Backed Up by Buffalo
The locomotives of the Golden Valley Railroad are proud of the history of their line. Richard, the oldest engine on the line, liked to tell stories about his early memories of the railroad. Harry and Baldwin liked these stories most of all. One day they were resting in the roundhouse listening to Richard tell one of his stories after a long day of switching.
"When I first came to the railroad," the old engine said, "One of the original locomotives of the line was still in service. His name was Chester and he would always tell me stories about his early days on the line, just as I tell you my stories. He liked to give me advice too. I was just a young engine then and didn't think much of it. I remember he would always tell me, 'Richard,' he would sometimes say, 'Always keep a clear smokebox and keep an eye out for buffalo!'
"'Buffalo?' I would snort. 'There haven't been buffalo on our line since before the Civil War!'
"'In my young day a herd of buffalo on the line could stop a train for hours at a time!'
"I was young and cocky, so I took no notice of old Chester's advice." Richard continued. "It came back to haunt me two days later."
"Why?" Harry said inquisitively. "What happened?"
"I was taking my afternoon passenger train when, low and behold a herd of cows had strayed from their field and blocked the line!" Richard chuckled "Lots of farms didn't have fences then, so it was easy for cattle to escape from their farmers. While it wasn't buffalo that stopped me, I was well over half-an-hour late and very embarrassed. Old Chester never let me hear the end of it!"
Just then Hudson steamed in.
"What's this I hear? You were stopped by buffalo? I'll have you know that sort of thing never happens to an important engine like me!"
Richard winked at Baldwin and Harry then said, "You watch your mouth. The railroad has more than a few surprises in store for you."
"Pah!" snorted Hudson and went to sleep.
The next morning the controller, Mr. Rockford came to see Baldwin.
"I need you to collect a special train of livestock from the other end of the line tomorrow. Harry can handle the switching while you're away."
"A special train?" Harry said curiously, "What sort of livestock will I be carrying?"
"American Bison for a special exhibit at the Greenville American History Museum." Mr. Rockford explained. "Your train will only be two cars long, so you won't have too hard a journey."
The next morning Baldwin was waiting with his stock cars at the goods platform near the Big Station. A heavyset Native American man on a horse rode up beside Baldwin on the platform.
"Good morning!" he said cheerfully. "Are you here to take my buffalo?"
"Yes, I am!" peeped Baldwin as the man climbed down from his horse.
"Good!" the man bellowed. "Here they come now." Up the slope of the platform marched twenty brown, furry buffalo followed by another man on a horse.
"My name is Whistling Elk," said the heavyset man. "This is my son, Morning Star."
"My name is Baldwin," Baldwin said with a smile as the buffalo were carefully loaded into his cars.
"Take good care of my buffalo!" Whistling Elk said as the last of the animals was guided into Baldwin's cars. "I'll meet you at in Greenville to help unload and take them to the park by the museum."
"I will!" promised Baldwin and with a loud, peep, peep! he started his journey to the end of the line.
It was a beautiful day, and as Baldwin puffed cheerfully along the mainline he sang a little song to himself:
"Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight! Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight and dance by the light of the moon!" The buffalo sniffed and snorted behind him as if to sing along.
They reach Greenville, the station at the end of the line, ahead of schedule and had to wait twenty minutes in a good siding for Whistling Elk and Morning Star to arrive. At last the two arrived in an old pickup truck and began helping the buffalo out of Baldwin's stock cars. When they were all unloaded, they stood beside Baldwin waiting to leave for the museum. Whistling Elk was speaking with Baldwin's engineer when Baldwin suddenly let of steam.
WHOOOSH! A cloud of steam engulfed the buffalo, Whistling Elk, and Morning Star. The buffalo were not used to trains and the noise and steam made them panic! They mooed in alarm, ran away from Baldwin and charged across the yard! They broke through the fence at the end of the yard and darted away into the hills.
"Quick, after them!" Whistling Elk cried to Morning Star as they jumped in their pickup and drove off quickly down the road.
"Oh dear!" groaned Baldwin. "I hope the buffalo don't hurt themselves! It would be my fault if they did! I'd feel terrible!"
"Don't worry," his engineer reassured him. "You couldn't help it. Whistling Elk and Morning Star will catch them, you'll see!" Baldwin hoped his engineer was right.
Meanwhile, Hudson was steaming down the mainline towards Greenville with his mid-day express. He was ahead of schedule and feeling very pleased with himself.
"Record time! Record time!" he puffed to himself. Then in the distance he saw a man on the line waving a red flag. Behind him, blocking the track, was a heard of buffalo! Hudson's engineer quickly applied the brakes and skillfully stopped the train. "Well I never!" Hudson steamed angrily. "Buffalo! Buffalo! I can't believe it!"
Hudson's engineer was upset too. "We're going to be late with our express!" he told the flagman.
"Sorry," said the flagman. "We have to wait for the buffalo's caretakers to come before we can let you pass."
Hudson seethed in silent fury as he waited for Whistling Elk and Morning Star to arrive. It was thirty minutes before the two arrived on horses and shooed the buffalo carefully off the tracks.
"Finally!" Hudson growled when the line was clear and puffed away in a noisy huff.
The buffalo were brought back to Greenville safely and the special exhibit at the museum was a great success. Baldwin was in charge of returning the buffalo to the Big Station. He had finished his journey and was resting in the goods yard when Whistling Elk approached him.
"Thank you for taking such good care of my buffalo." He said. "You know they are sacred to my people, and I would have been very sad if something would have happened to them."
"But I scared them off with my steam in the yard at Greenville," Baldwin replied, "And they could have been hurt, or worse!"
"That wasn't your fault! My buffalo are jumpy creatures, easily scared. It could have happened to any engine." Baldwin felt much better.
That evening the engines were congregated in the roundhouse at the Big Station. Richard had heard about Hudson's run in with the buffalo. He said nothing, but began to quietly sing to himself, "Buffalo girl won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight! Buffalo girls won't you come out tonight, and dance by the light of the moon!"