They came riding out of the Plains in the fall of ‘22
On ponies lame and hungry, a cold dark afternoon
Four braves and two young boys who never spoke a word
In a cart, too weak to ride, was the old chief Iron Bird

From the porch Tom Preston watched them as they crossed the railroad track
And came down the dirt road past the house and rode around the back
His grandson came running, eyes wide with disbelief
Before the boy could open his mouth, Tom said, “Tell Jesse to kill a beef, the time has come”

In a pen not far from the house were fourteen buffalo
Descendants of a gift from Goodnight made 30 years ago
Pampered, almost tame, they grazed out there like pets
He remembered what Goodnight said:  “These may be all that’s left.”

On the third day one of the braves came walking up from their camp
He stood outside the house wrapped in a blanket moldy and damp
Tom Preston said, “I’ll send more beef.”  The Comanche brave said, “No.
Iron Bird sent me here to tell you he wants one buffalo,
For the time has come.”

The time has come
The time has come
I’ve been waiting my whole life and the time has come

Tom Preston said, “Tell Iron Bird I know his shadow well.
I fought him on the Caprock and in the Brush Country as well.
For twenty years we battled.  Over what I no longer know.
I only know it ended thirty years ago.

“He’s welcome to my cattle, and my woman will bring him bread.
He can shelter in my barn when he tires of the stars overhead.
But he has one side of the story.  I got mine, and so,
Tell Iron Bird he can have those things but not one buffalo.”

Winter set in early, snow quick upon the frost
Then the cattle started starving, over sixty head were lost
Then one of the bison started dying, and the grandson got the flu
Every day the brave came calling, every day old Tom refused

The Indians watched from the pasture as the white men walked in a line
From the house to a family graveyard, with a small box  of pine
When the burying was over, Tom walked past the last buffalo bull
“Take the son of a bitch,” he said.  “Eat til your bellies are full.”

And he handed the brave his rifle while the two young boys looked on
Then Iron Bird came out of the tent, took the rifle, gave it back to Tom
He said something in Comanche, and the braves mounted up with their spears
“One last time the old way, Tom.  Then everything disappears.”

The time has come
The time has come
We’ve been waiting our whole lives and the time has come

Tom opened the gate and the Indians rode into the pen
And a tribe of shabby beggars assumed the shape of gods again
They struck at the bull with their spears, arrows flew like birds
Two young boys became braves that day and never spoke a word

And when the killing was over and the bull drew his last breath
They sang a song of thanks, they sang a song of death
Then they rode across the pasture, they crossed the railroad track
Disappeared just like old Iron Bird told him . . .
“It ain’t ever coming back.”