Based on the 19th century’s young criminal gang, led by Rufus Buck, a Black Creek Indian who terrorized the entire Indian territory of Arkansas-Oklahoma, Paul G. Volk came up with his 2024 release, The Night They Came Home. This film is a fictional retelling of a frontier policeman, Heck Thomas, and an Indian detective, Paden Tolbert’s efforts to track down Rufus Buck’s notorious gang and bring them to justice. This film is a very lazy portrayal of a significant part of Native American history that fails to leave any impact on the audience. Still, here’s a detailed discussion of this film that sheds light on the rise and fall of this notorious bloodthirsty gang of the late 19th century.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
The film opens with Rufus Buck, the fierce leader of the Rufus Buck Gang, locked inside a prison cell, regretting the choices he made in his life. It was July 1, 1896, when Rufus Buck was hanged along with his three other accomplices. Rufus started his last day on earth by writing a poem and reminiscing about those days of his childhood when he used to be tortured by a white priest in his school. The scene shifted forward to a different timeline, probably in the 20th century. A white man and his partner stopped by a tavern, where they met an old man who worked as a graveyard digger. The digger greeted them and told them about the most infamous tale of the Rufus Buck Gang and how the lawmen managed to put an end to it. After a Creek Indian outlaw, Cherokee Bill was hanged in Fort Smith by the white lawmakers, several outlaws like Cherokee Bill emerged and set out on their journey to unleash their reign of terror upon the white men. One of them was a black Creek Indian, Rufus Buck, who formed a gang with his cousins and started killing innocent white people. They used to roam around the settlements of the white Americans and hang them to death to take revenge on the century-old oppression inflicted upon the Indian people by European settlers. One of their victims was the Palmer family. The Rufus Buck gang killed the entire Palmer family and held Jolane captive. Jolane’s younger brother was also alive and looking for his sister, so he ended up meeting Sheriff Heck Thomas and asking for his assistance to find Jolane.
What Happened To Jolane?
When the gang of Rufus Buck killed the entire Palmer family, except for Jolane, so that they could sell her at a high price, Jolane, however, turned out to be a brave young woman who didn’t easily give in to the gang. As one of the gang members, Myoma attacked Jolane; she counterattacked him, putting an end to his life. Jolane, however, couldn’t save herself from Rufus, who took her captive and headed to the market. On their way, they killed a lot of people. While some of them were innocent white farmers and local men, some others were Indian men who became the victims of Rufus Buck’s rage. Sam Sixkiller, a lawman who was half Indian and half white, was assassinated by Rufus Buck’s gang on their way. Heck Thomas, meanwhile, set out on his journey, taking his Indian friend and detective Paden Tolbert with him. Being an Indian, Paden could connect with the reason why Rufus Buck was killing people, but he also knew that Rufus, who was just a young man devoid of any sense of morality, thought violence was the answer to violence. Paden didn’t forgive the white people for the oppression and torture they had inflicted upon the native people, but he didn’t hold any grudges against the innocent white people who had their right to live in this land peacefully. Therefore, Paden decided to help Heck bring this notorious group to justice.
Did Jolane Survive?
On their journey, Rufus Buck and his gang stopped by a farmer’s house and held them captive. They killed the poor farmer guy and demanded to ravish his wife. His wife begged for her life, but the brutal gang of Rufus Buck decided to torture her. When the newly joined cousin brother of Rufus Buck, Charlie, forcefully took the wife inside a shelter, the farmer’s wife came up with a plan. She created a distraction and managed to kill Charlie. She ran away from the place and took the carriage, which had Jolane inside. The farmer’s wife rescued Jolane and fled the scene. On her way back to town, she met Heck Thomas and Tolbert, who asked Jolane to see a doctor in town while they go after the gang and arrest them.
Heck Thomas and Tolbert surrounded the farmer’s hut, inside which the rest of the gang, including Rufus Buck, had no idea that Charlie was dead. As they found out that the wife had fled the scene, they quickly hurried outside, only to get caught by the sheriff and the detective. After a fierce altercation, Heck Thomas and Tolbert managed to capture the entire group, including Rufus Buck. Rufus tries to manipulate Tolbert into killing Heck Thomas, but Tolbert doesn’t listen to him. Rufus Buck and his gang were brought into custody. The local people were enraged to find out that the sheriff was delaying the announcement of the gang’s death sentence, so Heck Thomas, backed by the hangman, George Maledon, announced that their job was to bring these killers to justice, and it was up to Judge Parker to decide whether to hang them or not. Heck thought that if, without a judge’s announcement, he hanged them to death, they would be committing the same sin that these murderers had committed. So Heck Thomas decided to wait for the verdict to respect law and order.
During The Night They Came Home‘s ending, George Maledon decided to publish a Western dime novel on this notorious gang, so he assigned a writer to interview the gang and learn their history. The author interviewed Rufus Buck and his gang and learned about their traumatic family history. While the rest of the gang came up with made-up stories to emphasize that their parents were evil, Rufus Buck spoke the truth, saying that their parents didn’t have a single cruel bone in their bodies. But he resented them for being weak and tortured by those white people, which made him angry and led him to become a mass murderer. The next morning, one of the survivors of the Rufus Buck Gang provided testimony against the rapists and the murderous criminals of the gang. The court declared the guilty verdict and gave the Rufus Buck Gang a death sentence. On July 1, 1896, the four men from the Rufus Buck Gang were hanged in Fort Smith.
Who Was The Digger?
The western dime novel depicting Rufus Buck Gang’s rise and fall was published. The comic novel depicted the dawn at which these four men were hanged. While the three of them were still remorseless, it was Rufus Buck who seemed to have shed a tear looking at young Jolane, who probably had made him feel guilty for his actions during the time of his death. The digger wrapped up the story, which enamored the white traveler and his partner, but they began to wonder how the digger knew so many things about the gang in detail. In the concluding scene of the film, we see that the digger was probably a spirit who disappeared into thin air. Probably, the digger might’ve been someone who was killed by the Rufus Buck gang, or he was just a representation of a storyteller who roamed around the world to tell the new generation about old and valuable stories of the past.