Want it over your dead body, if it comes to that. They'll be getting theirs while those other poor bastards are sitting on the border with their mules and half-dozen kids waiting for the noon signal, waiting to claim what's left over so's they can starve in the promise land.
Steam shot from the sides of the engine, and the bell clanged its intent. The bull's eyes flickered under the light of his lamp. Half-starved, most of them, eating grasshoppers and living in holes under the ground so's the soldiers can't find them, thinking they can ride my train to glory. Well, let me tell you, there's more'n one wished he'd stayed in the city after he met up with my mate here.
- Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush.
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They want the best, and they want it first, smack in the middle of the Guthrie station town site so's they can make a fortune off their fellow man. The bull fell silent, his eyes peering from under folds of skin, the flame of his lantern dancing on the breeze as he waited for Creed's reaction. When he reached the bottom, he looked up at Creed, "'less it's a red Indian. Creed turned away, heat rising in his face. The one thing he'd learned in law school was to pick his battles with care. This bastard could wind up with his hundred dollars and the timber if he lost his head.
Leaning back against the pine, he watched the bull's light bob as he worked his way to the front of the train. A few minutes later the whistle blew—three blasts—and the train lurched, the report racing down its length. The smell of coal smoke rode in, the power and thrust of the engine pooling deep within him as the train gained speed. Campfires stretched into the darkness, tents cropping from the earth like mushrooms. Thousands upon thousands were working their way to the border, sitting at their fires, their lights winking away as the train plunged into the night. Pulling his collar up, Creed rested his head on a timber.
When confident in the speed, he dozed against the clack of the wheels and the thrust of the engine. Once, he awoke, the night damp and cool about him. Overhead, stars stood sentry, indifferent to the train driving across the prairie below. Bones aching, he shifted positions against the jolt of the freight car. Sometime in the morning hours they reached the border, the train pulling to a stop, brakes grinding, iron against iron, steam wheezing from the engine.
A soldier rode the length of the train and then back again, the breath from his horse fogging into the cold. Moving to the top of the timbers, Creed laid his carbine across his arm.
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When the soldier reined up, his horse squatted in reprieve, steam rising from the pool of piss gathering between its legs. Might want to ride somewhere 'sides the top of that timber.
Found a carcass dragged half-way to the switch point couple days back. Wasn't much left after scrubbing up three mile of track under a steam engine. Tipping his hat, the soldier mounted and moved out, and within minutes they were underway. As the train banked to the left, a full moon rose and shadows rippled along the grade. From the horizon, scrub oaks lifted into the night.
As a little boy, he had stood in silence as they placed his Kiowa mother, Twobirds, on her burial scaffold. A detachment of the Seventh Cavalry had been lost and starving on the prairie. It had been she who saved them. Among the soldiers spared was an assistant surgeon, Dr. Joseph McReynolds, who sired him.
It had been so long ago, like a dream. Now, he couldn't remember where she lay, but it was out there somewhere in the darkness of the Territory. Clenching his fist against the knot in his stomach, Creed stared into the blackness. This was her place, her time snatched by circumstance and fate and a changing world.
It was not a mistake he planned to repeat. The past was past, and the Indian way was as dead as the buffalo that once darkened the prairie.
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With little more than the ability to read, he had risen to the top of his law class, and before he was done, everyone would know that Creed McReynolds was not just a breed but a power to be reckoned with in any man's world. At what point he fell asleep, or how long he slept, he couldn't be certain, lulled as he was by the clack of the wheels, the pull and rumble of the engine. But when he awoke, there was something foreign, something irregular and unsettling, like the skipped beat of a heart.
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Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush
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The Free Soil Party of —52, and the new Republican Party after , demanded that the new lands opening up in the west be made available to independent farmers, rather than wealthy planters who would develop it with the use of slaves forcing the yeomen farmers onto marginal lands. The intent of the first Homestead Act, passed in , was to liberalize the homesteading requirements of the Preemption Act of The law and those following it required a three-step procedure: file an application, improve the land, and file for the patent deed. Any citizen who had never taken up arms against the U.
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This quarter-section could be added to an existing homestead claim, offering a total of acres to a settler. This offered a cheap plot of land to homesteaders. Recognizing that the Sandhills Nebraska of north-central Nebraska, required more than acres for a claimant to support a family, Congress passed the Kinkaid Act which granted larger homestead tracts, up to acres, to homesteaders in Nebraska.
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