Pony Express rides strong and hard

Tony Goulart carries the mail for the Southeast Wyoming Pony Express during the group's annual National Re-ride.

GUERNSEY—Nary an entrepreneur has been able to avoid a failed venture—short-run businesses are not unusual for a variety of reasons. The latest idea often ends up on the cutting room floor and America was literally built on the premise of who could come up with a better mousetrap. Ideas come and go and often with little fanfare—tossed into the bin of the forgotten and rarely mentioned again, if ever.

As America grew, the population spread from east to west, gold was discovered bringing thousands to California and by 1860, Civil War loomed large in the East. Accurate and timely communication became even more critical but at the time, the only option involved a monthlong journey via ships that traveled around the tip of South America, then north to ports on the Pacific west coast.

Enter William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, owners of a successful freight business that moved mail and supplies across the frontier.  They believed they could move the mail faster through a system of horses and riders across the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.  The three joined forces, formed the Pony Express and set up an intricate relay system that could get mail delivered between Independence, Missouri, and Sacramento, California in just 10 days.  On the trail day and night, riders covered between 10-12 miles before changing horses at relay stations built along the trail.  The mail was traveling both directions between St. Joe and Sacramento at any given time.  

Despite the fact that they were able to keep good on the promise of a short delivery time, the business failed financially and with the advent of the telegraph, the Pony Express became history, active for just 19 months.  

But unlike most, this failed business somehow became a warm and favored spot in the nation’s collective memory. The story of the riders, their horses and the adversity they overcame became larger than the bare-bones facts on the ledger sheets that brought the end of its existence.

It has become a cherished and nostalgic piece of America’s history; honored to this day by the members of the National Pony Express Association who reenact the mission each year in June. On as near to the original trail as possible from St. Joe to Sacramento, 700-plus riders saddle up and carry mail day and night, just as it was done in 1860.  From rider to rider, the mail is carried in a nary—a leather satchel made with four pockets that fits over the saddle.  Letters that may be purchased in advance by the public are carried across the entire re-ride and upon arrival of the final rider, hand-canceled and delivered to the customer’s choice of address through the current U.S. Postal system.  

This year’s ride finished in Sacramento last Friday on time, another successful re-ride in the books and the hearts of those who rode and those who cheered them on across the trail.  

The Southeast Wyoming chapter of the NPEA carries the mail each year between the Nebraska-Wyoming state line at Lyman, Nebraska, and the small town of Narry, Wyoming.  This year, 20 riders covered the 81.95 miles in just under 10 hours.  Riders included Dean, Decker, Marika and Rory Anderson; Curt Artery; Tony, Stephanie, Alicia and Adahline Goulart; Tim Heer; Kye Hicks; Vicki Hood; Laura Jeffery; Angie Montgomery; Tia Morrison; Halley Redmon; Jim Vancise; and Brent Weber.

More information about the Pony Express, its history, mission and much more may be found at https://nationalponyexpress.org

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