The story of the bond between an Indian boy and his grandfather--by turns wry and melodramatic, at once fervent and prosy. At the start, a bantering camaraderie is established between Little Thunder and old Tayhua--which, however, is heavy with irony at the expense of the white man (whose ""religious symbols"" allegedly include the dollar sign and the TV antenna) and heavily dependent, as well, on an adult play of words. Then the two go off to the annual horse-breaking, where Tayhua--to the dismay of his daughter Elk Woman--resolves to stay on the smug white man's so-far-unridable horse, and win the beast for Little Thunder. That he does, though it takes the last of what little strength he has left. ""Her father might be old in his bones and weak in his body,"" thinks Elk Woman, ""but his spirit was a blazing comet. Foolish or not, he had danced this day in the sky like the very brightest of comets, and she would always be proud of him."" And then, with Tayhua dying, we have spelled out--twice--the meaning of the birds' end-of-season flight. When Little Thunder and Tayhua are together, the book has some edgy substance; otherwise it's either overpitched or flat.