By Mary Davis
On April 3, 1860, two horseback riders raced across the West, one westbound from St. Joseph, Missouri and the other eastbound from Sacramento, California. And the PONY EXPRESS was born, filling a much-needed gap until the telegraph line could be completed. The telegraph was finished on October 24, 1861, rendering the Pony Express obsolete.
As a rider would approach a station, a lookout called, “RIDER COMING IN!” A special “bare bones” saddle was strapped onto a fresh horse and stood ready. The incoming rider would jump down, the four-pocket, leather mochila transferred to the waiting horse, the timecard marked, and the same rider or a new one would leap up and race off. The exchange took about two minutes.
Pony Express stations were set up 10-15 miles apart with fresh horses. A rider typically rode 75-100 miles. Bob Haslam is reported to have once ridden 380 miles in 36 hours. Buffalo Bill Cody claims the longest ride by four miles.
Though postage cost $10 an ounce at the start and $2 by the end, the Pony Express grossed only $90,000 and lost as much as $200,000.
The Pony Express was mostly used by the military as the Civil War approached and began. Because of the high cost, ordinary folks almost never used the Pony Express.
“The story of the Pony Express is one of the most romanticized events in the history of the United States. In some ways, the Pony Express could be considered one of the most famous financial failures about which little is truly known, but much is told.” (Here Comes the Pony! By William E. Hill)
An Unlikely Hero
BethAnn along with her little sister are running from a mistake
and finds security at a Pony Express station and love in the quiet affection of a
shy Pony Express rider known as the “Fox.”
Chapter One – June 1861
No one would likely be following them tonight. BethAnn White tightened her hold around her twelve-year-old sister as the eastbound stagecoach came to a lurching stop.
The driver called out, “Head of Echo Canyon Stagecoach and Pony Express Station.”
BethAnn accepted the offered hand and stepped down from the stage, then turned to help Molly. She gazed in the direction they’d come from. The sun was just dipping behind the western ridge.
She heard rapidly approaching hoofbeats but couldn’t tell which direction they were coming from in the dimming evening light. The sound bounced off the canyon walls, making the sound appear to be coming from everywhere.
“Rider coming in!” someone yelled. That, too, bounced around and came from everywhere.
This could be exciting to see a Pony Express rider exchange. She searched the area around her. Where was Molly?
The hoofbeats grew louder, and station personnel scurried around.
Molly would not want to miss this. Where was she? BethAnn stepped out in front of the stagecoach team and saw the outline of the rider racing in from the east.
Then she saw her.
Her baby sister.
Her only family.
In the path of a several-hundred-pound charging animal
Award-winning novelist MARY DAVIS has over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. She is a member of ACFW and active in two critique groups. Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty years and two cats. She has three adult children and one grandchild.