This is a western in US English posting in 8 parts with a new part every other day. There is a Foreword - please read it as it's important. As usual, the story is available now on Lulu as a print book and an e-pub at:
If you send me an email arguing about any of the politics in it I'm not likely to answer it. I hope you enjoy the story. Yes, a sequel is planned, but it will be quite a while coming due to other pressures.
About the wagon. These wagons are built for long distance, rough country, hauling and are not intended for easy handling close to buildings for loading and unloading on a daily basis. The same sized wheels means they only have to carry the one sized spares, and it means they have a slightly higher ground clearance than the arrangements with smaller front wheels gives them. Boone makes six wheels for each wagon, to have two spares on each wagon.
By the mid 1800s most wagons used in cities and near warehouses had the tongue fixed to the front axle mounted on a Pivot Point which connected to the bottom of the wagon, this extra unit lowered the front axle by about two feet, so they put smaller wheels on it to keep the wagon level and to allow for a tighter turning circle. Other wagons where turning in a tight circle wasn't so important had the front axle mounted on the wagon the same as the rear axle, this gave a higher ground clearance. Often, the team pulled the wagon using a harness or chains, or the tongue was fixed to the wagon with a pin at the wagon end to allow the team to go to the side and drag the wagon around in a turn - most farm wagons were like this. A Conestoga Wagon used a Pivot Point, where as the wagons in the story don't. I thought the mention of the same sized wheels would make it clear it didn't have a pivot point, but it seems that's not so, thus this explanation.
Banks. During the mid to late 1800s there were two major types of banks. One type were registered with the government and recognised by them - Chartered Banks. These were only in larger cities and were very strongly built. They issued Letters of Credit, Bank Drafts, and Promissory Notes - like Wells Fargo Bank, the Hibernian, and the First National Bank. These are the banks the government kept records and statistics on. The second type of bank was a local bank run by a local person which were basic savings and loans banks for the local community. In a lot of cases all they consisted of was a safe and records in the corner of some business. As the towns grew big enough they often had their own building and one or two staff. The only records on these banks that were kept were the mentions in the local newspapers and their own account records. That were not recognised or regulated by the government the way the other type of banks were.
The first type of banks weren't robbery targets due to them being in the middle of large cities and having a lot of staff, including armed guards. The second type of bank is what the bandits and crooks robbed during the 1800s. Often the robbery from a local bank would leave a community broke. Due to the differences between the way the banks operated there are no reliable statistics or information on actual bank robberies. The only solid records about robberies of the local banks comes from the numerous Wanted notices issued on people for bank robbery. This is clear from the issue of notices for bank robbery in places where there were no government recognised banks at that time. If the local banks were lucky enough to grew they became a Savings Association and then grew to be a recognised bank. The Savings Associations had the misfortune to be big enough to target but not big enough to have great security to stop the robbers. The Younger Gang did well robbing the smaller banks, but failed to rob the Charter Bank known as the First National Bank of Northfield. The Wild Bunch did well robbing the smaller banks to. Due to the difference in the types of banks some people think no bank robberies occurred, because they only look at the Chartered Banks.
Reloading the .44 shells - Yes, it can be done, and it's not easy. What you need to keep in mind is Boone knows he's going to an area where resupply is going to be an issue, so he takes precautions to ensure a supply, if he has to regardless of how hard it will be. However, in the course of the story he doesn't get around to doing any reloading, so don't worry about it, please.
Mules. I did a lot of research on how much a mule can carry, and could only find two sets of confirmed figures, one for a pack on the animal, and one for pulling a wagon. The Wikipedia website on mules says they can carry a pack of up to 353 pounds but commonly carry around 150 to 200 pounds or 20% of it's body weight. While the Wikipedia article on the Twenty-mule Team pulling the Borax wagons says they pulled a tandem wagon load carrying 10 tons of Borax with a total weight of cargo and wagons being 73,200 pounds which comes out to 3,660 pounds per mule. This is what I faced my figures on, but I cut it back a little.