It’s 1868, the explosive and tenacious American West, only a few, exhausting years after the passing of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, and the 14th Amendment, ending discrimination. It’s also a period of other overwhelming and momentous matters. Like the start of the most rapid and extensive territorial expansion the country has ever known; like the formidable reconstruction period; like the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson and the election to the Presidency of the celebrated Army General (and alcoholic) Ulysses S. Grant; like the Indian Wars, the Ku Klux Klan, the writings of Mark Twain, Bret Hart and Richard Dana; like the advent of the Railroads, land and cattle barons, Spanish-Mexican Rancheros, French vintners, outlaws, miners, squatters, trappers, homesteaders, and renegades; like illegal slavery and rampant political and economic corruption, and cowering amidst all of this, fateful products of the times, like a man named Booker.
Samuel Booker couldn’t tell you the exact time and place he was born, nor does he care to. Although his recollections are worn and thin, he knows he was a son, a husband, maybe a father, a slave, a black man, a nigger. These are what he was for the time. An innocent man, wrongfully accused of a crime that never happened. An outlaw, a renegade, a lonely man. According to the United States Constitution, he is an ex-slave, but according to the United States Criminal Code, he is a wanted man.
He was born somewhere in Alabama to slave parents, and he has the pain, and a touch of rheumatism, to prove it. “We kids would just curl up with each other on the cold, damp ground. We didn’t have a floor in the cabin. We would just hover around each other, trying to keep warm, kind of like dogs, you know?”
He has clear recollections of his past, the good and the bad. He’s constantly reminded of things by what he sees, hears, touches, smells, and tastes. His memories, the good ones, make him smile. It helps him keep going. He’ll sing a song on occasion. And being instinctive, he gets along well and can survive anywhere. Intellectually, he loses. He can read a little but was never allowed to go to school. In a sense, he gets along, though. Perhaps someday he will learn to read. Perhaps.
He likes women, whiskey, and peace. Food for him is neither here nor there. He eats to stay alive. He doesn’t have friends. It’s too dangerous. For the most part, he spends his life alone.
Booker’s only allegiance is to himself. No causes, no prejudices, he just doesn’t give a damn. His enemy is life. The only thing that riles him is seeing someone, a being, animal, or human, being abused or confined. Otherwise, to each his own.