Far below, the breeze ran upon the shining blades of corn, and they heard the footsteps running. It was faint at first and far away, but it rose and drew near, steadily, a hundred men running, two hundred, three, not fast, but running easily and forever, the one sound of a hundred men running. "Listen," he said. "It is the race of the dead, and it happens here."
This passage, from "The Dawn Runner," February 27, is important in that it reveals the historical reasons behind Abel's run in the prologue and in the end of the novel. Told to Abel by his grandfather Francisco, who is nearing death, the story is one of the most memorable tales from Francisco's and Abel's youth. In the valley a bit north of the town, a race of the dead takes place once a year at dawn—the same race Abel runs in at the end of the novel and in the prologue. In this symbolic act, Abel reconnects himself to his life in Walatowa and accepts the responsibility and heritage passed down to him from the previous generations.