There is every indication that Robert Arthur Dixon, Peter Jr.'s father-in-law, was not a well man for decades after the Civil War. His application for pension supports this belief. He was surrounded by his children throughout this period and I have assumed that Peter Jr.'s move to the Dixon lands around 1905 was to help with his care.
Cousin Phyllis Goold has the post card, still part of the family archives, that supposedly opened Peter Jr.'s eyes to the possibility of life beyond the Dakotas. Here it is:
Postmarked January 14, 1909 and addressed to "P. McLaren Jr. Vienna Clark Co S. Dak.," the handwriting on the back asks: Note the concrete walks and asphalt trim pavement. We are getting a fine rain. Temperature 58 degrees. How does that strike you?
Since Peter Jr. was up to his armpits in snow at the time, it probably struck him hard.
Robert Dixon died in February of 1917 and his daughter, Peter Jr.'s wife Mary Celia, had just given birth to their fifth child. At age forty four, Mary Celia was not in the best of health.
They had just endured another winter, and the weather in California has long been touted as a cure for anything that ails you. It was time to move west.