Do Not Annoy the Indians



Book: Do Not Annoy the Indians

Author: Betty Baker

Illustrator: Harold Goodwin

Publisher: Macmillan, 1968



Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 10-15

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Baker, Betty.  Do Not Annoy the Indians (published in 1968 by The Macmillan Company, New York City, NY).  Thirteen year old Jefferson (Jeff) Barnes is travelling with his mother, bossy older sister Sal, and stubborn younger brother Benjie from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, through Nicaragua and Los Angeles in California, up the Colorado River by paddlewheeler to Arizona City, now Yuma, in the Arizona territory.  They are joining Mr. Barnes, who has gone on ahead to become a stagecoach station master for the Butterfield Overland Mail Company.  Only when they get there, they find that Jeff’s father has left to pan for gold and Mrs. Barnes becomes very ill at Ft. Yuma which is across the river, so the teenager has to take his dad’s place running the station, with help from his not always so cooperative siblings and an old horseman named Missouri.

One of Butterfield’s posted rules for station masters is “Do not annoy the Indians.”  However, in addition to all the work involved in battling the rigid schedule, getting ready for the stage’s arrival, finding food to fix for meals, and caring for the horses, Jeff must learn to cope with an annoying band of nearby Yuma Indians.  In a moment of weakness, Jeff promises a ride on the stagecoach to one of them named Tebarro, who has taken a liking to Benjie.  “What the billy blue blazes” will Jeff do when the Indians steal the stage?  And how will he keep them from kidnapping and adopting Benjie?   Do Not Annoy the Indians is identified as a children’s book that begins in Philadelphia and ends in Yuma, telling the story of building a stage coach route of 2,785 miles across the U. S. A.

I found the plot a little hard to follow at times, but it is an overall funny story that I enjoyed reading, although a lot of the humor is rather subtle, so it might pass some kids, especially younger ones, by. However, I think that older readers will probably appreciate it.  There are a few colloquial euphemisms (dagnabbed, consarn, blamed, danged) and a couple of references to someone cussing and swearing, but no actual curse or swear words are used.  And with a lot of historical fact woven in, along with several actual pages from John Butterfield’s Instructions to the station managers of his stage company in the back, author Betty Baker, who began wondering how the “tame” Yumas in the area would present any problems, gives modern readers a good look at what the Old West was really like.

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