Monday, December 14, 2015

Pillar of Cloud

By Jackson Burgess

Garvin Cooper had graduated from law school and wanted to leave his home and family and make a life for himself in the lawless west in 1858. He came to Kansas with high hopes, hopes that were dashed in the face of the conflict between the free states people and the pro-slavery people. Too much lawlessness, apparently.
During his travels, he had joined with another young professional out to make a name for himself as an engineer specializing in bridges. Bob McVey was a talented man but maybe a little too excitable.
They both decided Kansas wasn't for them and determined to head further west. They had become acquainted with a guide who was planning to blaze a new trail west to the Rockies. Cooper and McVey joined up with the guide, Ned Drum, and the small group of people he was to lead across the prairie.
So they set out, Drum, Cooper, McVey, a Quaker man and wife and few other men. The Quakers had a wagon but the rest rode horses. They experience the typical pioneer trials, days when it just rains and rains, rough river and stream crossings, failing water supply, and the hot, dry, dusty days of summer. But they soldier on, united.
Things start to go bad when they are nearly caught by a prairie fire. Some wanted to start a backfire, but Drum overruled and insisted that it would be smarter to race to a nearby river. They managed to get to the river, but it was a very close thing and people began to question Drum's leadership. And then they started encountering the natives and the story changed from adventure to just trying to survive as the clash of personalities puts all their lives at risk.

I did enjoy this tale of a small group of people setting out on a grand adventure that became much more perilous than they had imagined. The ending was sad and I wished for a happier one, but debts had to be paid and that was how the author decided to do it. Still it was a good story, exciting and interesting and seemed pretty accurate in its depiction of those times.

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