He wasn't riding for time or for the crowd. He was riding for himself. And he wasn't riding the bay. He was riding a hurt and a hate, deep inside. The blood drummed in his ears, his teeth ached with the pounding, but he held his rhythm.
In Chapter 23, Borland writes of Tom's thoughts during a particularly rough bronco ride. Tom's treatment of the broncos he rides represents the classic defense mechanism of projection. Projection occurs when a frustrated individual channels his anger in a way that society finds acceptable. In fact, Freud believed that individual frustration arises when external or internal barriers prevent the type of behavior that might directly remedy the frustration. In Tom's case, his Ute heritage provides an internal barrier: discouraged from living in the old Ute ways, he desires acceptance from his peers. People like Blue Elk, Benny, Albert Left Hand, and Red provide external barriers and take advantage of Tom because of low self-confidence.