It’s been a long weekend at the OK Corral. I’m still battling this plague that has taken root and refuses to subside. And with the assistance of the chilluns and my sweet hubby, I have achieved a long awaited goal: shaving down all four fur babies for the summer. Oy! With all of the fur, I’m pretty certain Cruella De Ville would have been pleased with the new coat.
And speaking of getting the animals ready for another hot, dry summer here in the Panhandle. I was watching part of a series tonight that intrigues the daylights out of me. It’s “North America” on the Discovery Channel. Tonight one of the sequences included the wild mustangs in the southwest US. Amazing creatures running with their manes flowing behind them across the open land – wild and free.
Occasionally I sit and think what the US used to be like. Yes, we have all of the modern “conveniences and luxuries.” However, imagine what it was like for the settlers in their wagons or on horseback. And before the dawn on email, was snail mail. We joke about it today, but once upon a time it was the only way to communicate long conversations long distance.
Pony Express stations were placed at intervals of about 10 miles (16 km) along the route , roughly the maximum distance a horse can travel at full gallop. The rider changed to a fresh horse at each station, taking only the mail pouch (called a mochila) with him. 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 (10 kg) of mail along with the 20 pounds of material carried on the horse, allowing for a total of 165 pounds (75 kg) on the horse’s back. Riders, who could not weigh over 125 pounds, were changed about every 75–100 miles (120-160 km).
This makes me want to ask really important questions. 125 lbs? How many grown men weigh 125 lbs? Were these adults that ran the pony express? I don’t believe so. I found some information on the internet that indicates boys as young as 11 rode the Express. Picture it… an 11 year old averaging 10 days on horseback through some of the roughest terrain on earth (From St. Louis to California.) This totally dispels the notion I had in my head of a big rugged cowboy riding through the open range to get the mail to where it needed to go.
I believe in many ways the Express was actually the precursor to horse racing. Today’s jockeys weigh between 115 and 125 lbs, but many try to keep their weight about 110 lbs for the big races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.) They also have to be at least 16 years old.
One of these days I’m going to go to the Pony Express Museum and check out the exhibits and maybe learn a little more about our history. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. The museum is located at 914 Penn Street, St. Joseph, MO 64503 and also on the web at www.ponyexpress.org