A few years ago a land speculator stopped into my tavern and asked me if I would accompany him on a trip to Ft Dakota in the Dakota territory. He wished to study the land between here and there and see if it was suitable to propose a railroad. He felt it was wise to hire a fighting man as an escort and I was his first choice.
I admit I thought him a bit mad as it would be a better than 500 mile round trip. I was surprised at how knowledgeable he was of the route and discovered he had served in the 1st Minnesota Cavalry during the Dakota War. He was not really worried about conflict with the Dakota or Lakota but wished to be prepared in case he had poor luck or met with some dishonest whites. When he showed me his coin and said he would pay half now and half upon our return I was sold on the idea. I will admit my Mina was less than enthusiastic at the proposition of being without me for up to a couple months. The inn was only recently opened and business was going well enough I could pay a man to stand in at the tavern and the winter was far enough away that I believed the trip would be a profitable one.
Mr Wendall was well prepared for the trip with two horse and two pack mules. We did not want for coffee or rations on the trek and while we had a small tent we never felt the need to set it. He carried a brace of Remington pistols and a new Winchester rifle. I brought along my Sharps rifle and a good fighting knife. That was enough for me and there were no complaints about it when I added an antelope to our rations with that Sharps.
It was a long windy trip but I thought it well worth it. We saw no Indians at all though there were plenty of shifty white men along the way as well as more than a few honest farmers trying to make a home for themselves on the plains. Farming is a hard life and combined with the struggle of living on the plains it would be a life I would want no part of.
I admit an admiration for the plains, a place where the horizon touches the sky in a way the like I have only seen in the desert of North Africa and the Crimea. The wind never stops whispering to you in a constant fashion. The tall grass never sits still always dancing in the breeze.
When we arrived at Ft Dakota we found a decent sized settlement called Sioux Falls taking shape. The city was named for the falls near it. Those falls were something to see. Water had cut channels through the rocks and it moved as only water can cutting through rock and earth and making quite a noise as it did so. We camped near the falls for three days. We returned via a slightly different route and I left Mr. Wendall at Ft Abercrombie. I don’t know that his railroad proposal ever garnered enough investors to make a go at it but it was a pleasant trip that garnered me enough coin to purchase a few things for the Inn and my Mrs. Mina so it was time well spent.