The woman’s anguished scream pierced the moonless dark night sky.
Startled, Black Bart realized the noise had come from down yonder hill.
Where the faint glimpses of a white house presented itself.
The house appearing more focused the longer Black Bart gazed upon it.
The flickering light from a kerosene lamp lit window; revealed a terrified colored woman, set upon by a gang of ornery white men.
Suddenly, Black Bart saw a man step in to defend the woman.
The man was quickly overcome as the tallest member of the gang pistol whipped him to the ground.
Something about the woman’s bright red pajamas and the man’s gait struck Black Bart as being vaguely familiar.
There were at least four men; if you could call them that, as far as Black Bart could ascertain.
Black Bart whistled for his trusted sidekick.
The great black steed Nightrider.
“C’mon boy. Git!”
Nightrider was nowhere to be found.
Black Bart thought this to be quite odd.
He looked around quickly but there was no time to waste.
He had to make haste down that hill to help those poor unfortunate souls.
As he ran down as fast as he could muster something told him that this was personal.
He was about three quarters of the way down the hill when it struck him that he had seen those red pajamas before!
And the man’s gait was recognizable!
It was his Ma’s red pajamas.
Pa trying to help her.
A strong feeling of dread washed over him.
He had almost reached the window when a sweet young voice rang out through the darkness.
“Momma!” “What is going on, Momma!”
It was Catie.
His beloved, adorable and innocent young sister.
She was barely five years old.
The joy of his life.
The sound of little Catie’s voice jarred him awake.
He sat up abruptly in a wide eyed panic, sweating profusely.
His body felt cold.
He was breathing heavily.
His mind felt super alert as his thoughts centered on the murders of his family.
His latest nightmare.
Little Catie’s voice always jolted him out of these bad dreams.
Deep down Black Bart was grateful for he did not know if he could bear the rest.
How he missed them so.
A tear drop made its way out from the inlet of his eye.
As he wiped it that thought passed over him once again.
The thought he could never rid himself of.
Returning to remind him of his torment like a guard lauding it over a helpless prisoner.
He was not there when his family needed him most.
Ma, Pa and little Catie.
Just when Pa and Ma had finally become free.
He knew he would always feel this pain.
It would never go away.
Why had Providence allowed such vermin on this here earth?
He did not spend much time on the thought, as to the answer, he knew it was not quite within his reach.
He was filled with the conviction that he would do his utmost to rid these lands of such filth.
This he must do.
For his family, decent folks, and to make sense of this crazy world he inhabited.
Nightrider seeming to notice the anxiety coursing through his compadre.
Nightrider trotted up along besides Black Bart softly whinnying.
Black Bart was comforted in Nightrider’s majestic presence.
He felt a powerful kinship with the majestic horse.
His confidence oozed along with the brooding serenity of the woods.
There on his campground, where he had sacked up for the night, he felt a living solidarity with the horse and nature.
Somehow he felt the horse was given to him as a gift from Providence.
There was a reason he had come upon such a behemoth, gifted and beautiful animal.
With Nightrider by his side, Black Bart was assured he would eventually prevail.
He would hunt down the notorious James gang when he had the chance.
And all other criminals like them and avenge his kin’s murder.
For now though, he had a job to do.
He had signed on to help the Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas enact the 1854 Kansas- Nebraska Act.
The 1854 Kansas – Nebraska Act allowed men in Nebraska and Kansas to allow or eliminate slavery before petitioning for statehood.
Senator Douglas spent much of his correspondence to Black Bart explaining his conviction they would not vote for slavery.
Black Bart felt intuitively that the Senator’s main objective was to help Kansas and Nebraska become U.S. territories, and then states regardless of how they voted.
Black Bart had been given this tale before from white men.
White men had promised to help coloreds in abolishing slavery when he was recruited into the United States Army.
He knew better than to take it at face value.
With Kansas and Nebraska becoming states, this would lead to railroads through Nebraska and Kansas, which could greatly benefit Chicago economically.
Senator Douglas badly wanted to become President.
In 1854, hoping to secure his candidacy, Douglas found an opportunity to benefit Illinois and Chicago, where he owned considerable property, and enhance his bid for the White House.
His master plan relied on the success or failure of his proposed Kansas – Nebraska bill and he was determined to make it happen.
At the time, Nebraska and Kansas were not U.S. territories, and Congress refrained from making them such, since to do so would invite the slavery question for each territory – a hot button topic that Congressman were afraid to touch.
Douglas however argued that “popular sovereignty” ( the people’s will ) and not Congress, should determine slavery’s future in Kansas and Nebraska.
Ignoring the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery north of the 36 degree – 30 foot border of the Arkansas Territory ( excluding Missouri).
Thus by letting “the people” decide, Douglas thought he could win over American citizens with his support of popular sovereignty, claim an economic victory for Illinois, improve his personal financial situation due to a railroad hub in Chicago, and – perhaps – win the 1856 Presidential election.
Douglas had signed on Black Bart after reading the account of the capturing and killing of William Clarke Quantrill in the newspapers.
President Lincoln had sent his congratulations to the black sheriff.
Now Senator Douglas would use the opportunity to gain popular sovereignty of the people by commissioning Black Bart and pulling off a public relations coup at the same time.
By having the black sheriff infiltrate the ranks of the “Free Soilers”, who had little affection for black people but who strongly opposed slavery, Douglas could gain the upperhand.
He knew that by using Black Bart he could gain valuable insight into the Free Soilers plans to foil his proposed Kansas – Nebraska Act as they would accept nothing less but the abolishment of slavery.
As Black Bart drifted back into slumber, his mind naturally wandered onto the prospects of his next mission and wondered what lay in store for him and his trusty sidekick Nightrider.
Particularly, his unconscious ruminations centered on his new adversaries, as described by the Senator.
Adversaries whose names the Senator brought up in his letter to Black Bart seeking his commission.
And one name in particular that seemed to drip with discontent from the Senator’s description of him.
Heathen. Who fancies himself righteous.
Must find out his whereabouts.
The man’s name was John Brown.
Black Bart’s mind faded into black with that name reverberating in his brain.
His weariness interlocking with his searching memory.
Black Bart’s head tipped imperceptibly into slumber.
John Brown. Free Soilers. Abolitionists. John Brown.