Hollywood version is of hard riding steely eyed men
blazing an trail across
the American West. In the movie version they usually have
countless adventures, fight off Indians, and find romance along
the way. In truth, the reality is greater than the legend. In
spite of the Hollywood version of the hunky hero, the
riders were all in their teens and weighed less than 125
pounds in most cases. the
company preferred orphans for obvious reasons.
Shown end to end the Hollywood movies span
more years that the actual existence of the Pony Express The
Pony Express made its first ride April 3, 1860 and its last on
October 28, 1861, slightly more than 18 months. It was replaced
by the telegraph, which could cut
the delivery time from ten days to ten seconds. Progress marched
on but history and legend continue. The Pony Express is ranked
among the most remarkable period of the American Western
history, Its primary mission was to deliver mail and news
between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California.
When the Pony Express completed its last
run, an unforgettable era passed into history. Today, we still
search for the elusive truth somewhere between Hollywood’s
portrayals and true history.
Over the years I have visited several of
the Pony Express stations and other places related to the famed
A visit to the Pony Express Station in
Ehmen Park is a step
into that storied past. The station house is an original log
building that once stood along the Oregon Trail a few miles west
of Gothenburg. It was built in 1854 fur trading post and ranch
building and converted for Pony Express use in 1860. After the
Express's demise, the building was used
as an Overland Trail Stage Depot
and several other uses. In 1931 it was
moved to its present location inside the city and has
been open to the public since 1954.
|Pony Express Station in
The museum is filled with Pony Express
artifacts. My favorite being the mochila used by the riders. A
mochila was a leather pouch that fit over the saddle with slits
to allow the saddle horn and cantle to protrude and was easily
yanked off the worn out
horse and tossed over a fresh one when the rider raced into a
The Pony Express Station is just across the
street from Gothenburg Historical Museum. There is also a House
Museum in town with a barn, sod house, windmills and life-sized
barbed wire sculptures reflecting life of the early settlers.
County Historical Museum is a treasure trove of 19th century
life. The museum interior is only one part of the story. Out
back in the Pioneer Village you will find an original
blacksmith shop. A plaque on the side of the Pony Express
Blacksmith Shop reads:
"Erected by the people of Lincoln County in the year 1931 to
commemorate the Pony Express riders. This is one of the regular
stations of the pony express riders. The log blacksmith shop
nearby is the original building used for shoeing the ponies. The
Oregon Trail continued west along the south bank of the Platte
|Pony Express blacksmith shop.
The Pony Express route passed Courthouse
Rock, Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff. The Scotts Bluff National
Monument covers much of that period in our history and has an
extensive collection of the paintings of William Henry Jackson
who created a colorful map of the Pony Express route in 1860.
Climb high atop the bluff and you can look down on mush the same
landscape those fearless riders galloped through.
|Sign atop Scotts Bluff
In Nevada, the riders found few
settlements. What they did find was some of the most beautiful
landscape imaginable, from craggy mountains to flat desert.
Blooming sage in autumn created a sea of gold. Quaking Aspens
shimmered in the sunshine. Mountainsides assumed fascinating
shapes. Wild horses, coyotes, eagles
and other animal species enlivened their experience as they
raced across this lonely countryside.
|Terry Knight explains the layout
of the Pony Express ruins
On a trip down Nevada's Hwy 50, dubbed
American's Loneliest Road, I discovered one of the Pony Express'
houses in Nevada. Sand
Springs is located next to
Sand Mountain, which formed about 4,000 years ago. The
towering mound of sand stands about
600 feet high and attracts ATVers and sand boarders from all
over but the ruins
of the small Pony Express station was a part of history that
will long be remembered but never relived. I thought of all the
young men who had galloped in and out of that station stopping
sometimes to sleep and often just to get
a fresh horse. Some never lived to reach their
destination. Indians targeted the Pony Express: a fall from
their galloping horse
oor any accident on this lonely trail could mean a slow
death with little chance of rescue.
|A visiter prepares to enter the
station house ruins
There are many more sites that commemorate
this most romanticized period in American history. These are
just a few of the places every Pony Express fan really needs to
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