Read more Riley’s Ramblings in Andi’s Attic >>
Late June 1877
I’m writing one more letter to Andi. I have a bad feeling that the mail is not very reliable. That’s too bad. I have never received any letters from my best friend, but I can understand why. I think Pa moves around too much. Probably any letter addressed to Fort Bridger will come after we are long gone. And nobody forwards letters to other commands. If they did, the mail would be chasing us around and around all over the western territories. I’m sad, but I’ll give one more letter a try. Then I will not write anymore. It’s too hard to keep remembering the good times we had. I think in a few years that Andi will forget all about me. Good thing I have that Christmas gift she gave me the day before I left the ranch.
After I posted the letter (which I don’t think will ever get there), I helped Pa and Mama pack up. I am really going to miss Fort Bridger, especially my friends Washakie and Lemhi. Boy, did we have good times. But they left yesterday for the buffalo hunting grounds. I sure wish Pa would have let me gone with them. He actually said, “Son, if we were sticking around Fort Bridger until the end of the summer, I would certainly have let you go along. But I’m afraid it would be too much to ask the tribe to bring you all the way to Laramie.”
That knowledge nearly killed me. Hunting buffalo all day! Sleeping in a teepee every night. Riding Midnight across the plains. This was not the first time I wished I was an Indian. Well, at eleven and a half, I now know enough to thank Pa for the offer (that would never come to pass) and put a good face on the move. The only interesting part will be, once again, that we will travel by railroad–at least most of the way. It goes by Cheyenne, in Wyoming Territory. Then we have to go by wagon the rest of the way. (I’m sure Pa will let me ride Midnight while he and Mama ride in the wagon with our household goods.)
Pa also says I can ride in the cattle car with Midnight and the other horses from the soldiers that are being transferred. (More and more, both Pa and the other men are starting to figure out that I have a way with horses. I think my Shoshone pals really helped me learn a thing or two about horses that I didn’t know before.) It’s summer, so we won’t freeze and it’s only a long day’s trip. Besides, Mama is too busy whirling around the house in joy to care how I get to Fort Laramie. In her present state, she’d probably let me ride Midnight all the way . . . just like those old Pony Express Riders back in the day.
Mama is feeling better than she’s ever felt before (must be that “prairie cure” everybody talks about). I think Mama had something called “consumption,” which sometimes takes months and maybe years to get over. But she’s over it now and smiles all the time. Come to find out, her sister (I reckon that would be my Aunt Sophie) lives on a homestead not too far away from Fort Laramie. So, it’s no wonder Mama is happy. She can’t wait to see Uncle Joseph and Aunt Sophie. “Oh, Robert,” (that’s Pa), won’t it be grand to be near Sophie when she has the baby this fall?”
Pa is smart. He smiles and pats Mama’s hand. He’s happy because Mama’s happy. She’s never been one who likes to move around. She liked the Presidio in San Francisco, but that place didn’t do for her sickness what Fort Bridger has done in just four months. She hated Alcatraz about as much as I did. So I can see why she’d be happy to be around kinfolk again. “We’ll be here at least two years,” Pa assured her.
Two years? That sounds mighty fine to me. The town of Rapid City in the Dakotas is not that far. And . . . I’ve overhead some of the men talk about the Black Hills gold rush three years ago, and something called “Custer’s Last Stand,” whatever that is. It probably has something to do with Indians. Whatever it is, it happened about seven months ago. I’m sure I’ll find out more.
Pa says this is a much bigger fort. It has a school, and so I’d better mind my p’s and q’s. That means I can’t play hooky and go off and look after the horses. Too bad.
Oh, here is a picture I found of Pa and Mama.