through in both content and language. A judicious strewing of Cheyenne vocabulary (e.g., Ese’he-tsexe-heseme’enese, the rising sun) gives a ring of authenticity without interfering with the flow of the read.”

Eric Bye, Muzzle Blast Magazine

“While this book is contained in only 217 pages it is quite complete. It’s a tale about a teenage Cheyenne Indian lad that is told from the Indian’s point of view and done very well in my opinion. The reader gets to follow, if not join him and his family and tribal members as he goes through the rituals of becoming a man where his vision gives him a new name, going on his first horse stealing raid, and following the steps that must be taken during courtship.
The author’s name, William Higbie, might sound familiar and rightly so because he has authored other books plus articles for
Muzzleloader magazine.
This story is told in several short chapters that cover those 217 pages and it takes place at the time when the Cheyennes received their first introduction to firearms, at the hands of the Crows, and their first meeting with white traders from the Northwest Company.
While it is historical fiction, which means it is not based on actual fact, there is a very good chance that things might have happened much like it is presented in this story. The author has done a lot of research into the beliefs and habits of the Cheyenne and the situations the book’s main character goes through are told very well. Even though it is fiction, I learned some things from this book about the possible social life and structure of the Cheyenne.
The story is told very well too. There was no point in the story where things can be easily anticipated and that is important because it keeps the reader busy, keeps them reading. And, so you can’t really anticipate what the story is really about, I won’t tell you what the iron bow is. In order to find that out, you’ve got to read the book yourself unless you already know from other tales or from Indian lore.
Did I enjoy reading this book? Let’s just say I really hope there is a sequel because I want more.”

—Mike Nesbitt, Muzzleloader Magazine 

“The white man has barely come into contact with the Cheyenne by the end of the 18th century, but the Indian way of life has already been corrupted by the iron bowstrings, so much so that war has broken out between two tribes. While this marks the beginning of the end of the natural way of things for the Cheyenne, some things must never change. Through a daunting vision quest, a young man must prove himself as a warrior. Mysticism abounds-what is real, what is a dream? How will he understand the meaning behind all he experiences? It is a long arduous journey made even more complicated by unfamiliar emotions brought about by a potential life-mate. Told with true care and understanding, this story brings a reality to an ancient struggle for survival and the desire to keep traditions in the face of abrupt change.”
Shoobie, an Amazon Review