Plains Indian life was not the idyllic at-peace-with-the-world existence some romanticists would like us to believe. The Indian lived with constant exposure to the elements, to hunger and privation and the less-than-tender mercies of enemy neighbors. Like the wild animals among whom he lived and from whom he took careful lessons in survival, he developed a strong sense of watchfulness, of caution.
As a storyteller, Terpning is able to use the simple task of getting water as a vivid example of the tenuous nature of Plains Indian life. As an artist, the water provides Terpning with the ability to create a great abstract form that leaps out from this work, driven by the cool reflections of the river and the man leaning hesitantly forward. His reflection in the water and that of his horse, form a part of that dynamic shape. The slight touches of light upon the horse make this vivid work complete.