The moment John Fury spots a wagon train at a standstill in Pawnee country he knows that something is wrong. What has happened is that the wagonmaster, Leander Crofton, has been unseated from his horse that had been spooked by a rattler. Not only had he been stomped on by his own horse but run over by the oxen of the lead wagon.
Fury promises the dying man to lead the wagon train to Colorado Territory.
The scout for the train is a negro freedman called Joe Brackett. Through references to the difference between freedmen and runaway slaves the author manages to convey that the story is set before the American Civil War.
The book is full of characters like the veteren Amos Duggan who senses that age is overtaking him that he has decided that it is time to settle. And the level headed Doctor Gerald Lonigan who is the voice of reason when things get a bit tense.
Against these are Carson Thorn who is a gambler out for his own gain and backed by the shady Kreeg. Always feigning innocence when accused of cheating.
The character that I liked was the Polish tailor, Leo Sidowky, who had left New York to build a new life. He was driving the lead wagon that had run over the wagonmaster. It was a great piece of story telling that tells of this man's growth in character.
And there is love interest with the schoolteacher, Bess Jackson, who seems to be playing Fury against the foreman of the hands driving a bunch of cattle behind the wagon train.
For me life on a wagon train was an eye opener as I did not know that that a wagon train barely made a dozen miles a day, if that.
While there is danger from attack by the Pawnees the biggest problems that these people face come from nature itself.
An really marvellous book and I am looking for more by this writer.