Out of the pages of history galloping across the western plains of the Old West rides a lone crusader bringing law and order to an otherwise lawless land. With stealth and cunning many an outlaw met his fate. Horace Mann was broad of shoulder and narrow at the hip and everywhere he went the long arm of the law was not far away. With steely blue eyes wearing his white Stetson he struck terror in those who broke the law. The Stetson, the hat that was to become synonymous with western lore became the embodiment of truth and justice which set him apart from the outlaws of the time. Atop his Appaloosa sitting tall in the saddle with his Winchester at the ready everyone knew in an instant that justice would soon be served. As fast as he was with a six shooter the deadly aim of his Winchester many an outlaw found himself entombed on Boot Hill. His fame and his legend spread through-out the West. Soon news of his exploits reached places like New York where newspapers dubbed him The Shadow Rider. The man and his Winchester found it’s way into dime novels where many a young boy fantasized riding the plains of the wild west.
It wasn’t soon after that one of those dime novels made their way to the desk of Grover Cleveland. Intrigued by his exploits and with consistent news of Indian uprisings and cattle rustling through-out the Dakota and Wyoming territories the President looked no further when he read of the daring do of the Shadow Rider to restore order and peace. By the summer of 1887 the Indian affairs office was alerted to a potential all out war brewing in the plains of Wyoming and the Dakotas. The Sioux and the Arapaho were joining forces with the Cheyenne. The tribes realized that their way of life was being threatened. The buffalo herds that were once so plentiful now were disappearing. Tensions were high, violence was all to commonplace, and the only law was the quick of the draw or the straight of an arrow. To tame this troubled land there was only one man, The Shadow Rider.
While the Arapaho and the Sioux were sounding war drums the existing climate of lawlessness and tolerance by lenient judges and juries sympathetic to rustlers continued to spark more violence into an already violent land. To make matters worse the onslaught of homesteaders made the cattle barons eager to do anything to stop the influx of people who have threatened their livelihoods. Wyoming during the 1880’s was the epicenter for violent confrontation with the combined tribes of the Arapaho, Sioux, the Cheyenne, the homesteaders, and the cattle barons. A tough spot for Horace Mann to be in. But if one person could defuse this ticking time bomb the Shadow Rider was the one person who could.
At once the President put out a telegraph to Fort Laramie where Col. Trenton could contact Horace Mann and give him the dispatch that the President had sent. As the sun was setting over the Western sky Horace Mann was just riding into Fort Laramie. The sound of Taps was ringing through the evening air as the Flag was being lowered into the waiting arms of Sergeant Howard. The sober tone of the bugle is a constant reminder of the violent struggles between the encroaching white settlers, the Indian tribes and the cattle rustlers that have covered the hills of the Dakotas with blood. Sent on a mission from the President, Horace is well equipped. Mann had an unusual ability with foreign languages, a talent that likely stemmed from his early years in a bilingual family and community where he grew up. He knew German and learned to speak fluent Spanish and Indian dialects. This ability allowed him to communicate with native American tribes. It also gave him a degree of power over those for whom he was translating. For over a decade those years of reigning in cattle rustlers and navigating through the uprisings of the Sioux and the Cheyenne has earned him the fame and recognition as the one man that could tame this lawless land.
This lone crusader sent on a perilous mission was now conferring with Col. Trenton on what was needed to restore law and order for all. This was a period in American history when many settlers were not only passing through the Dakota’s but ending up settling in Wyoming. During the 1870’s the cattle herds were replacing the disappearing Buffalo herds had made life for the native American tribes almost unbearable. In 1870, Wyoming had a population of roughly 9,118 people. By 1890, that number reached 62,555. The Homestead Act of 1862, the Timber Culture Act of 1872 and the Desert Land Act of 1877, all of which offered government land for free or at very low cost, attracted the influx of white settlers. Meanwhile cattle barons began gobbling immense land holdings in which to raise their cattle. As a result of this population boom the wild buffalo herds were being slaughtered leaving the native Indians feeling threatened. The great land grab was just beginning pushing the Indian tribes out of their familiar hunting lands.They were forced to migrate following the remaining buffalo herds that were fast becoming extinct.
This influx of homesteaders during the late 1870’s settlers increased the violence between cattlemen and the native Americans who were being displaced. The urgency to restore peace and stop an all out war was becoming more imperative every day. As dawn broke on the morning of November 10th this lone crusader, this Shadow Rider, rode out of Fort Laramie to find Little Wolf chief of the Cheyenne. It was a little after noon on this cold and damp November day when just over the horizon Cheyenne warriors were fast approaching. Upon seeing the white Stetson and the Appaloosa 12 Cheyenne realized it was Horace Mann. They knew that whenever Horace spoke he did so without forked tongue. His reputation for truth and justice preceded him. It was his unwavering insistence that the truth be told and for justice to be served that endeared him to every native American tribe.
It was well into the evening when this band of Cheyenne warriors and Horace Mann reached the Cheyenne Village. Waiting at the center tepee was Little Wolf. In no time at all Little Wolf was encouraged by what Horace had to say. Mann produced a written treaty signed by President Cleveland. A treaty guaranteeing land with water, protection against white poachers of the Buffalo and protection against the racial tensions that have been built up from years of fighting. The next morning Little Wolf with 12 Cheyenne warriors rode off with the Shadow Rider in search of Chief Black Coal and Chief Red Cloud.
Will Little Wolf and the Shadow Rider be able reach the tribe of the Arapaho and the Sioux in time to convince both chiefs to accept the President’s treaty to thwart an all out war. Or will these tribes escalate the already violent attacks between the Army, the homesteaders and the cattle barons? The clock is ticking. Stay tuned for Chapter Two of the Shadow Rider.