Disclaimer: The characters of The Young Riders were created for television by Ed Spielman. The series aired on ABC TELEVISION from 1989 - 1992.
Looking back, Teaspoon realized that he should have seen this coming. While the evening had not seemed different from any other, he had noticed that Buck seemed a bit distracted. When no one mentioned anything unusual happening in town, Teaspoon had decided to leave well enough alone for now. If the problem continued though, he'd have to say something. Teaspoon was usually good at giving advice, and happy to do so, but this was a delicate situation. He decided he'd have to think on it awhile to figure out the right approach, especially with Buck. One wrong word and the boy would retreat into himself even more.
The next morning, Teaspoon had taken Ike aside. "Something happen in town yesterday I should know about?" he asked.
Ike shook his head. * Why? * he asked.
Teaspoon shrugged. "Just thought maybe something had happened that could explain Buck's mood last night," he said.
Ike quickly glanced around. * He's worried about those Indian attacks you told us about. You remember what happened the last time the Kiowa attacked.*
"But this ain't Kiowa. It's Sioux." Teaspoon explained.
*That don't matter. An Indian is an Indian. Ain't that was folks in town are always sayin'?*
"Damn people's ignorance." Teaspoon muttered to himself.
Teaspoon turned, but Ike stopped him from leaving. * Please don't say anything to him, * Ike said. * I promised I wouldn't tell you, but ...*
Teaspoon nodded his understanding. "I'll figure out a way to mention it without letting him know you told me." He made his way to where Buck was working on the corral fence.
"Need some help?"
"No thanks. I think I got it." Buck kept working, not looking up at Teaspoon.
"I wasn't talkin' about the fence."
Buck paused, and looked at the older man. After a long moment of silence between them, Buck finally spoke.
"I hate to disagree," Teaspoon said. He placed a hand on Buck's arm, "You're anything but fine."
Buck sighed, "There's not anything you can do."
"I can listen," Teaspoon said.
"Let me finish this first," Buck said. "I wouldn't want anyone thinking I'm just a lazy half-breed." He glanced at Teaspoon trying not to let it show how he felt but he knew that Teaspoon knew. He dragged his chore out as much as he could before he was finished.
Taking a deep breath, Buck knew that there was no avoiding it. "There's nothing nobody can do and you know."
Teaspoon nodded. "Tompkins been talking again?"
Buck replied, "The problem isn't his talking; it's that others are listening."
Teaspoon placed his hand on Buck's shoulder. "Not anyone that really matters."
"I'm not so sure," Buck said with a shrug. "Yesterday I heard some of the others discussing how they could team up and together extinguish the whole Indian nation. They were talking about my people, Teaspoon. The place where I grew up. They were talking about real people like they were less that... than dirt." Buck took a deep breath to gather himself. "Teaspoon, where is this going to end?"
Teaspoon took a deep breath before replying, "I'm not sure, Son, but I do know that it isn't going to turn into an Indian war if I have anything to do with it."
Buck was surprised by the emotion in Teaspoon's reply. "What are you going to do?" he asked.
"You're only one man." Buck concluded with a heavy sigh. There would be a war between the Indians and the whites and everybody with a tad more common sense than a fencepost knew it.
Teaspoon pondered what Buck had said, he was only one man. "Buck," Teaspoon said, taking a step back from the fence he'd been leaning on, "remember when you saved Ike from the Kiowa?"
"You were only one man, and yet you stopped a war," Teaspoon concluded. "Maybe I can do the same thing this time." He turned and made his way into the barn.
Buck followed behind him. "What are you gonna do?" he repeated.
Just then, Kid rode in on Katy, like the hounds of Hell were on his tail.
"Teaspoon! We got trouble! The Sioux attacked Wilkens' farm...they kidnapped Caroline Wilkens!"
Teaspoon and Buck glanced at each other.
"She still alive?"
"She was when they took her," answered Kid.
"I'll get my horse," said Buck, moving into the barn.
Teaspoon placed his hand on Buck's shoulder. "Not yet," he said. "I have me an idea."
"What is it?" asked Kid.
Teaspoon said, "We wait until someone asks for our - Buck's - help."
Buck shook his head. "We can't wait Teaspoon. Something could happen to that girl if we don't try to find her."
Teaspoon smiled. "It's your call."
"I think we should head over to the Wilkens' farm."
"Alright. Jimmy, Lou, Ike...saddle up!"
When they got to the farm, Mr. Wilkens didn't want to allow Buck to dismount.
"Fine," said Teaspoon. "You folks know where to find us if you change your mind and want someone who stands a chance of finding her to track your daughter." He turned to leave.
"You can't just leave," said Mr. Wilkens. "You ...you..." Mr. Wilkins had no idea what words to put where. His daughter was in danger and they wanted to negotiate. "She's in danger! You hear me!"
Buck hated to follow Teaspoon's lead. He had an idea what Teaspoon was thinking, but right now there were more important things to do then waste time listening to Mr. Wilkens rant. Buck figured he could do some tracking on his own when he finished his afternoon chores.
"Hey Buck," Kid approached the group as they rode into the yard. "There's somebody here to see you."
As Buck slid off his horse, Mrs. Wilkens came to his side. "Please find my Caroline," she said. "Don't let him stop you." She pointed to her husband. "He's just upset. Please."
Buck smiled at the woman in front of him. "I'd be happy to help," he said. "Can you show me where she was taken?"
The lady sighed with relief.
Everyone retraced their steps back to the Wilkens' farm, and Mr and Mrs. Wilkens escorted Buck and Teaspoon into their home.
Apparently Mrs. Wilkens had been in town when the attack occurred. Four braves had come into the house and three of them forced Mr. Wilkens to the barn, where they tied him up and gagged him. Mrs. Wilkens found him there when she returned two hours later. Other then a couple of rope burns he was unharmed. When they discovered their daughter was missing, they went straight to the Marshall.
Buck studied the area carefully. "Where was Car- your daughter when you were attacked?" he asked Mr. Wilkens.
"She was out in the kitchen preparing dinner," replied Mr. Wilkens. "Why?"
"I need to know where she was taken from in order to track her," Buck explained. He moved slowly and carefully, as he made his way over to the hearth. He noticed the footprints on the floor, the knife lying on the counter next to the cutting board, and the potatoes in a bowl that still needed to be peeled. Then he walked out the back door, toward the barn.
"Do you know anything?" Mrs. Wilkens asked nervously. She had no idea what the Indian was doing.
Following the tracks Buck was in deep concentration, shutting out the world.
"When he looks like that I wouldn't count on getting an answer. He's on to something." Teaspoon said quietly as he watched Buck.
After a few more minutes, Buck emerged from the barn.
"I need to talk to you." he called to Teaspoon.
"What is it?" Teaspoon asked quietly as he approached. He could hear the confusion in Buck's voice.
"Somethin' ain't right..." he paused and glanced around to make sure they were alone. "They said she was taken by force, right?"
"I'm not seeing that," Buck said softly. "I see where Mr. Wilkens was captured." He pointed to the signs of struggle where he was secured in the barn. "But nothing else is out of place. They didn't even take any horses."
"Marshall over at Blue Creek said the places they hit were burned out..." Teaspoon commented.
"Did they take any captives?"
Buck glanced over at the worried couple standing next to Jimmy.
"It's like she just walked away."
Teaspoon studied Buck carefully to make sure he wasn't joking. "I wouldn't tell them that," he said once he was satisfied that Buck hadn't suddenly taken to playing practical jokes just to upset the towns folk.
Buck nodded. "I knew that much," he said. "What I don't know is what to do to help them."
Teaspoon started to answer when Mr. Wilkens interrupted them
"I'm tired of waitin' Teaspoon. Has he got this figured out or not?"
Buck looked down at the ground, embarrassed.
"These things take time John."
"Well we ain't got time! She could be dead by now!"
"I don't think so," Buck said softly. "I think that she's in better condition than you are."
"What?" demanded Mr. Wilkens.
"I think she's fine," said Buck. He turned to Mrs. Wilkens. "Did Caroline ever meet some of the Indians in this area? Did you ever trade with some them?"
"My daughter don't associate with Indians!" Mr. Wilkens huffed.
Buck stood patiently, waiting for Mrs. Wilkens reply. She glanced at her husband before answering
"Not here in Sweetwater..."
"What about somewhere else?" Teaspoon prompted.
Mrs. Wilkens hesitated and looked at her husband again. "Well, Caroline and I did visit the trading post the last couple of months."
"Did she talk to any of the Indians?" Buck asked as he remembered that a few weeks ago Caroline Wilkens had asked Ike to help her learn sign. She'd explained that she would have asked Buck, but her father would have objected to her associating with him. He also recalled Ike mentioning that Caroline had recently become engaged.
"Well," Mrs. Wilkens spoke and Buck turned his attention back to her. "There was one young man there....I think he was a half-blood, like you."
Buck's eyes went wide. "Like me?"
Buck took a few moments to reflect. "Was the half-blood the one she's engaged to?" he asked Mrs. Wilkens. In which case I don't think she was kidnapped, she simply left to be with him. It all makes sense since there was no sign of a struggle. What tribe were you trading with?"
"I think it was the Lakota," Mrs. Wilkens replied. "I know that Caroline was really interested in the young man, but she never mentioned being engaged; I would have remembered her saying that."
The anger on Mr. Wilkens' face was evident as he shouted at his wife. "Those are lies, woman, you have no idea what you are talking about." As he glared at the people standing around them, his eyes settled on Buck. Burning a hole in the young man's face with his eyes, he continued.
"My daughter would never have gone off with an Indian on her own free will. Maybe you helped plan this whole thing with your savage friends, and now she's gone!" Mr. Wilkens stepped closer to Buck.
"Maybe I oughta hog-tie you in the barn half-breed!"
"Care to try it Mister?" Jimmy asked, his hand resting on his six shooter.
"Leave him alone!" Lou warned.
"Everybody calm down! Teaspoon shouted.
He turned to face Mr. Wilkens. "I realize you are upset, but if you want my help, or the help of any of my riders, you will refrain from making anymore threatening remarks to Buck. If it were up to me, he wouldn't be here offering you his services until you apologized to him, and thanked him for being as gracious as he has been for coming out here at all." Teaspoon wanted to continue but was interrupted by the sound of horses approaching.
Everyone stepped out of the house, onto the porch.
"Would you look at that!" Lou said, in awe.
A group of Lakota braves rode toward the house, stopping about 30 feet in front of them.
Mr. Wilkens reached for his gun but Buck stopped him when one of the braves held up his hand in greeting. "Wait..." he said. "They just want to talk; they aren't here to hurt anyone."
"I'm supposed to listen to you?" Mr. Wilkens snapped, moving away and once more reaching for his gun.
"I suggest you do," said Teaspoon placing his arm on Mr. Wilkens' arm. "I'll not have you getting any one here killed, on account of your ignorance." Teaspoon turned to look at Buck.
"Can you go talk with them, son?" he asked. "See what it is they have to say?" Teaspoon kept his hand on Wilkens' arm.
"Keep him calm." Buck told Teaspoon nodding towards Mr. Wilkens, as he proceeded forward
with his hands up in front of him.
Buck moved slowly, as much as to keep the men behind him from doing anything stupid as to reassure the men he was approaching.
He made the sign for "friend" and was pleased to be greeted in a similar manner.
"We wanted Yellow Bird's family to know she is well,"
Buck nodded his thanks as the brave that spoke moved his horse slightly forward. His long dark hair, adorned with feathers, moved in the breeze. He wore leggings and the decorative jewelry of a Lakota warrior, but Buck could see that he was a half white.
"Her family is frightened for her," Buck explained.
"We did not mean to frighten them. I am Shadow Hawk, and Yellow Bird and I are to be wed at the sunset." The young brave spoke to Buck. He motioned for one of his braves to bring forward 4 horses.
"These are a gift for her father," he explained, as he started to hand the horses reins' over to Buck.
Shadow Hawk stared at Buck with recognition. "Do I know you?" he asked.
"My name is Buck Cross; I ride for the Pony Express. I don't think we've ever met." Buck was trying to remember when they would have come across each other.
The commotion behind him snapped him to attention, as Teaspoon was trying desperately to control Mr. Wilkens.
"I want to know just what in the world is going on down there, between the two of them." Mr. Wilkens was shouting.
Buck turned and walked over to the group of people behind him. He had finally lost his patience.
"I'm trying to help you Mister," he pointed out. "Considering what's been happening around here lately, gettin' them upset is the LAST thing you wanna do."
"You keep this up, and they'll ride outta here, and you may never see your daughter again! Is that what you want?"
Mr. Wilkens dropped his gaze to the ground. "No," he said. "I just want her to come home." He took a deep breath and once more looked at Buck. "Can you help me talk to him?" he asked.
Buck nodded. "I'll be happy to translate," he said, "but I won't help you unless you're willing to listen to what they have to say. The fact that they're here is a good sign, but it's not a guarantee that you'll get Caroline back. The Lakota have the advantage here...remember that."
Mr. Wilkens nodded in agreement, and Buck led him over the waiting group of braves.
"This is Yellow Bird's father," he said. "He is concerned for his daughter's safety."
Shadow Hawk nodded. "She has told me he is a proud man who will most likely not approve of this arrangement; that is why we decided to do things this way." He paused and allowed Buck to continue. Buck turned to Caroline's father and spoke with pride and compassion.
"Shadow Hawk has come to ask you for your approval of this union between your daughter and himself. He is offering these horses as a token of his respect for you, and his love for Yellow Bird. He would like to do this way so it'll work out for the best for everyone." Buck said as he looked at Mr. Wilkens.
"That man thinks he can trade my daughter for horses he'll think again," Mr. Wilkens hissed.
"This is the Lakota way to show respect. This way or no way."
"Tell him I refuse. I'm sure the army will be happy to help me get my daughter back." Mr. Wilkens started to walk away, but Buck stopped him.
"Don't you understand? Horses are like...gold to these people. He's offering you the most valuable thing he has."
Mr. Wilkens stood stone-faced, and Buck felt a cold fear in the pit of his stomach. If they called the army in there would be nothing but a war, and bloodshed, and not only would the Lakota lose the most, but Mr. Wilkens could lose his daughter forever. Somehow, Buck had to make him understand about the consequences of his stubbornness and hatred. He turned to the man standing next to him, and began his plea.
"Mr. Wilkens, do you really want a war. Do you want people to die because you didn't accept four horses from a man for who those horses are the most valuable thing he owns? These are good horses. Do you want to give them up in exchange for a war?" Buck
Buck could see from the pained look on the man's face that he was really at war with himself, over the pain of losing his child.
He spoke again, in a quieter tone. "If you call in the army, you may cause the death of a lot of innocent people, including your daughter's husband. You don't want that blood on your hands."
"But why would she just leave us?" the older man cried.
Buck wondered that too. Apparently there was a lot going on in the Wilkens house than met the eye. He took a deep breath and turned slowly to Shadow Hawk. "Can Caroline receive visit from her father? He wants to talk to her and see that to that she is safe."
Shadow Hawk hesitated before giving an answer. When he was about to speak, Mrs. Wilkens stepped forward.
"Take me to her please. I won't make any trouble; I just want to see my daughter before she is married."
Buck made the request. He hoped the man wasn't lying.
Shadow Hawk carefully studied the older man. "Yellow Bird would be pleased for both of her parents to attend the ceremony," he said. He once more handed the horses to Mr. Wilkens.
This time the man took the ropes and made a barely perceptible nod of thanks. The Wilkens went to prepare for the journey, and it was decided that Buck and Kid would go along as well.
"Thank you for your help, Shadow Hawk told Buck, "Yellow Bird does not wish to cause her family pain, but this is the way she has chosen."
Hearing those last words, Buck suddenly remembered where he had met Shadow Hawk before. It was when he, himself, had helped rescue Tompkins' wife and daughter, Jennifer, who went by the name 'Eagle Feather'. He remembered Shadow Hawk as one of the braves he and Ike encountered on the edge of town. He also remembered Eagle Feather having to make a choice when her mother had been killed saving her. She had been allowed the choice of going or staying. She'd chosen to leave the village and return to the white world.
As they rode to the Indian village, Buck prayed that Mr. Wilkens wouldn't do anything to cause trouble. He was still worried that the man would let his emotions get the better of him, and that could have terrible consequences in this situation.
He also found himself wondering about Shadow Hawk. He was half-white, and yet, watching how the other braves deferred to him, he obviously had a position of some importance in the tribe.
As the small band of people approached the village, Buck put aside his feelings of jealously at the way Shadow Hawk's life appeared so much better than Buck's had been.
He decided that he needed to keep a close eye on Mr. Wilkens. "I'm glad you decided to accept Shadow Hawk's gift" he told the older man.
"Don't have much choice do I?" Mr. Wilkens grumbled as he looked toward the village.
"At least you can see your daughter."
Mr. Wilkens just shook his head. "Don't try to make me feel better about this Boy. Just tell your friend up there I wanna talk to Caroline."
Buck approached Shadow Hawk just about the same time Yellow Bird came flying into his arms. Feeling a slight tinge of envy, Buck backed away so the two of them could have a little time alone, but moved forward again as he saw Mr. Wilkens head toward the couple, a blank look in his eyes.
Before Buck could speak, Shadow Hawk spoke to Yellow Bird in Lakota,
"I have brought your parents to see you. They wish to attend our wedding."
Caroline Wilkens, still in the arms of her future husband, looked past Buck to the four white people that stood a few yards away.
"Papa..." she said, with a bit of a tremble in her voice, "I never thought..." she let the sentence drop when she saw the look of disgust in his eyes.
Buck noticed the look of fear on her face and quickly moved to stand between the couple and the older man.
"Are you ready to destroy the relationship you have with your daughter now, or take the chance of something worse happening?"
As Buck said this, his eyes met Kid's and the other rider stepped closer to Mr. Wilkens, ready to take whatever action was necessary in case there was trouble.
"If you do this...you're dead to me." Mr. Wilkens didn't raise his voice. He spoke steadily, and with little expression.
"I know..." Caroline's lower lip trembled, but she didn't look away. She held her head high and met her father's stare.
Mr. Wilkens turned and started to mount up to leave.
"You just wait one minute." Mrs. Wilkens' sharp tone stopped him in his tracks.
"You can leave if you want to, but she's my daughter, and I'm staying to watch her get married to a man she truly loves. If you go, you'll be going without me. At least someone in this family deserves some real happiness." Her eyes filled with tears.
Her husband just stared at her for a few seconds before continuing to his horse. "Fine," he snarled, as he mounted. "Stay here and watch, but don't bother coming home. I'll not have you staying in my house if you can't respect me." He spurred his mount and left the camp in a hurry. The rest of his family stood left behind in shock. Caroline was nearing tears and was caught in a hug between Shadow Hawk and her mother. Shadow Hawk looked to Buck to get an explanation to what had happened. Not understanding much English he was left confused and stunned at the behavior of his wife-to-be's father. Looking into Yellow Bird's teary eyes he spoke to her in their language.
"It is okay, I will go after him, I will bring him back to........." he stopped as he saw her face change from hurt back to fear.
"No...........You can't go after him....He will probably kill you." She protested.
Turning to Buck, she pleaded, "Is there nothing else you can do?"
"I'll try" Buck told her.
Mounting his horse, he rode to catch up with Caroline's father.
"Wait!" he called to him.
"She's made her choice, now I'm making mine!"
"You can't turn your back on her for doing something out of love..."
"Father! I have something to say before you go!"
Pulling her horse to a stop in front of her father to keep him from proceeding any further she faced him. He tried to go around her. Reaching out, she touched his arm.
"Please father, listen to me" she pleaded.
He looked at her with glistening eyes, and then nodded.
"When I was growing up, you told me to always be true to myself. That's what I'm trying to do."
"But how could you leave us without even a word? I know it hasn't been easy since we moved here, but it will get better. Why didn't you tell us?" Mr. Wilkens gestured toward Shadow Hawk.
Caroline smiled sadly, "Would you have taken the chance to get to know him?" Caroline asked her father demanding a straight answer.
Mr. Wilkens looked down at the ground and then back up at his daughter. "No," he muttered
"You gotta make a choice. Me with Shadow Hawk or no me at all.
It's your turn to decide." Caroline told her father.
"You mean you will marry.............him, whether you have my approval or not." It wasn't a question, but more a statement the older man spoke to his daughter.
"Yes, I love you and mother, but my heart belongs to Shadow Hawk, and I belong here with him. Please understand."
"I love your daughter, more than anything. I would give my life for her happiness."
Shadow Hawk approached on his horse, and smiled slightly at the shocked look on the faces of Buck and Mr. Wilkens. He had spoken in perfect English.
"I am half-white. Are you so surprised that I speak the white man's tongue?" he asked.
Mr. Wilkens nodded. "You were having him translate," he said.
"Because I sometime have difficulty following the conversation," Shadow Hawk replied. "Not because I do not understand at all." He smiled at the older man. "I meant what I said. I love your daughter and would die to keep her safe."
"Takin' a woman out of her own house ain't the way we court in the white world." Mr. Wilkens spat.
"You yourself just admitted that you would not have given me permission to court her." Shadow Hawk pointed out. "So I had no choice."
"Had you come and talked to me, man to man, I may have given it some thought" Mr. Wilkens sarcastically stated.
"I live in the white man's world. Would you have given me permission to court Caroline?" Buck spoke in a hushed tone.
The old man glared at him, shooting daggers at him with his eyes.
Mr. Wilkens looked from Buck down at his feet and back to Buck. "Probably not," he finally muttered.
"Now you see why I just left. You wouldn't have approved anyway so what was the point of asking you." Caroline went to stand next to Shadow Hawk who nodded in agreement Mr. Wilkens looked at his daughter. He looked at the young man beside her. That's right he thought, the young man. Could he look beyond the long hair, the darker skin, the buckskin clothing, and the feathers, and see someone other than a savage. He looked down at the ground again, wishing somehow he could get past his feelings of prejudice.
"Papa," Caroline continued. "I see how you, and, and some of the other men in town treat Buck. When I fell in love with Shadow Hawk, I knew this is how it would be." Caroline paused, carefully choosing her words.
"But not one person in this village has been unkind to me."
She paused a second before continuing, "They've welcomed me as part of the family without hesitation. Do you think you could try to do the same with Shadow Hawk?"
She glanced at Buck who was standing off to the side once more feeling unwanted and in the way. "Better yet could you be a friend to Buck? If it weren't for him you probably would never have come here, would you?"
"No," Wilkens admitted. He looked at Buck with shame in his eyes.
Having felt shame himself so often, Buck felt very uncomfortable, with the idea that he had caused someone to think less of themselves.
"I don't expect you to be my friend," Buck spoke to the older gentlemen, "Just to be respected and treated like the other men in town, would be enough for me. Not to be scoffed at because of my breeding, would be a great place to start."
Although he felt uncomfortable, Buck had had just about enough of Mr. Wilkens' tirades about half-bloods and Indians altogether.
The older man nodded. "I can do that," he finally replied with a glance at his daughter.
"Is it alright if I still come to the wedding?" he asked. "I'll stand way in the back of the crowd, where..."
"You'll do no such thing," interrupted Shadow Hawk. "You will stand in the place of honor that is reserved for the bride's father."
Mrs. Wilkens stepped forward and took hold of her husband's hand. "I'm very proud of you." She told him.
"Don't speak too soon," he said only half-joking. "Let's see how the rest of the day goes."
Just then a small group of Lakota braves rode up to the group. They looked at Shadow Hawk as if to make certain their leader was still safe.
He spoke to them briefly and they left.
Mr. Wilkens looked at Buck. "What was that all about?" he asked as he turned his head back towards the engaged couple.
"I am told the ceremony should begin soon, for the sun will be setting before long" Shadow Hawk explained to the bewildered man. "There are a few things to be attended to before we can truly become one." He smiled at Yellow Bird, and took her hand in his.
"Are you ready to become my wife?" he asked.
"I'm ready," she smiled, her blond hair shining like gold in the sun.
The couple went ahead of the others as they made their way back to the village and Yellow Bird was taken to a special lodge where she was prepared for the ceremony.
Her parents and the riders were eating a light meal when Shadow Hawk came to tell them that it was time for the ceremony to begin.
"I would be honored," he said to Mr. Wilkens, "if you would stand with me, and offer your blessings to our marriage."
Mr. Wilkens looked at the riders and his wife. "Thank you," he said, "for not giving up on me. I was a fool to let this stand between me and my daughter."
Buck smiled. "Guess we should go, huh?" he asked Kid.
"Please stay," Mrs. Wilkens asked. "You should be part of this too. You can go back in the morning."
"We'd be honored Ma'am."
As the sun began it's descent behind the mountain, and the sky filled with the many hues of reds, and yellows, and oranges, two people were reunited as one, surrounded by people who loved, understood, respected, and believed in the sanctity of love. Among them, a soul with even still a few reservations put away his pride, to let the power of love blossom.
Email Karen, Maria, Nina and Dani