Where The Buffalo Roam

by Kris Mashburn

OW Virtual Season 2

Disclaimer: These men don't belong to me, they belong to them. I, at least, take them out and let them have so fun.

Josiah paused his work on the door frame as he noticed the dust cloud. He yelled over his shoulder to JD, "Come over to the door, this is something to see." JD responded to the awe in Josiah's voice, he dropped the sandpaper and joined Josiah at the entrance to the church. Josiah pointed out to the dust cloud drawing closer and a look of respect settled on his face.

JD shook his, not understanding Josiah's fuss, "That's just a buncha army guys."

"Not army, cavalry, and that there one is special. That is an all colored regiment, Buffalo Soldiers." Again, JD could not miss the respect in Josiah voice.

+ + + + + + +

Vin sat in a chair outside the saloon. With his legs stretched out straight and crossed, he was the picture of relaxation, Chris mused as he joined him. He set the two cups of coffee down before picking up his.

Vin noticed the Calverey Troop riding in. With his even-keel voice, commented, "'Pears trouble is heading our way."

Chris remained as he was, not moving a muscle, "How so?"

"Don't know how havin thirty plus rowdy men in town don't buy trouble."

Chris turned his head just enough to catch sight of the Cavery. ‘Shit,' he thought to himself. Aloud, all he said was, "Spect so."

+ + + + + + +

"Well, Mr. Wilmington, it seems that we are being visited by a group of Buffalo Soldiers."

"Ezra, they rarely come for a visit, usually it's some kind of army business. Could mean an Indian uprising somewhere." Buck responded seriously. In his time as Marshall, he'd had his share of entanglements with army troops.

"An Indian uprising? Pray tell, Mr. Wilmington, have we had some new tribe move in here-abouts that I was not aware of?" Ezra's droll voice was indicative of his humor at Buck's comment.

Buck shrugged, understanding exactly what Ezra was implying, "Still could entail the railroad."

+ + + + + + +

Nathan just stood outside his upstairs office and watched as the group of Cavalry Soldiers rode into town. Nathan knew of the all black outfit of military men, but had missed the opportunity of actually seeing them. The varying shades of black within the one assembly had Nathan transfixed.

The entire company rode straight in through the center of town and stopped at the Sheriff's office. Chris and Vin were standing out front. JD and Josiah were approaching from the church and they were joined by Ezra and Buck in the last few steps.

After a signal from the Sergeant, the corporal called out, "Company halt!"

Sergeant Frazer Lewis dismounted and approached Chris Larabee. He identified the air of leadership surrounding that man and knew he was the law, badge or no badge.

Chris looked at the man's collar before he spoke, "What can we do for you Sergeant?"

"Are you the Sheriff, sir?" Lewis asked, his own air of leadership about him.

"Appointed lawkeeper," Chris amended. Then after taking full measure of the man, added, "And you needn't call me sir." The man before him looked as though, regardless of color, he was a fair man. It was also obvious to Chris that the man took his job and responsibilities seriously.

Lewis inclined his head in understanding, "We are here on a reported Indian problem. Where do they reside?" No opinion, either way carried in his voice.

Vin bristled at the implied problem, "We have no problem here. Where'd yer report come from?"

The Sergeant made eye contact with Chris, who nodded his head almost imperceptibly, the silent communiqué letting the Sergeant know that Vin was also in charge.

"The Army took several reports of mass Indian movement through this area eight to ten weeks ago." Sergeant Lewis recited for them.

Upon hearing the time frame, the lines about Chris' eyes relaxed, the only indicator from him that signaled his understanding of the situation. Ezra noted this and relaxed himself. With that concern abated, he allowed his thoughts to sort through facts and events and figured out what Chris had. "Gentlemen, you must be referring to our Thanksgiving Dinner. As in historic times, we shared our meal with the two Indian groups residing in the area. A congenial time was had by all." His Southern accent was unexpected and caused many of the soldiers to move about restlessly in their saddles.

Vin felt the discomfort Ezra's voice caused and jumped right in, surprising his partners at his verbosity. "What our fellow peacekeeper here means, is that we invited the two Indians groups here for the Thanksgiving meal. They were our guests. We didna have no problems." It was difficult for Vin to keep the animosity out of his voice. He knew what the Buffalo Soldiers primary duty was, he had seen their work before.

Frazer Lewis stood tall, not thrown by either of the men, "I understand. We'll still havta check it out for ourselves. I'd appreciate if you could show us where they live."

"Need to be done right this minute?" Chris sounded reasonable, but he was a lion on alert.

Sergeant Lewis took in the measure of the men banding together around the obvious leader, surprised at the Negro that stood with them. Lewis also knew that his men had been riding for five days, they could rest and wait a day. "No sir, it does not. We will make camp just outside of town. We will make contact with the Indians tomorrow." He lowered his voice as he leaned in to Chris and asked, "My men are welcome at the saloon?"

The surprise of that question showed on six members of the peacekeepers, only Nathan seemed to understand the true nature of the question.

Chris answered readily, "Of course, Sergeant." Chris then smiled a man-to-man smile at Lewis, "No drunken brawls, okay?"

Lewis' expression lightened with his nod, "I'll knock their heads together if they do." The Sergeant then signaled his corporal, who in turn signaled the entire company with a grand circular motion of his arm. That single motion caused the entire company of soldiers to turn around and head back out of town.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was surprised at how smoothly the evening was going. They were on their third keg of beer and yet, no fighting had broken out.

Chris and Vin were sitting at their regular table when Buck and JD entered the saloon. Buck went to the counter to get extra glasses for him and JD. He sat himself down next to Chris and filled the glasses with whiskey. "What happened? Ezra already clean you pards out?" Buck asked before he took a sip of his drink.

"Ezra hasn't even played yet, been helping Inez," Vin disclosed.

"Well, hell, then this is the best time to play. I might just win a few." Buck shuffled and dealt the cards.

That was how Josiah and Nathan found them forty-five minutes later. As Buck saw them approach he included them in the deal. As the two newcomers picked up their cards and pitched in their antes, Nathan asked, "Ezra got bored with yer losing and whining?"

"Nah, he's helpin Inez, hasn't played at all." JD explained as he threw down his cards. Nathan didn't comment, just threw in some more money to get another card.

Ezra saw the last of his comrades enter and brought them two more glasses. JD smiled at him as he said, "Hey Ezra, I'm not doing so bad tonight. I've even won a few hands." Ezra smiled at the joy on the young man's face.

Inez was on her way over to the table with another bottle of whiskey as Nathan asked fiercely of Ezra, "Their money not good enough to swindle ‘em from?" His arm indicated the room full of soldiers, Negro soldiers.

Ezra gazed at Nathan with an indiscernible look, said nothing and returned to his area behind the bar.

Having heard the entire exchange, Inez looked pityingly at Nathan as she said, "he told me he had "purposely refrained" from playing tonight so you wouldn't think he was cheating if he should win." Inez looked hard at Nathan for a moment then turned away to wipe another table.

Nathan had the good graces to feel bad at Inez's words. Everyone at the table sat still and said nothing, which only added to the slight awkwardness Nathan was experiencing.

Vin broke the silence as he looked at his cards, "Seems like you always assume the worst of him." Vin directed the words to Nathan, but never took his eyes off his hand.

Buck brought them back to the here and now with, "Whose turn was it?"

+ + + + + + +

Ezra watched as his partners played poker and was about to join them when the first chair sailed across the saloon and crashed against the counter. The chair smashed into several pieces sending smaller fragments flying in many directions. The flying pieces upturned several drinks, angering many patrons. As most were in some state of inebriation, punching the person next to them seem liked a good idea at the time. So within the space of three minutes the saloon erupted into a free-for-all brawl. Ezra stood dumbfounded for several seconds as he watched the destruction. He was galvanized into action as his six partners attempted to stop or arrest the merry makers.

Josiah's plan was to physically subdue an individual with a bear hug. He would come from the back and pin their arms down. He ended up using this first man as a shield, as the man he had been fighting with took exception to the interruption and continued to throw punches at both of them. The man Josiah was holding used his feet to kick the other patron, and tried twisting to get away from Josiah. Josiah held firm, but was fed up and just carried the man kicking and yelling all the way to the jail.

He met up with JD who had a man in cuffs and was dragging his man along. "Think the jail is gonna get full tonight," JD said as they entered the sheriff's office.

As JD locked the cell door on the two men, Josiah looked out the window then turned back to JD, "I'm gonna go back over, looks as if Buck's bringing over some more company." Josiah half smiled as he exited the office.

Buck smiled wide as he passed Josiah, "I'm hauling his sorry butt off to jail." Buck was having a good time.

Back in the saloon Nathan was checking on the condition of a few brawlers that decided to stay down. The fighting was pretty much over, Chris, Vin and Ezra punched as many as they could into cooperation, some did end up on the floor, but they figured at least they were out of the fight for a while.

Vin had one by the scruff of the neck and was preparing to go on over to the jail. He said to Ezra first, "This here one started it with that flying chair. Ye'll havta get a bill done up for him." Ezra merely raised his eyebrows, not really figuring he was going to see any reparations for this mess.

Sergeant Lewis entered the saloon as the last of his men were hauled off their butts and tossed into chairs. "Mr. Larabee, it seems my men want an early reveille. We will pay for all the damages, and in the future will only come in small numbers. Please accept my apology."

He was turning to leave when Chris spoke out, "Men and drink, not unexpected." Lewis bowed his head to Chris' at his understanding. Then headed for the jail.

+ + + + + + +

The sun had been up for several hours when Sergeant Lewis rode into town. His eyes scanned the folks moving about, finally resting on the man he was looking for outside the saloon.

Nathan Jackson was drinking coffee as he read some of his newly acquired medical articles. As Lewis approached him, Nathan looked up. With a side-ways head movement Lewis asked if he could join him. Nathan pushed the chair away from the table with his foot. Lewis nodded as he sat in the chair.

"Your men doin okay this mornin, Sergeant?" Nathan inquired.

"They're feelin just the way they should. They became bright-eyed very early this morning Doctor." The Sergeant smiled and Nathan understood the implication.

Nathan jumped on setting the record straight, "I'm no doctor. Jus the healer, here-abouts."

Lewis looked about the town as he asked, "These folks let you tend them?"

Nathan's expression changed as he answered with, "You mean the white folk."

Lewis shrugged his shoulder a bit as he replied, "Well…yeah."

Nathan took a moment to think seriously on the question, his face reflecting every nuance as he did. "There is probably some that don't, but most seem to. There's really not much else out here." Nathan stated honestly.

"Where'd you get your training?"

"Was a stretcher bearer for the Union Army, picked most of it up there. Some doctors traveling through have taught me a thing or two, but I read medical journals anytime I can get my hands on them." Nathan indicated the papers he was holding.

Inez came out to pour Nathan another cup of coffee, she also had with her, a cup for the Sergeant. He smiled his thanks as she filled his cup.

"This is an unusual town. No sheriff, but a group of peacekeepers, and you seem to be a part of it." Though it sounded like a statement, Nathan heard the question asked.

"Federal Judge asked us to keep an eye on the town, he wasn't real specific as to how long. We were out of a job earlier this year, but the Sheriff didn't work out. So the same judge asked us to continue on as the peacekeepers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we work well together. Chris Larabee is the leader, a decent man."

Lewis was still puzzled, "This town accepts you, a Negro, in a role of authority?"

"Yes, they do." Nathan answered with a calm air. He understood where Lewis was coming from, so he added, "Not all towns we've been to react that way."

"As I said, this is an unusual town. Many times when we go into a place, even though we are there to save their lives, white folk have taken exception to being helped by Negroes. Even though we're army, they have treated us down right poorly. At times, we have received more respect from the Indian tribes we're fighting that the towns we're saving." Lewis sighed with a resigned air of accepting what was.

"Laws can change fast, folks change slow." Nathan returned.

What about that Reb?" Lewis asked the other question he'd had on his mind.

Nathan smiled, "Ezra? He and I don't see eye to eye on most issues, but he's put his life on the line for all of us. He's earned his place."

"Some of my men didn't like hearing that Southern voice yesterday….." Lewis was trying to convey a warning, hoping the healer would understand.

Nathan nodded, "noticed that reaction when he spoke." Nathan would keep his eye out for trouble.

Lewis leaned forward, "Nathan, when we leave, why don't you join us. I can get you some real medical training, eventually you can become a real doctor." Lewis could see Nathan was torn with his choices, "Jus think on it."

Chris and Vin came up and joined them. "Mornin Nathan, Sergeant." Larabee said as he sat down. Vin continued in and returned with more coffee and cups. Vin nodded to Nathan with a smile, the smile disappeared as he nodded to the Sergeant.

The air about them seemed more business-like so the Sergeant asked, "Where-abouts are those Indian villages?"

Vin bristled at the mention of the Indian problem. Josiah appeared out of no where and stood behind Vin. Ezra and Buck seemed to have stepped out of the woodwork to join the group. JD walked up as Vin growled, "As I told ya yesterday, we don't have no Indian problem."

Chris placed his hand on Vin's forearm to calm him as Josiah boomed, "We have a right peaceful relationship with our Indian groups. We're asking you not to cause any problems."

Sergeant Lewis did not feel threatened by these men, but he did feel the force of their convictions emanating about them. "Now, I'm not aiming to stir up any trouble, but I can't be going back to my Captain and tell him that I didn't personally check out the complaint because seven men told me it was okay. The Army don't work like that."

Chris felt more than saw, Vin continue to bristle. He sat forward with a commanding air, "We will accompany you then. Buck, you and JD have the town. The rest of us will meet you at your camp in an hour." There was no further words spoken by the seven, they departed to ready themselves.

Lewis sat for a moment, resisting the urge to say ‘yes sir' and stand at attention. There was a lot more to this group than meets the eye. He headed back to camp.

+ + + + + + +

Five men mounted their horses and rode slowly out of town. They entered the Cavalry encampment and headed for the flag. The operations core could usually be found there. It was easy to spot the fifteen horses saddled and ready to go. The five stayed in their saddles, Chris pushed his hat back as he searched out the Sergeant. Nathan gazed about looking at the camp setup, while Ezra kept his eyes fixed on a distance point.

A soldier approached them, Chris recognized the corporal stripes. He saluted Chris' air of authority as he stated his name, "Sir, Corporal Clark, sir. Sergeant Lewis will be with you shortly, sir." He finished his salute and left the way he came.

Vin looked side ways at Chris as he said, "Don't be expecting none of that sir shit from us." Vin smiled as Chris turned his head and rolled his eyes at him.

"I expect, that our fine leader here is not use to the proper show of respect…." Ezra started to say but was interrupted by Nathan.

"Do you think them fancy words you use, show respect, well let me tell…." Nathan was interrupted by arrival of the Sergeant.

Sergeant Lewis spoke to Chris, "We'll follow you." He mounted, then in unison, fourteen men mounted their horses. Twenty men headed north.

+ + + + + + +

As they reached the out skirts of Kojay's village, Vin and Josiah rode on ahead. Lewis brought his horse up along side Chris to ask why.

"We were very serious when we told you that we got on along well with these Indians. I don't want to see Buffalo Soldiers riding in and have them assume you're here for a fight. Save problems all around." Chris kept his voice low and even, turning to look at Lewis only on the last part.

Lewis seemed as though he thought about saying something, then thought better of it and seemed to acquiescent to their way. He didn't want to fight Indians if he didn't have to.

Chris looked ahead and could see that Josiah and Vin flanked Kojay. He turned to Lewis and suggested, "It might be better if just you come on up and let the rest of your command remain here."

Lewis nodded, he realized that if he really didn't want to create a problem then Larabee's suggestion made sense. He signaled his men and turned to ride in with this leader and the Southern man. Nathan stayed behind with the soldiers.

A couple of the soldiers moved closer to Nathan one said, "Names Shaw, that's Charley." Shaw stuck his hand out to Nathan, Nathan smiled and accepted it. He nodded to Charley, "Nathan Jackson."

Charley Murman asked, "How come you chum around with all those white fellows?"

Nathan answered with ease, "I'm one of seven peacekeepers for the town of Four Corners. The men I rode in with are my partners."

"They treat you like one of em?" Charley asked without malice.

"They do." Nathan realized that he didn't have to think on that one. Even Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Lewis had to admit he was impressed, these folks did seem to have a good relationship with these Indians. It almost appeared that the Chief respected and trusted the peacekeepers. Trusting the white man, he hadn't seen much of that.

As his friends and the Sergeant could be seen heading back to the waiting men, Nathan rode out to join them. "How'd it go?"

"Fine. I think it went fine." Josiah stated.

Nathan looked over to the Sergeant, he nodded. "I can easily lay to rest any fears about this village."

Hesitatingly, Nathan asked, "Then is it absolutely necessary to travel all the way to the Seminole village? Their last encounter was with a renegade Confederate troop, that destroyed most of their village. We helped them and earned their trust."

Vin added, "The Seminole village is a mixture of several different Indian groups and freed slaves."

Lewis realized, however odd, these men took their responsibility to the people of this area very seriously. What these men had accomplished was definitely not the norm. But he still had his orders. "I believe a compromise could work. If I alone ride out with a couple of you, see for myself, then I could honestly allay my Captain's fears. Would that be satisfactory to you all?"

Chris checked the expressions of the other four, then smiled and stuck out his hand, "Yes, Sergeant, that'll work just fine."

Vin nodded a quick nod, as did Josiah. Nathan flashed his grand smile. Ezra felt the tension ease and he himself was pleased. He really liked the children of that village. The men turned and headed back to town.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD were sitting outside the saloon as the stagecoach pulled up. The driver threw off the mail pouch and tapped the horses to go on to the livery.

"No passengers," Buck said disappointedly.

JD laughed, "You mean no ladies."

"Now, JD, you…..Buck began but JD's laughter drowned out the words.

There were distracted as Inez came out of the saloon and broke into their laughter. "There's an unconscious man out back of the saloon."

Buck and JD were up like a shot and dashed through the saloon. There they found Tom Jenkins, one of the bank tellers. Buck felt for his pulse and was relieved to find one. "JD, get his legs and we'll carry him inside." The man moaned but remained unconscious as they laid him on a cot in the back of the saloon. "Inez, could you get a wet cloth to wipe his face?" Absent from Buck's voice was the sensual quality he reserved for women. She quickly left to do as he asked.

Buck unbuttoned his shirt and could see bruising on his chest. "Sure could use Nathan!" He said to JD.

"Look at his eyes, Nathan always does that. See if they look the same." JD said, surprising Buck.

Buck lifted the lids gently and thought they looked the same. "Let's just keep him still and then we can…" Buck was interrupted by another moan.

JD said, "Mr. Jenkins, can you hear me?"

Jenkins lifted his hand to his head as he spoke, "Yeah, yeah."

"What happened Mr. Jenkins?" Buck asked

"Ow,…whoa," was uttered first as Jenkins sat up. He felt in his pockets, "I was hit from behind and my watch and money clip are gone."

"Did you get a look at the guy?" JD asked.

"No, he came from behind."

"Ah hell," Buck said.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan turned to Buck after Mr. Jenkins left the saloon. "Did a good job, Buck. Might just hafta take you on as an assistant."

"Buck'ld only want to take care of the lady patients." JD said in jest. Buck just smiled.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah was up just after sunrise to begin working on the church before the heat of the day made work difficult. The uncommon heat spell for spring was just another thing that Josiah took in stride. He watched as Buck left with Sergeant Lewis for the Seminole village.

He worked alone on his doors for almost two hours before the noises of the humans disturbed the noises of nature that had been entertaining him this morning.

JD came down after his breakfast to help Josiah. He would sand after Josiah would finish with the plane. They worked together till JD's stomach growled louder than he did. As they ate together JD asked of Josiah, "You seem to think a lot of these soldiers. How come?"

Josiah wiped his mouth as he sat back in his chair. "Seems like the white men in charge want to cross this entire land and make it theirs. To accomplish this, they need to combat the various Indian peoples that just happened to be living in those areas. Regardless of the right or wrongness of these issues, something was needed to protect the individual people traveling in those areas. The Buffalo Soldiers were put together to suppress the Indians along the railroad route or when the Army was establishing a new fort. They've had to escort those folks that are part of the westward movement. Then just like here, someone complains about seeing too many Indians moving around and they are called in. White folk aren't always happy to have Negroes helping them, even if they are Army. Ironically, JD, it's the very Indians they have fought so intently that gave them their name. The incidents with the Plains Indians were first and it was those Plains Indians that named them. The Comanche and Cheyenne actually admired the fearlessness and courage in their fights. When cornered the soldiers fought ferociously and displaying unusual stamina. Something they hadn't encountered in the white soldiers. And as the Negro's hair resembled the tuft between the horns of the buffalo and they held the buffalo in high regard, they called the all Negro units Buffalo Soldiers. Those soldiers wear the name with pride."

JD sat there astonished, sometimes Josiah just had the most amazing facts stored in his head. JD thanked him and left for his watch with Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra didn't have as nice a day as JD. He had woken later than usual as his watch was with JD in the afternoon. He was on his way for lunch when he heard a muffled scream in the alley way. As he passed the corner of the building he was struck from behind. He stumbled forward only to be hit in the stomach. He fell, doubled over in pain, when one of his assailants kicked him several times calling him a dirty Reb. Ezra assumed they would have continued but for the ladies scream at the commotion. This eventually brought Vin and Nathan. But his attackers had already fled.

Nathan called out to Chris, and the three of them got Ezra up to his office. Nathan cleaned up the cut on the back of his head. He had to wrap his chest, cause he knew for sure that one rib was broken and possibly two. Ezra became aware of this last part and freely gave his opinion of it.

"Ow, that hurts."

"To be expected with broken ribs." Nathan replied to the grunt of pain.

Vin asked caringly, "Do you remember what happened Ez?"

Chris was more of a smartass about it, "Someone take exception to losing?"

"No, Mr. Larabee, it was not," hurt at that automatic assumption. "Two of the soldiers attacked me, the only crime they accused me of was being from the South. They called me a dirty Reb each time they kicked me." Ezra explained with his eyes on Vin.

"Would you be able to recognize them?" Vin asked.

Ezra shook his head, "Possibly the voices. I was hit from behind, didn't open my eyes too much after that point."

Nathan helped Ezra to a sitting position as he shared, "Mr. Jenkins said he was hit from behind, but he was robbed. Ezra, did they take anything from you?" Nathan finished securing the bandage.

Ezra checked his boot and for his watch, "Everything but my watch is here."

Vin turned to look at Ezra as he said, "I'll take your shift with JD," Vin then had a mischievous smile as he added, "Seems purty extreme way of getting out of working with JD?"

Ezra put out his two hands as though he had weights in both. Moving them up and down in a contest, Ezra finally said, "JD would be a more pleasant way to pass the time." He winced as he moved wrong. Vin tipped his hat at him as he left Nathan's office.

Nathan walked out with him, asking him to relay this attack to Buck so that they could compare notes. Inside, Chris closed the distance to Ezra and squeezed his shoulder as he looked down at him. "Real glad you weren't hurt worse." He turned toward the door as Nathan stepped back in. Chris nodded and he stepped out into the fresh air. He could hear Nathan saying to Ezra that he would have to take it easy for a coupla days. Chris smiled to himself as he descended the stairs.


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