Molly McDonald (Chapter 1, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 1

When, late in May, 1868, Major Daniel McDonald, Sixth Infantry, was first assigned to command the new three company post established southwest of Fort Dodge, designed to protect the newly discovered Cimarron trail leading to Santa Fé across the desert, and, purely by courtesy, officially termed Fort Devere, he naturally considered it perfectly safe to invite his only daughter to join him there for her summer vacation. Indeed, at that time, there was apparently no valid reason why he should deny himself this pleasure. Except for certain vague rumors regarding uneasiness among the Sioux warriors north of the Platte, the various tribes of the Plains were causing no unusual trouble to military authorities, although, of course, there was no time in the history of that country utterly devoid of peril from young raiders, usually aided and abetted by outcast whites. However, the Santa Fé route, by this date, had become a well-travelled trail, protected by scattered posts along its entire route, frequently patrolled by troops, and merely considered dangerous for small parties, south of the Cimarron, where roving Comanches in bad humor might be encountered.

Fully assured as to this by officers met at Fort Ripley, McDonald, who had never before served west of the Mississippi, wrote his daughter a long letter, describing in careful detail the route, set an exact date for her departure, and then, satisfied all was well arranged, set forth with his small command on the long march overland. He had not seen his daughter for over two years, as during her vacation time (she was attending Sunnycrest School, on the Hudson), she made her home with an aunt in Connecticut. This year the aunt was in Europe, not expecting to return until fall, and the father had hopefully counted on having the girl with him once again in Kentucky. Then came his sudden, unexpected transfer west, and the final decision to have her join him there. Why not? If she remained the same high-spirited army girl, she would thoroughly enjoy the unusual experience of a few months of real frontier life, and the only hardship involved would be the long stage ride from Ripley. This, however, was altogether prairie travel, monotonous enough surely, but without special danger, and he could doubtless arrange to meet her himself at Kansas City, or send one of his officers for that purpose.

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