By Les Williams
On a warm morning in August, three seniors are enjoying doughnuts and coffee at Leon’s Bakery in
Lancaster, Nebraska. They have recently moved into the Lincoln Estates Condominium. Seventy-year-old
John Walking Horse and his sixty nine year Irish friend Sean Hagarty had been asked to leave the Shady
Rest Retirement Home. Jackie Kwon, a sixty year old taxi driver moved from her downtown apartment to
the condo to join her two friends. Its mid week and they’re the only customers Leon has at the time.
“It feels good to have a little more freedom than we had at Shady Rest,” said Hagarty, fringes of red still
showing in his gray hair. The Irishman is three inches shorter than the Indian. Dressed in shorts,
sandals, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt he takes a bite of a frosted cake doughnut.
“I’m sure glad to be out of Shady Rest. To many restrictions for this old Indian,” said Walking Horse
stretching his six foot two inch frame out in front of him. He’s attired in his customary blue chambray
shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and a wide brimmed, high crowned, smoky gray cowboy hat with an eagle
feather in the hatband. His long gray hair hangs down his back in a ponytail. “We did have a couple of
misunderstandings with management at Shady Rest,” he said before taking a sip of coffee.
“Yeah, especially their objection when you spiked the punch at the Fourth of July celebration Indian,”
said Kwon. She’s four inches over five feet with shoulder length black hair. An American couple adopted
her when she was less than a year old. Kwon is dressed in a rainbow colored tye dye t-shirt; blue
running shorts with a white stripe down the side and flip-flops.
“That was reason enough but I think the kicker was when the Indian and I fleeced that little bantam
weight ex Army colonel with the walrus moustache.
I never did like people like him,” said Hagarty.
Putting down her éclair, and wiping chocolate from her mouth Kwon said, “What ever the reason was,
you’re now free at last.”
“And just think, had it not been for that little robbery we pulled at the tax office, we wouldn’t be living in
Lincoln Estates. Do you think it was all worth it now?” asked Hagarty.
Taking his hat off and setting it on the empty chair next to him, Walking Horse replies “Yeah I do. That
weasel taxman had had it coming Their conversation is halted by the faint sound of a car’s booming
speakers that can be felt, as much as heard as the offending vehicle responsible moves ever closer.
Screeching brakes, and the blast of a car horn assaults their ears. They turn just in time to see a
teenager with a red and blue Mohawk jump out of a black Mustang to confront the driver of a lime green
VW Beatle that had nearly rear-ended him. Shouts and curses are exchanged before the teen strides
back to his car. The roar of his engine and the dreadful boom, boom; boom are the only sounds heard
until the Mustang roars off up the street.
The three friends head to Walking Horse’s 1976 red Cadillac Elderado Fleetwood convertible, the one
extravagance the Indian allowed himself following the tax office robbery. They deposit their trash and
take a short drive to John C. Fremont Park.
They’re seated at a picnic table underneath a large elm tree. Two squirrels that are chasing each other
among the branches are being scolded by a blue jay. Crows are hopping about the ground looking for
dropped food scraps as a gentle breeze stirs the leaves. There is one other transgression against his
family Walking Horse wants to avenge. His plan may be even more risky than the tax office job. What
consequences will it bring? What he’s about to do, would have not that long ago, gotten a man invited
to a neck tie party as the guest of honor “Now I can tell you what I have in mind to do,” said Walking
Hagarty and Kwon look at each other and then back at their friend.
“Where do we fit in with your plan?” asked the Irishman.
Taking a piece of paper out of his pocket, the Indian hands it to Hagarty.
“I’ll need information on this man.”
“That’s it?” asked Hagarty.
“I’ve never kept you in the dark before, so trust me on this. One more thing, when the time comes, I’ll
need to borrow Hagarty’s 86 Ford Ranger four by four. Just give me a call when you have something.”
Hagarty and Kwon pry Walking Horse with questions, but the Indian remains silent about what he’s up
to. The next half hour is spent in small talk before they break up to head back to Lincoln Estates. Kwon
needs to get ready for her shift that starts in an hour. Walking Horse to make a few calls in preparation
for leaving in a day or two. And the Irishman to see what he can find out for the Indian.
On a stormy Friday morning, Walking Horse reclines in his favorite chair with his eyes closed. The
morning paper lies open on his lap. He’s waiting for Hagarty’s call. The Indian had never taken part in
anything the law considered a felony until the tax office robbery. And here he was contemplating
another action outside the law. How had it come to this? If only he let the authorities take care of
things, but they had not vigorously pursued either transgression against his family. So what choice
does he have? His father most likely would understand. His mother, God rest her soul, would have
looked disapprovingly on his actions. The ringing of the phone jars Walking Horse out of his reverie.
“Walking Horse. Yeah, what did you find out? Hold on; let me get some thing to write this down on. Ok,
give me that again. Is he living in town? No?
Where then? Good, I got it.”
A jagged flash of lightning illuminates the gray metal sky, as the lights briefly flicker in the Indians
apartment. There’s a loud rumble of thunder sounding like mammoth boulders crashing down a
mountain in a landslide that rattles the windows while rain slithers down the glass like a snake.
“Thatcher, that’s up in Cherry County isn’t it? Ok, I’ll leave in two days and stop by before to pick up
your truck. Thanks man.”
Seated at an outside table at Leon’s on Tuesday, Hagarty and Kwon are enjoying coffee and doughnuts.
People are entering and leaving clutching bags of pastries and Styrofoam cups.
“Walking Horse called me last night. He’s up in Thatcher now. What did you find out?” asked Kwon
dabbing at her mouth with a napkin.
“He’s trying to locate a government man by the name of Wolfgang Gerhard,” said the Irishman before
taking a bite of his doughnut and washing it down with a swig of coffee.
“Did you find him?”
“Yeah, he’s the reason the Indian is in Thatcher.”
“That’s it. He did say this has something to do with his uncle who lives in Cottonwood Springs, which is
also located in Cherry County.”
“All this cloak and dagger is not at all like Walking Horse,” said Kwon between sips off coffee. “I wonder
what he’s up to?”
Pausing to finish eating his doughnut, and take another swallow of coffee Hagarty said, “Walking Horse
said that he’s recruited some relatives and friends of his uncle to help him. He didn’t say anything else
except he’ll call again when he’s finished.”
“All we can do is wait, and that’s the hard part,” said Kwon.
Finished eating, the two dispose of their cups and napkins and head back to Lincoln Estates.
Friday afternoon Kwon is sitting on a couch with her legs underneath her reading the latest Danielle
Steel novel and sipping a cup of tea. She picks up the phone on the first ring.
“Kwon here. Walking Horse, it’s about time you called. I was worried about you. Yeah I know. Unhuh…so
you’re all done? When will you be back? Ok. I’ll tell Hagarty. See you then.”
Twenty-four hours later Walking Horse is in his favorite recliner. He has tea brewing for Kwon and a
glass frosting in the freezer for Hagarty's beer.
Now the wrongs done to his father and uncle have been righted. Can he live with the path he chose to
make up for the injustices done to the two men? He did have the support of some elders, and the
younger tribal members. When he thinks of the hardships his father and uncle endured because of two
government men’s greed, he knows it’s time to stop beating himself up over his actions. He is finally at
peace with himself. Walking Horse is interrupted from his reverie by the ringing of the doorbell. The
Indian ushers in his two friends.
Having taken a sip of her tea, Kwon said, “Ok Walking Horse, the suspense is killing me. Tell us what
went on at Thatcher.”
“First, I’ll give you a little background.”
The Indian pulls an envelope from his pocket. He removes what is inside and hands the sheets of paper
over to Hagarty to read. Having finished, the Irishman gives them to Kwon. The rustling of the pages as
Kwon turns them over, and the ticking of the wall clock, on which is a print of a buffalo skull with
feathers on the horns, are the only sounds in the room.
“This reads like something out of the old west,” said Kwon handing the papers back to Walking Horse.
“As you can see from the date, this took place ten years ago.”
“Where?” asked Hagarty pouring the remainder of his beer into the glass and taking a swallow.
“Outside of Cottonwood Springs. My uncle was no more educated than my father. When Gerhard
showed up at Running Buffalo’s ranch, and flashed his BLM ID, my uncle thought what was about to
take place was legal. That government man and the cowboys he had hired rounded up almost all of
Running Buffalo’s cattle. Gerhard claimed the animals had trespassed on government land, and that my
uncle failed to pay the grazing fees. Within a week the cattle had been sold.”
“Did your uncle protest?” asked Hagarty getting up to rinse out his bottle and grab another one.
“Yeah, but what could he do? Gerhard was armed and had too many men with him.”
“What about the law?” asked Kwon putting her legs underneath her.
“The law doesn’t care about an old Indian. It was Gerhard’s word along with the cowboys against
Running Buffalo. Who do think they were going to believe?”
“So, tell us what happened,” said Hagarty.
“We wanted a moonless night so we wouldn’t be high lighted. We had to wait for two days. Thanks to
what you found out Hagarty, I knew Gerhard is doing some consulting work. I called telling him that
Spring Ranch needed advice on some land they planned on buying, and asked if he could come over on
Thursday. Since this is a big spread of seventeen sections, and being the greedy man he is, this request
probably sent dollar signs dancing around in Gerhard's head.”
“Is Spring Ranch near to Gerhard’s place?” asked Kwon before taking a sip of tea.
“No, it’s four hundred thirty five miles from Thatcher. That meant Gerhard had to leave on Wednesday
and stay over in Crookston before driving to the ranch the next day.”
“And Wednesday was a moonless night?” asked the Irishman shifting in his chair.
“Yeah it was. So using the cover of darkness, we made off with some of Gerhard’s holdings.”
“How many did you take?” asked Kwon.
“We cut out one hundred nine head. At today’s prices compared to ten years ago, Gerhard's loss is
equal to what Running Buffalo suffered.”
“Where did you take the cattle?” asked Hagarty.”
“We drove them to a grove of cottonwoods where we had trucks parked. From there they were taken to
the ranch of Sly Like A Fox at the far end of the county. He had some buyers lined up ahead of time. By
now they’re probable hanging on the hooks of some meat packing plant in Chicago or Omaha. I sent the
money to Running Buffalo.”
“Wouldn’t the law have found the tracks left by the cattle and trucks?”
“Wakan Tanka blessed us with two days of heavy rain shortly after the trucks left. All evidence was
“Did you get a share?” asked Kwon.
Taking a deep breath before letting it out Walking Horse said, “All I wanted was restitution for my uncle.
Running Buffalo finally has his compensation.”