In the summer of 1865, I sat down in a saloon in the Nebraska Territory to enjoy some whiskey and a poker game. Paintings of beautiful women were hung above the bar and the piano. The pianist’s daughter was singing about the South after I’d had a heated conversation with her father about the war. I came here for a good time; an entertainer shouldn’t be letting their foolish opinions interfere with work. The dealer at my table was an old native man from the Dakota Territory. According to the bartender, he used to be a medicine man. The men next to me smelled of horseshit and spoke in broken English. Both of them were joking around because they thought my voice sounded odd. I tolerated their scent and their constant switching from Spanish to English for a while. I’d encountered much worse during the war, after all.

My smelly playmates got a two pair and three of a kind. I got a full house and won two hundred dollars from those cocky banditos. As I got up to leave with my money, one of them stabbed the table with his knife and snarled, “Where you going, Gringo?” His buddy, clearly lacking anything remotely close to common sense, decided that pushing me into the piano would be a fine idea. The pianist and his daughter jumped a few feet in shock.

I laughed as I rolled up my sleeves. I guess I’d have to fight again after all. The shorter drunken bandito swung at me and missed, but he did manage to give the piano a mean headbutt. I was sure that piano would be more respectful next time. The other horseshit-and-whiskey-scented bandito and I exchanged fists until I knocked him into the table. As he got up, he pulled his knife out of the table, and I drew my revolver. “Put the knife down and give me the rest of the money that you’re carrying,” I said to him as he nodded in agreement. The bandito, shaking in anger, was too emasculated to defend his honor. “Do shit-scented bandits always shake like frightened puppies?” I said, grinning ear-to-ear. The knife was back on the table and one hundred dollars was placed in my right hand. As I left, I could hear him mutter “Damn Gringo!”

“Hey, hey, mister!” yelled a boy running towards me as I walked to the general store around the corner. Both of us stopped, and he was breathing heavily. “Is this important, boy?” I said as I turned around to face him. “Yes, sir! The men behind President Lincoln’s assassination have been captured!” said the boy with an excited tone in his voice. “So his bridge troll of a wife will finally be able to sleep comfortably,” I snorted before I walked off. They’ll find a new stand-in that will continue his agenda, I’m sure. The Southern gentry and the autonomy of the South is a threat to those Northerners in Washington. Keeping us in a servile state is of utmost importance for them.

It was a surprisingly cool day and everyone was fairly cheerful. Even the preacher and his nagging wife were pleasant that day. She was a fiery, redheaded heathen that had him whipped, by the looks of it. You could smell the glorious scent of bacon inside the general store: every sniff was better than the last. I needed some bullets, rope, and bacon for the journey. I had a promising future as a fisherman in British Columbia, and the idea of not having to deal with Yankees anymore was a sweet one.

As I was collecting my goods, the shopkeeper warned me about a rivalry between two groups of Lakota natives that had been going on for a few months. Apparently, he lost a few trading partners because of the feud. I told him that I could handle myself just fine. He had his doubts, but I was a spy for General Lee during the war. I knew how to blend in and stay out of sight. I made my way back to my horse and packed my things. The sheriff and the deputy were going to the saloon; the short bandito must be awake now. I rode off while chewing on some jerky I bought the other day. The folks in this town were very pleasant and I wished them the best; except for that Yankee-loving pianist, of course.

After a few days and nights of riding, I was in the Dakota Territory. The sun was shining, the birds were flying above me, and the winds were calm. There was supposed to be a trading outpost nearby; I hoped they had some jerky, because I just ran out. There were footprints accompanied by other animal tracks on the ground as I followed the path to the outpost. A bloodstained sign that read “Trading Outpost Just Ahead” had me a little concerned, but that might mean free supplies. So I kept going. The men at the outpost were cleaning up the mess from a raid carried out earlier by some Lakota natives. As I tied up my horse, I asked the bald elderly man about the attack. According to him, a portion of the tribe had been exiled over a food-related dispute. The outpost tried to help them like morally upright people would, but the leader of the band of natives ordered tan attack when the now-deceased owner of the outpost refused to give them more supplies.

I asked for jerky and some lessons for communicating with them. The jerky was given to me immediately, but I had to haggle with them for the lessons. He seemed adamant about only using guns as a means of communication withj the natives. But after I agreed to help clean up the outpost, I spent two days learning everything he knew. He told me that if I wanted to track them down, I’d have to head a few miles west of here. That’s where he delivered goods to them before. Even if they weren’t there, it’d be a good start: I was certain that I’d see some traces of their presence.

After leaving the outpost, I spent a few days heading towards the last known location of these natives. There were tracks everywhere just like before, but they were becoming increasingly chaotic. They definitely weren’t running from anyone, so I imagined that some of the men were celebrating a successful raid. My hair was soaked with sweat and the flies were circling me like a vulture before it lands to feast on a dead carcass. The abandoned camp was just ahead, and it looked like I was right about free supplies. I entered the abandoned campsite that was left in a state of extreme neglect. Unwanted loot was spread around the area and the in-ground fire pit was still going. A clear path pointing north was right in front of me though, and I appreciated that.

They certainly weren’t light on their feet; I guess the untraceable native was just an old wives’ tale. Finding them wouldn’t be too hard, but I took a look at their mess before I went. They’d left behind Bibles, pocket watches, canteens, and so on. I took a knife that I found in the garbage; I’m not sure how they missed it. Knives are very useful for skinning game and preparing food. The chief must have been concerned about being attacked by his former kinsmen, but I wondered if he was aware of my presence specifically. I’d heard rumors about the devout and lustful nature of the tribeswomen in this territory. I think I might take one as a bride. I’d be good to have a female companion in my life after spending years fighting.

Skulking around in pursuit of the natives brought me back to my glory days of following around Union troops for days or weeks at a time. The feeling of my heart bouncing out of my chest, my mind racing with thoughts about being discovered, never thinking about anything other than my task…it was wonderful. I was a good little spy for the Confederate cause. The lying got easier with time, but the tracking part of the job was always stressful for me. I wouldn’t have to worry about that this time, since I was just collecting a bride and going further west.

I’d spent time at an old inn in Tennessee when I was stationed there. The innkeeper’s daughter Jennifer would bring brisket and whiskey to my room while I was working. We spent plenty of hours talking to each other and I grew quite fond of her after a while. Unfortunately, the war started to heat up, so her father rightly sent her away. The heightened tensions in that region meant that I’d be on the move, too, so I wouldn’t have seen her much anyway. Wherever she is, I hope she’s doing well. She probably has a family by now. I left the area in 1863 in order to get intel to an officer in Georgia. I think I might call my bride “Jennifer.”

The buffalo are making little noise as I pass and I didn’t see any signs of hunting going on, but the tracks from the natives were still going in the same direction. I counted maybe fifty to sixty heads of buffalo. I usually wouldn’t miss an opportunity like this, but I’d like to catch up to these natives. There weren’t any clouds in the sky that night and the feeling of the wind against my back was quite soothing. Once I got to newer tracks, I was going to make camp for the night and continue on foot in the morning.

The sky was beautiful that night. It must be amazing to be a bird; I would love to be flying up there. I decided to rest for now since I was sure the natives were already fast asleep. The weather shifted and became sultry as I slept. My dreams were memories of the war, the imagined noise of rifles waking me up a few times. The sun was rising above me, so I figured it was time to get started. Birds were sounding off in the distance as I followed the path left by the natives.

After walking for almost a day, I could see them in the distance. There were maybe seven teepees and one totem pole. The smoke from the fire in the middle of camp could alert enemies, but I guess the leader was still a little green. I stopped at a tree; I’d just wait for now. As I took a few sips from my canteen, I noticed that a tribal elder was heading toward a boulder with some leather in his hand. I hoped he wasn’t doing what I thought he was doing. A few moments later, I could hear moans in the distance. Of fucking course. It wasn’t enough for me to have to deal with shit-stinking bandits: I now had to deal with an elderly native pleasuring himself behind a boulder! I hoped they would get decimated by another tribe because of that mental image. I have to try and focus on the task at hand; that old man won’t ruin this for me.

I’d tracked this band of natives for miles and they seemed to be blissfully unaware of my presence. Their leader was a young man with unkempt hair and a scar on his left cheek. The men seemed to be preparing for a hunt because there were buffalo grazing a few miles to the east of us. The children were playing war with each other and the women were doing their duties, save for one young woman who was more interested in her reflection in the mirror that they’d traded to get a few weeks ago.

I called her “Jenny Crow,” and our fates were intertwined. The fire pit in the center of their camp was being tended to by an elderly man and a young boy. I’d have to be careful; I didn’t want to alert the entire group. But If they did notice me, I would unload my revolvers into the chest of anyone that interfered.

An outlaw was a king in this territory, and the Yankee government in Washington couldn’t touch me. Their treaties with the natives were meaningless, and they’ll realize that in due time. The Yankees never honor an agreement and they never will. In a way, I was a hero because I was about to save a beautiful young lady from the horror of witnessing Yankee soldiers desecrate her homeland. We’d be on our way to the coasts of British Columbia, where I’d earn a living as a fisherman. Our family would be safe and far away from any dirty Yankee trying to take away the birthrights of other peoples.

The sun was over the hills now, and the men were making their way towards the grazing lands of the mighty buffalo. It looked like four men had stayed behind to look after the women, children, and elderly. None of them had firearms, which was absolutely shocking. You’d think that they would’ve traded for some rifles when they had the chance. I decided to try and lure the lady out. I prayed that the sign language I’d learned to communicate with them would work.

As I got closer, I noticed that the natives were going into a trance from some kind of ritual. Only five of them were still aware of their surroundings: the four men and my future bride. The winds were amplifying the sound of the chants, and Jenny Crow was staring at the moon above the trees that I was sitting under. I pulled out my canteen and took a sip. The reflection must’ve alerted Jenny because she began cautiously approaching the totem pole, trying to get a better look at me. Her eyes opened wide, and before she did anything, I started making hand signals. I was flirting with her and asking her to come away with me to a land where the rivers never ended. She seemed to like the idea, but she was slow to respond. Two guards became suspicious as she began to return my messages. I could hear her trying to explain to them that she was only looking at the sky, but they knew that something was up. She bolted for the tree while signaling for me to open fire.

I fired two shots at the men and one of them fell to the ground. The rest of the natives scattered as she made it to where I was. I told her to follow me back to my camp and we’d ride to our new home in a faraway land. It felt like it only took us a few minutes to get to my camp because of her singing. She’d occasionally make the symbol for a certain animal so that I’d understand what it was about.

My horse was ready to go as soon as we got there. Before we got on the trail, Jenny said, “Pale girl fuck dog why?” I was shocked for a moment because I didn’t think she knew any English. The statement was rather peculiar as well: where did she hear this? “I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I said as I turned away from the horse to face her. “Trader told me pale girl fucked dog instead of man, why?” Jenny said with a slightly concerned expression on her face. After a moment to contemplate what she had just said, I thought of a term that might explain it for her. “She has two spirits. One is a dog and the other is a human,” I said as she laughed uncontrollably. We moved away from this subject pretty quickly. After some fun and some preparations, we were off. The trail was long and the future was bright.

We made it to our destination in the middle of the summer, I had already purchased the land in British Columbia before the war. A representative of the province was in Charlottesville visiting distant relatives, and I overheard him talking about real estate. After a few hours of discussions, I bought a nice plot of land near the ocean. Fishing and trapping would guarantee us a prosperous life in Canada.