Up up and away

April 3, 1860....Pony Express Day
So much we take as a matter of course. There is an ongoing kerfuffle about the post office cutting out Saturday delivery - as if there is something in our mailbox besides bills and catalogues that can't wait until Monday. E-mail seems never to stop. Buy something online once and you have a friend for life.

I've taken to writing one of my grand daughters letters so that she can look forward to a mail delivery.  I remember my Orphan Annie decoder ring and my 1 Sq. Inch of Yukon from Sargent Preston's radio show.  I also remember my "Greetings from Uncle Sam - time for your draft physical" but not with the same fondness.

Today, 154 years ago, the Pony Express first set off to deliver mail from St. Joseph's Missouri to
Sacramento, California. I read about it as a kid in my Landmark Book and looking it up, it is physically just as I remember it.  I am going to get copies and mail it to the two sets of grand kids just because.

"In 1860 there were about 157 Pony Express stations that were about 10 miles (16 km) apart along the Pony Express route. This was roughly the distance a horse could travel at a gallop before tiring. At each station stop the express rider would change to a fresh horse, taking only the mail pouch called a mochila (from the Spanish for pouch or backpack) with him. The employers stressed the importance of the pouch. They often said that, if it came to be, the horse and rider should perish before the mochila did. The mochila was thrown over the saddle and held in place by the weight of the rider sitting on it. Each corner had a cantina, or pocket. Bundles of mail were placed in these cantinas, which were padlocked for safety. The mochila could hold 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of mail along with the 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of material carried on the horse. Included in that 20 pounds (9.1 kg) were a water sack, a Bible, a horn for alerting the relay station master to prepare the next horse, a revolver, and a choice of a rifle or another revolver. Eventually, everything except one revolver and a water sack was removed, allowing for a total of 165 pounds (75 kg) on the horse's back. Riders, who could not weigh over 125 pounds (57 kg), changed about every 75–100 miles (121–160 km), and rode day and night. In emergencies, a given rider might ride two stages back to back, over 20 hours on a quickly moving horse.

It is unknown if riders tried crossing the Sierra Nevada in winter, but they certainly crossed central Nevada. By 1860 there was a telegraph station in Carson City, Nevada. The riders received $25 per week as pay. A comparable wage for unskilled labor at the time was about $1 per week.
Alexander Majors, one of the founders of the Pony Express, had acquired more than 400 horses for the project. He selected horses from around the west, paying an average of $200. These averaged about 14 12 hands (4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m)) high and averaged 900 pounds (410 kg) each; thus, the name pony was appropriate, even if not strictly correct in all cases."

I like this brief segment in our history very much. It was a model of organization and common sense.  Remembering that book; sigh. Dreaming of being a rider, going over a prairie hill and spotting the next station, bugle sounding the notice, leather slapping the pony underneath, chaps, rawhide, starlight and another 100 miles to ride before dawn.