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Fort Bridger, Wyoming, March 1, 1877
I couldn’t leave Fort Alcatraz fast enough. I tried to keep it quiet from Tom Malloy’s gang of troublemakers, but of course nobody can keep it quiet for long when a change of command leaks out. The kids gave me a bit of a time, but ol’ Tom couldn’t rough me up much . . . at least not enough to show. Anyway, I didn’t care if they “saw me off” with boos and heckling. I think those boys were pretty much pea green with envy that I was headed to the wide-open spaces of Wyoming while they were left behind to drown in the rain and depressing setting of that prison. Pa was not cut out to be a prison warden. If he wanted to do that, I’m sure he could have gotten a job at San Quentin or Folsom prisons.
The train trip took a week. It might have been shorter, but the train seemed to stop at every town along the way. We boarded the train in Oakland, after a ferry ride across the dark, cold waters of San Francisco Bay. I waved good-bye to Alcatraz Island and then turned all of my attention to making Midnight comfortable in the cattle car, along with Pa’s mount, General, and some of the other officers that were headed to Fort Bridger or Laramie, or even Fort Hall.
Best news ever! Pa and the officer in charge gave me permission to ride in the car with Midnight! It’s the happiest I’ve been since leaving the Circle C. I settled right down with my big, black friend and we squeezed between a bay, a gray, and a pinto for the remainder of the trip. The train stopped off in Sacramento, the capital of California, and Pa made me get out and stretch my legs. But he wouldn’t let me stretch Midnight’s legs.
We chugged up the Sierras and stopped in Virginia City, Nevada, where there was still a lot of snow around. But I was snug as a bug in the hay with my army-horse friends. I spent the entire trip brushing the horses, currycombing them, and just chatting to them about how much I missed Andi and the Circle C and how awful Alcatraz had been. By the time the train steamed Salt Lake City, Utah, two days later, we were all good friends.
Our train pulled into the town of Fort Bridger (not to be confused with the fort). Right away I could see for miles! I wanted nothing more than to leap on Midnight and find my way to the fort, where Pa was stationed. He told me to “hold my horses” and so I had to tie Midnight to the back of our wagon, which held all our worldly possessions and plod another hour to this teensy weensy fort.
By the time we arrived, night was falling, and it falls fast and hard in March in Wyoming. A stiff, cold breeze was blowing, and I shivered. March in California is springtime and sometimes eighty degrees. This felt more like eight degrees. No snow, but a wind that cut through this California boy’s jacket like a hot knife through butter.
Worse, I was not impressed with this fort, not after living at the Presidio in San Francisco. Even Fort Alcatraz seemed bigger. But . . . after a sigh and wondering if there were any other kids at the fort, I decided this was better than ol’ Tom Malloy and his gang of hoodlums back in California.
Well, Mama is getting after me for keeping the lamp turned up, so I will pause this account. I’m exhausted and ready to sleep. Our “new” officer’s home is about the size of Midnight’s stall back on the Circle C, but I’m hoping it will look bigger in daylight. At least it’s warm. Pa got a roaring fire going. I reckon I’d better turn down the light and get some sleep.