They had managed, so far, to pull off the bison-napping without hurting anyone in the process, themselves included.
A small group of overnight radicals, they had stormed the farm and took the white buffalo at night. There had been only one old man working, depositing bails over the fence with an hydraulic tine. He gave them no fight but the men counted coup on his tractor by pissing in the tank. Each one of them took turns, letting out a war cry, mid-stream. The white bearded farm-hand stood, arms raised, watching the fiasco.
Penny held a hand in her jacket pocket, faking a gun. All of the liberators wore red bandannas to cover their faces.
“Let’s go, Turd. Back it up,” ordered Crazy Bob, who had been the instigator and self-appointed chief of the mission.
“Man, don’t use my real name! That farmer might hear you!” Turd bellowed. His full name was Turtle, but it was shortened to Turd for obvious comical reasons.
He backed up the trailer and the others set metal barricades on the side, to force the animal in. It had been a good idea when they practiced it in the daylight, but the night was dark and the buffalo tripped on its way up the ramp. The beast floundered for a moment and then bolted into the darkness of the enclosure. Buffalo shoulder struck the front of the trailer and, with all its weight, made a large dent in the metal.
John Boy secured the gate and they sped away from the farm, buffalo snorts in their ears.
Dog and Penny started to make-out in the back seat of the extended cab truck. John Boy sat in the back next to them, oblivious to their fondlings, staring out the window. Crazy Bob was whooping a war cry from the passenger window and, when they finally hit the asphalt, the tires echoed his voice. The truck blew the first stop sign. Turd drove for hours before they finally stopped. He had a box of Little-Debbie’s snack cakes and a two liter of Coke to keep him going.
It would take a while for the authorities to find the old ranch hand. He was locked in a shed. They had left him some crackers, a chunk of pickled bologna and some strange type of round fluffy bread. He had instinctively wrapped the fry bread around the pickled meat and ate it, never having heard of an “Indian Dog” in his life. It just seemed to be the natural thing to do.
The bandits drove off into the night and, soon, it was morning. The truckload of Indians beeped when they saw another Indian walking down the road. He had a stringer full of rainbows and a turkey slung over his shoulder. Crazy Bob hung out the window and waved his arms.
“Red Power brother!”
They whooped war cries as they passed. Turd beeped the horn and nodded. Dog and Penny were under a blanket, sleeping this time. The Indian waved at the passing kids. Crazy Bob responded with a raised fist, in a gesture of Indian solidarity. It almost reminded Crane of the motion that German soldiers made as they marched to their fanatical solution.
The truck and trailer pulled into a veterinary clinic.
Three longhaired Indians piled out. Two wore jean jackets and one had on a beat up old leather, but all were in Levi’s.
The veterinary assistant watched them, through the window. He thought of hollywood. Today had been the first day he’d seen an Indian come in to the office, and now, here were three.
The Indians talked in a small circle. Two of them waved their hands as they spoke. The other one stared off to the west. Finally, the craziest looking one entered the office.
Under the blanket, Dog and Penny started to talk for the first time. They had spent most of the two days they’d known each other naked. Not much conversation had occurred. This was the very reason why he claimed he was called ‘Dog’. He would hump any leg he could.
“So, how old are you, really?” Dog was finally curious.
“You won’t be mad?” She clasped her bra.
“No. You can tell me now. We’re already in this whole thing together.” He waved his arm, either meaning the world at large or the immediate caper they were currently tangled in.
“I’m fifteen,” she shrugged.
“Fifteen!” he choked a bit.
“How old are you?” Her voice was unapologetic. He couldn’t tell if she cared or not.
“I’m twenty,” he stated. “Old enough to go to jail for you.”
Dog pulled the blanket from over their heads. His hair shot in electric directions from the static.
“And you’re from Traverse? My uncle was from there,” he probed her, deciding to let her tell a little of her story.
“Oh yeah,” she was still nonchalant. “What’s his name?”
“That’s funny, that’s my dad’s name!”
All of a sudden it hit them.
They both froze, eyes locked, then threw off the covers. They jumped from the truck and straightened their clothes. Dog spit a few times on the ground.
“Fucking cousins!” she yelled at him.
“Not again!” grumbled Dog.
“Uh, yeah, we’re here to bring in a hurt buffalo. We called earlier. He got hurt loading up in the trailer. His leg.”
Crazy Bob looked at the Veterinarian and said no more.
She waited for a moment, making sure he was done.
“Okay, then,” she would’ve sighed but the look on the assistant’s face was fresh in her mind. “Let’s have a look. Bring the trailer over to these side doors,” she pointed to the large slider, which entered into a corral.
Jale slid the door open and Turd backed the trailer in.
“Go ahead,” Shelly said. “Open it up.”
A buffalo, unlike any Jale had ever seen, charged into the corral. The animal ran around two or three times with a three-legged gait, limping. He was obviously damaged, but compensated well enough with the uninjured limbs. It snorted a few more times and began to calm down. The animal was covered with beautiful white fur.
“Oh, my God!” exclaimed Shelly. She took a step back.
“That’s right,” one of the Indians behind her said.
“Lets not use the chute,” the doctor decided, her heart racing. “We’re going to have to tranq him, Jale, get the darts ready and set the charge at about, hmmmmm…” Shelly looked over at the buffalo. How much did the thing weigh?
“1500 lbs.?” The boy estimated.
“Sounds about right,” she nodded in approval.
The veterinarian handed Jale the gun. Her hands were shaking. She hated the things. Even though it was only for tranquilizer darts, it looked real enough a weapon to her.
Jale beaded down on the rear quarter, keenly aware of the Indian eyes watching him. It felt funny to shoot at a buffalo with them staring in the background. The dart smacked into the beast’s ass, exploded the dose under its thick skin and hung limp, imbedded by a barb on the tip.
Jale and Shelly went to work. They quickly reset the bone, not speaking the whole time. The white buffalo slept through the entire procedure.
None of the Indians said a word while the vets labored. When it was over, they all helped drag the animal back into the trailer, using a heavy canvas.
Two more Indians had appeared, a couple. Jale mentally noted that there had been six today.
“How much do we owe you?” asked the crazy man who spoke earlier.
“That’s a very rare animal indeed,” Dr. Shelly finally commented on the albinism, cleaning her hands on a rough towel. “Where did you say you were from again?” She looked inquisitively at the man.
Crazy Bob grew uncomfortable. He shuffled between feet, avoiding her stare.
“How much?” he asked, ignoring her question.
“150 bucks,” she stated flatly, understanding she had been given all the information she ever would.
Crazy Bob flung his hair to the side, shaking his head, and dug inside his jacket, producing a wad of hundred dollar bills. He peeled two of them from the outer layer of the roll.
“Keep the change, for the kid,” the Indian motioned toward Jale and put on his sunglasses. “I thought it’d be more.”
Jale had read stories about the mystical white buffalo while studying social science. He was almost sure that Dr. Shelly knew nothing about the legend, because she was only slightly surprised when it first emerged from the trailer. She had just appeared curious at the Indians, who seemed to be frightened, almost in awe, of the animal.
In truth, it was the first time any of the buffalo-nappers had seen the sacred beast in the light of day. The eyes in each Indian face revealed their reverence. A silent prayer passed between them. They were standing in front of a living expression of god, as taught by their pan-Indian traditions. Any arguments for having stolen it were obvious to them now.
The truck and trailer returned to the road. The sacred cargo had awakened and was feeling refreshed.
It truly was a rescue mission.
The overnight radicals were back on the righteous high horse. How could they let that white farmer exploit such a creature, sell tickets and trinkets, make it dance for the news cameras?
“What these brothers did was an act of liberation!” Crazy Bob intoned as if he were a host to their own celebration banquet. “This buffalo can live in honor and his teachings be shared among the people. The white messenger will walk the rolling Black Hills that were meant to be his grounds. Freedom for the enslaved brother!”
They chanted songs and whooped their way down the road, resisting the temptation to stop at reservations they were passing through, to show it off. This gift would be shared with the people soon enough. The liberators smiled big raccoon grins at each other, while Turd and Crazy Bob made up songs about the raid and rescue.
They passed Manistee and continued to Ludington, intent on boarding The Badger, the ferry that traversed Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. No one would ever suspect them of taking the boat! If anything, it was more dangerous to cross the Macinac Bridge. Few arteries passed through the U.P. If somebody had recorded their license plate number, the State Police would arrest them right away.
The old man at the buffalo farm hadn’t been able to help the police, though.
“They looked like Indians,” was the best description he could muster. “You know, like in the movies. Except no horses or feathers.”
The Buffalo Liberation Team secured their tickets and waited to board the ferry.
Turd had created the name, an achronism for his favorite sandwich. He thought about the bacon, lettuce and tomato in silent reverie. Bacon. Especially the bacon.
The team tried to act cool, to not draw attention. They all put on shades and leaned back, listening to a Pow-Wow tape.
John Boy stared at the endless expanse of water.
Crazy Bob made his own cigarettes, placing tobacco from blue pouches into rolling papers. An untrained eye would think they looked like big marijuana doobies.
A security guard tapped at the window.
“Okay guys, who’s smoking pot?”
He tapped the window again.
Turd rolled down the glass on his side.
“Not us, Officer. It’s just tobacco.”
Crazy Bob offered the lit cigarette to the armed rent-a-cop.
The cop grabbed the spliff with authority and sniffed at it lightly. Harmless, he thought and handed the cigarette back to Crazy Bob. He started to go, but caught whiff of something else, something sweeter and probably illegal. He puffed his chest, noticing a suspicious plastic bag on the dashboard.
The team had burned some sage earlier, leaving the bundle in plain sight. A slight tinge of the gentle, aromatic herb remained in the air. The cop misidentified the package, and the smell, as Mary Jane, a.k.a. reefer, and immediately pulled his side arm.
“Everybody out of the car!” he commanded, leveling the .38, ready to shoot if anyone so much as moved.
The five bandits acquiesced and exited, standing against the side of the truck with their arms spread, visible above their head’s, fingers interlocked, exactly as they were ordered to do.
The guard kicked their feet apart as he frisked them, trying to be as rough as he could, so they knew he meant business.
“What’s this thing, then? Huh?” He held up a sacred pipe made of red catlinite stone, that he had found in a leather pouch in Crazy Bob’s jacket. “Is this just for tobacco too?”
The team sighed, collectively.
In fact, it was.