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Thread: Moving West - Chapt 32, The Buffalo

  1. #1
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    Moving West - Chapt 32, The Buffalo

    As Sean and Mariska were finishing their morning coffee, they saw Ben Ward, the Wagon Master, approaching with a grim look on his face. Mariska poured a cup of coffee and handed it to Ward as she said “Sit and have some coffee Mr. Ward. You look like you have troubles”.
    Ward sat, and after a couple of sips of hot coffee, looked at Sean and said, “First thing a Wagon Master has to do, is figure out who he can count on, and who he can't. You two figure to be folks I can count on. You do your share, and then some, and you don't complain about every little thing that goes wrong. Sean, if you are willing, I'd like for you to take over the scouting duties, until you leave the train at the South Platte. My scout's horse stepped in a prairie dog hole, throwed him, and now he's got a broken back. The Billings family is turning back, and they have offered to take him in their wagon to the first town that has a doctor. The scouting job doesn't pay a lot, but truth is, we need you to take it. Most of these other folks are pilgrims fer sure.”
    I'm not familiar with this territory, but as long as you understand that, I'll be glad to do the best I can”, answered Sean. He and the Wagon Master shook hands, and Sean began saddling his horse.
    Ward pointed west, and told Sean, “Ride forward for a couple of hours. Check for water, and be on the lookout for anything that might give us a problem. Then report back. Turning to Mariska, he said, “Ma'm from what I've seen of you so far, you don't need much in the way of help, but if you need help while Sean's out scouting, just holler. I won't be far away.” With that, he thanked them for the coffee, and headed off to other wagons.
    As Sean finished putting his “possibles” together, he asked Mariska, “So, what do you think about this? Am I biting off more than I can chew?” Mariska laughed, and said “You will be just fine. Mr. Ward has been over this trail before, and seems to know his business. He made a good choice. Besides however much the job pays, we can certainly use it when we get to Colorado.”
    Sean's first few days as scout proved to be fairly uneventful. He did run across one water hole with a few dead animals around it. Sean cut the head off an antelope, and put it in a prominent location, then dug a large “X” in the ground beside it, to warn travelers of the poison water. Sean ran across the tracks of a couple of Indians, but they didn't appear to be real fresh, and it's doubtful that even if they were hostile, that just the two of them would attempt anything against an armed Wagon Train.
    As it turned out, Mariska had a little more excitement than Sean. While Sean was out, the train stopped for lunch close to a small creek. Mariska left the train to fill up a water container. As she was bending over to fill the container, she heard footsteps, and felt a man's hands grab her shoulders... The hands belonged to a short, but stocky man whose name Mariska did not know. He tried to pull her close to him as he said, “Well, Squaw lady, I always heard about you Squaws..figure it's time to find out for myself why a man would want to marry an Indian”... She heard Ben Ward yelling and saw him start running in her direction, but when he arrived, he found the big man on the ground with Mariska's knife at his throat. The look of sheer terror on his face made it clear that he expected to die in the next second or two. Mariska looked at Ward, and said “If I cut his throat, I'll have to clean my knife, so maybe you better take care of him”...Looking back at her attacker, she pushed the point of the blade into his neck just enough to start a little blood, and said, “If there is a next time, I will kill you...but not right away. My people know many ways of making a man suffer for days before he dies. That is what will happen to you, if you ever come near me again.” The Wagon Master chuckled and said, “I'd almost like to watch that happen, but, this here feller is not staying. He's leaving the train right now”.
    The big man said “You can't make me go back. I paid my money and I insist on staying with the train.” Ward answered simply, “Do you have your burial clothes picked out?”....because unless I miss my guess, when Mrs. Eaton's husband returns, he is going to put a bullet right between your eyes. If by some miracle, you should kill him, I'll kill you myself. Now, take your wagon and and your no account brother, and leave – now. If you are still here in 10 minutes, I'll shoot on sight..” No more than three minutes passed before his wagon was headed back east. Lucky for him that he did, for he had not been gone half an hour when Sean rode into camp. Between Ward and Mariska, they were able to get him past his initial anger, and convince him that there was nothing to be gained from going after the attacker. After Sean cooled off a bit, Ward said, “actually, he did you both a favor. Right now, everybody in the train knows that Mariska had her knife ready to cut his throat. Doubt if anybody will be foolish enough to risk bothering her from now on.”
    The next morning, Sean had ridden no more than an hour, when he returned to the train at a gallop. “BUFFALO!” “BUFFALO AHEAD!”, he yelled as he approached the train. Pulling up alongside Ward, Sean said, “Better hold the train here. The herd runs as far as I could see. Must be thousands of them. There is a storm headed this way fast. If they get spooked and stampede, they would trample any wagons in their path.” “Good job Sean”, answered the Wagon Master. “Everybody might as well take advantage of this situation to get some rest. Let's you, me, and Mariska ride on up there and take a look.”
    Just as Sean had warned, the thunderstorm had arrived when they got there, and lightning was starting to flash in the sky. The heard was still grazing as they moved, and had not stampeded, but that could happen at any time. They climbed to the highest ground around, but still could not see the end of this gigantic herd. “Well”, growled Ward, “nothing we can do here. Let's get back to the wagons before we get soaked. Looks like a strong storm, and we aren't going anywhere for quite awhile.”
    That evening the last of the buffalo herd was finally in sight. However, the lightning had finally spooked the herd and they were in full stampede. Between the rain soaked earth and the thousands of buffalo tearing it apart from their ponderous weight, this part of the country would not be cross able with the wagons for at least a couple of days, providing they had good weather.
    Actually it turned out to be three days before they could move, and even then several wagons got stuck and had to be pulled out of the mud and ruts. Finally, they were back on the trail west, but the they would not be taking any lunch stops anymore. The Wagon Master told them, “Sean and Mariska are leaving the train at the Platte, so it's not a big deal for them, but the rest of you are headed for Oregon and California. Your only chance of making it there this year, is to get through the Rocky Mountain passes before the snow. If we get caught in those passes with snow, they will bury us come next spring. So, we don't stop during the day for anything less than an emergency.” “Sean, this means I'll need you to scout further ahead, and spend almost all of your time with that. That will mean more work for Mariska, but I think she can handle it. You agree?”
    Mariska winked at Sean, and told the Wagon Master, “Mr. Ward, I'll handle my share, and if YOU need any help, give me a holler and I'll help you....”
    “Sean, go do your job. I'll take care of things here”.
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    Last edited by barnburner; 02-16-2011 at 03:18 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I enjoyed this new chapter and the very pertinent illustration. I expected they killed some buffalos for getting some fresh meat, but it was probably too risky ...
    Last edited by Caesar; 02-17-2011 at 04:53 AM.
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caesar View Post
    I enjoyed this new chapter and the very pertinent illustration. I expected they killed some buffalo for getting some fresh meat, but it was probably tto risky ...
    Thank you Caesar.. Yeah, had it not been for the danger of stampede from the storm, it would have been easy to kill one for food. Thanks!
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  4. #4
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    Barney, you just amaze me so many times, with this story, not to many people have this great talent of writing stories like this

  5. #5
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    Dear Mike, not only is your story captivating, it is educational as well. I always look forward to more. Great illustration too.

  6. #6
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    Barney, as Sandy said: you story is interesting and for us, overcivilized people, very educational also. And nice illustration to look at also. Keep up writing...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat1940 View Post
    Barney, you just amaze me so many times, with this story, not to many people have this great talent of writing stories like this
    Glad to hear you liked it Pat. Actually, I was a bit worried about this one, because I wrote it in one setting, in a very short amount of time, and was afraid that perhaps I didn't spend enough time with it.
    Thank you.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexandra View Post
    Dear Mike, not only is your story captivating, it is educational as well. I always look forward to more. Great illustration too.
    Sandy, actually, it has been educational to me also. A lot of things I knew, but researched to be sure I was correct, and learned things in the process. I'm delighted that you liked it. Thank you so much.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AT-TA View Post
    Barney, as Sandy said: you story is interesting and for us, overcivilized people, very educational also. And nice illustration to look at also. Keep up writing...
    AT, I'm very happy that you continue to enjoy this story, and the paintings that go with it. The wonderful feedback I get, really pushes me to try and do the best I can with it. Thank you for your very kind comments.
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  10. #10
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    Another fantastic installment
    Treat Others as you wish to be treated

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