Indian Territory – Oklahoma – 1880
The fact that he was a former slave was obvious because he was a black man of a certain age, but his clothes and his manner also marked him for a beggar and a thief on the run from the law, or at least that’s what it seemed.
Most folks thought they were safe from the law in Indian Territory. The region that would one day be known as Oklahoma was ruled by five tribes, the Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw, all forced from their ancestral homelands because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The tribes governed through their own courts but only had authority over themselves. That meant anyone not of the tribes, from a scalawag to a murderer, could only be pursued by Federal officers and not local law enforcement once they crossed into Indian Territory.
The beggarman had walked twenty some miles that day and he had another ten to go. He ate some of the hardtack and jerky he carried in a ratty looking burlap sack while he watched the small fire burn in front of him. He’d brought a blanket to guard against the cold as he slept on the grasslands of the high plains, but that was all the belongings a man could see. None of that bothered him including being approached silently from behind.