Pony Express rides through Carson City today
The dust will rise once again on America’s Pony Express trail.
Members of the National Pony Express Association, the riders will cover the 1,966-mile route from Sacramento, Calif., to St. Joseph, Mo. in 10 days.
Riders started in Sacramento on Tuesday afternoon and are expected to pass through Carson City at about 3:30 p.m. today.
Mona Dible, president of the organization’s Nevada Division, said between 550 and 600 riders are participating in this annual event and the numbers are growing every year.
“This ride is a way to remember an important time in our history, a celebration of the American West and that can-do independent American spirit so typical in the West,” she said. “These riders are a part of living history. Not many get that chance.”
“We do it for fun. It’s a kick,” said association spokesman Larry Carpenter.
Ranked among the most remarkable feats to come out of the American West, the Pony Express operated from April 1860 to Nov. 1861, its primary mission to deliver mail and news between St. Joseph, Mo. and San Francisco, Calif.
“The Pony Express proved that the central route was passable and kept information flowing during the early parts of the Civil War,” Carpenter said. “The telegrams paid the freight, carrying news from Missouri to California in 10 days. It was a significant advance in communication for the West, a twice-a-week delivery system that cut the time it took to get a message from Fort Smith (Ark.) to Los Angeles in half.”
When William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell advertised for riders around 1860, they said the perfect candidate would be an expert rider, preferably young, skinny orphans that were willing to risk death daily. Times have changed.
Riders provide their own animals for this all-volunteer effort. Excellent horsemanship is the primary requirement and because rides are scheduled 24 hours a day, they usually practice their route in advance. All riders belong to the association and must be at least 14, but there is no maximum age.
“They first allowed women to participate in 1990. I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Debi Royer, a local resident who works for the Nevada Department of Corrections.
She’s riding from the Dayton water tower to the Rolling A Ranch.
The letters, 1,100 comemorative notes, are carried in a mochila, a leather skirt that fits over the saddle. Four pouches, one located on each corner of the mochila, carry the mail, secured when the rider takes the saddle.
Rains in Kansas have proven quite a challenge, and officials started wrapping the mail in plastic bags. Letters cost $5 each, the arrangements made in advance through the National Pony Express Association.
“The U.S. postal service is faster, but not as colorful,” Carpenter said. “People still like to have their mail delivered by Pony Express.”
IF YOU GO:
A rider is scheduled to leave Woodfords, Calif. at about 10 a.m. today, arriving at the Genoa Court House Museum some time between noon and 1:30 p.m.
Historical Society member Marlena Hellwinkel will give a presentation and hard tack, jerky and lemonade will be sold, according to Mary Ellen Conaway, museums director for the Carson Valley Historical Society.
Another exchange is planned for 3:30 p.m. near the St. Charles Hotel before the ride east on Highway 50 to Dayton and Fort Churchill, according to Mona Dible, president of the Association’s Nevada Division.
“We’re scheduled to pass the Chocolate Nugget Factory (on State Route 341) at 4:30 and should arrive at Ft. Churchill around 9 p.m.,” she said.
Times are approximate, much depending on the horse, the rider and the traffic, according to Dible.