Outlaw Bass Reeves

Bass Reeves: Escape to Justice

A sliver of dawn light peeked through the dusty window, painting a thin gold line across the worn floorboards. I rose from my pallet on the floor, the groan of the cot a familiar morning symphony. Today, like every day, the musty air hung heavy with the Colonel’s pipe tobacco and the lingering scent of yesterday’s whiskey.

Master George, or Colonel Reeves as he preferred these days, wasn’t a cruel man. Not in the way some were. But kindness didn’t erase the chains that bound me, both physical and legal. I was his property, his “valet,” a title that felt more like a cruel joke than a description of my duties.

I pulled on my starched white shirt and trousers, the fabric stiff and uncomfortable against my skin. Master George wouldn’t tolerate a single wrinkle on his uniform, the one symbol of supposed authority that separated him from the dirt and sweat of the real work. I polished his boots until they gleamed, the leather whispering secrets of past battles and future ambitions.

The Colonel emerged from his room, a scowl etched on his face. “Coffee, Bass,” he barked, his voice thick with sleep and last night’s revelry. I brewed the strong, bitter liquid, the same kind that kept me alert on long nights patrolling the ever-growing town. He never ventured out on those patrols, of course. Too dangerous, too beneath him. That was for the likes of me.

While he grumbled through his breakfast of sausage and eggs, I cleaned his weapons, the smooth metal a stark contrast to the calloused hands that held them. He wouldn’t trust me with a loaded gun, not truly. But these cleaned weapons were a symbol too, a constant reminder of the power he held, a power I could never dream of possessing.

As the Colonel finished his meal, he tossed his crumpled napkin on the floor with a careless flick of his wrist. “Iron my damn shirt, Bass,” he commanded, his voice tinged with a hint of apology masked by his usual gruffness. I nodded silently, the familiar routine a dull ache in my chest.

Ironing his clothes, polishing his boots, fetching his meals – these were the outward signs of my servitude. But there was another side to it, a hidden knowledge I gleaned from scraps of overheard conversations and whispered rumors. The Colonel was ambitious, hungry for power. He dreamt of a new state, a new way of life. And in his dreams, there was a place for me, a small, silent space at the edge of his grand vision.

Perhaps, someday, that space would be a little wider, a little less shadowed. Perhaps, someday, the man I served wouldn’t be my master, but a leader I could respect, even if respect was a luxury a slave wasn’t supposed to afford. Until then, I ironed his shirts, one wrinkle at a time, and dreamt of a dawn that broke not just for the Colonel, but for Bass Reeves as well.


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