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Fort Bridger, May 1877
I tore a page out of my journal today and wrote a letter to Andi. I hope she gets it. I also copied the letter into my journal so I would remember what I wrote to her.
Dear Andi, It’s only been six months since I left the Circle C, but I miss you (and Taffy, of course, and Uncle Sid too. I don’t miss Cook. Not one bit). If it wasn’t for Midnight and the freedom I have, I would just about cry. It’s awfully lonely. Fort Bridger is a teensy-weensy, rundown fort along the Green River in Wyoming (which means “middle of nowhere” in my mind).
There is one thing you would like here, though, and that is . . . no school! Why not? Because there are absolutely no children at this fort. There is a schoolhouse, though. I drew a picture of it to show you. It looks like a jail to me. It was the first schoolhouse in the entire territory of Wyoming. A judge in 1860 lived here and had the school built for his four daughters, his two sons, and the other children at the fort. (I think the fort was a whole lot bigger back then). He made sure the fort hired good teachers from back east.
But now? The door is padlocked and nobody goes in or out. I reckon that’s good for two reasons: 1) I have a lot of free time to spend with Midnight and the other army horses, and 2) I would not want to be the only kid in the schoolhouse. Mama is a little upset about this, but she managed to get hold of a whole stack of McGuffey readers that had been stored in the schoolhouse. I read them on my own. I also do arithmetic from a fat, half-torn book she found inside the schoolhouse too. The commander of the fort, Colonel Neason, lets Mama have whatever she wants to teach me “right and proper,” as he told her. “Can’t have Captain Prescott’s youngster turn out ignorant. Not while I have breath in my body! This here’s a proper fort.”
There are barely any soldiers here. Pa is the captain of a troop, which is 100 cavalry horsemen. That’s all we need these days. The old-timers here say that Fort Bridger was once a vital stop for folks heading west. Oregon Trail pioneers and the Mormons on their way to the Great Salt Lake all stopped at Fort Bridger to resupply and see a bit of civilization. In fact, the Mormons actually bought the fort (before the military took over).
And guess what, Andi? The Pony Express went straight through Fort Bridger. That is the only exciting thing about this place. It’s famous because of that but not much else.
The key word in all this recitation is that it was “once” a busy fort. Right now, nothing ever happens here. Pa, Mama, and I have lived at Fort Bridger for three months. Mama likes it! She likes the quiet pace, the spring breezes that whip up her apron so much that she laughs out loud. The dry climate has given Mama the cure she needed too. She no longer coughs half the night. For that reason (and that reason only), I’m glad we’re here.
This will probably be my only letter to you for spell. I’m hoping Mama counts this letter to you as “writing, composition, and history,” since I told you a little about the fort’s history. Sadly, there isn’t much to tell. There are rumors flying around the fort that it’s going to shut down sometime next year (1878). I reckon that means we will be moving again to another fort. Your friend, Riley.