Modern shipping companies pride themselves on prompt, reliable delivery service, whatever the weather. But few of them could match the phenomenal performance of this 1882 Christmas delivery to Fort Robinson:
Corporal Martin Weber, a driver, and a six-mule team were dispatched to Fort Sidney, the nearest railroad point, to get Christmas goods for Ft. Rob. Weber wrote: “We loaded our wagon at once and pulled out for Ft. Robinson, 125 miles to the north. The weather had turned cold and frost began to fly through the air, indicating a storm. We made good time the first afternoon, camping just before dark. (December 18).
“The next morning the storm broke in all its fury, a regular blizzard raging. We had to face the storm. We made Camp Clark where the Sidney-Black Hills trail crossed the Platte River. A toll bridge, general store, and post office was kept at this point. Here we obtained shelter for ourselves, mules and horse. The lady had a hot breakfast and coffee ready for us by daybreak. The storm had increased during the night.
“The bridge tender and his wife advised us to stay until the storm passed as they did not think we could travel in such a blizzard. As much as we disliked to leave the snug quarters and hot meals (we were to enjoy for the next three days only a ration of frozen bread and bacon), we bid them goodbye and headed into the storm. Without shelter or fire for three days and two nights, when we thought each day would be our last, we traveled over an open country for about fifty miles and had to break trail all the way, it being 30 or 40 degrees below zero.
“The mules were going home was the only reason we were able to make them face the blizzard. We had plenty of corn and oats for the mules and horse and at night we tied them so the wagon would act as a windbreak and covered them with blanket-lined covers. We would spread our tent on the snow, roll out our bed and pull part of the tent over us and let the storm howl.
“We got to the stage station on the Runningwater (Niobrara River) after dark the night of the 23rd. Here we had hay for the animals and a good fire and warm place to cook our supper. How good that hot coffee tasted! The stage for the Black Hills and Deadwood arrived about 3:00 a.m., the first in three days. The stock tender awakened us at 4:00 and had the coffee hot. It gave us new life for the last twenty miles of our journey. The stage had broke trail to the top of Breakneck Hill, the storm had passed. The sky cleared and the sun shown bright. The Fort was only five miles away.
“We got safely down the Breakneck, crossed the creek and broke the trail across the valley, arriving at Ft. Robinson about 2 p.m. on the 24th. I rode ahead to report. When I passed the Officers quarters the kiddies were all out, running up and down the walks for the first time in five days. When they saw me they began to shout, ‘the Christmas wagon has come.’ The officers and men hearing them came out and asked me if it was true. They could hardly believe it until the teamster drove his six weary mules up and we began to unload the goods.
“So old Santa arrived and there was a Merry Christmas, after all had given up hope of seeing the Christmas wagon or Santa.”