Sunday, September 15, 2019

Bill Cody on the First Trip of the Pony Express

By Buffalo Bill Cody (born Feb. 1846, died Jan. 1917)

The first trip of the Pony Express was made in ten days--an average of two hundred miles a day. But we soon began stretching our riders and making better time. Soon we shortened the time to eight days. President Buchanan’s last Presidential message in December, 1860, was carried in eight days. President Lincoln’s inaugural, the following March, took only seven days and seventeen hours for the journey between St. Joseph and Sacramento.

We soon got used to the work. When it became apparent to the men in charge that the boys could do better than forty-five miles a day the stretches were lengthened. The pay of the rider was from $100 to $125 a month. It was announced that the further a man rode the better would be his pay. That put speed and endurance into all of us.

Stern necessity often compelled us to lengthen our day’s work even beyond our desires. In the hostile Indian country, riders were frequently shot. In such an event the man whose relief had been killed had to ride on to the next station, doing two men’s ride. Road-agents were another menace, and often they proved as deadly as the Indians.

In stretching my own route I found myself getting further and further west. Finally I was riding well into the foothills of the Rockies. Still further west my route was pushed. Soon I rode from Red Buttes to Sweetwater, a distance of seventy-six miles. Road-agents and Indians infested this country. I never was quite sure when I started out when I should reach my destination, or whether I should never reach it at all.

One day I galloped into the station at Three Crossings to find that my relief had been killed in a drunken row the night before. There was no one to take his place. His route was eighty-five miles across country to the west. I had no time to think it over. Selecting a good pony out of the stables I was soon on my way.

I arrived at Rocky Ridge, the end of the new route, on schedule time, and turning back came on to Red Buttes, my starting place. The round trip was 320 miles, and I made it in twenty-one hours and forty minutes.

Excitement was plentiful during my two years’ service as a Pony Express rider. One day as I was leaving Horse Creek, a party of fifteen Indians jammed me in a sand ravine eight miles west of the station. They fired at me repeatedly, but my luck held, and I went unscathed. My mount was a California roan pony, the fastest in the stables. I dug the spurs into his sides, and, lying flat on his back, I kept straight on for Sweetwater Bridge eleven miles distant. A turn back to Horse Creek might have brought me more speedily to shelter, but I did not dare risk it.

The Indians came on behind, riding with all the speed they could put into their horses, but my pony drew rapidly ahead. I had a lead of two miles when I reached the station. There I found I could get no new pony. The stock-tender had been killed by the Indians during the night. All his ponies had been stolen and driven off. I kept on, therefore, to Plonts Station, twelve miles further along, riding the same pony--a ride of twenty-four miles on one mount. At Plonts I told the people what had happened at Sweetwater Bridge. Then, with a fresh horse, I finished my route without further adventure.




Editor's Note: This story was taken from the February-March 1979 issue of Frontier Times, partner to True West, page 3.

Be sure to watch a series of movie videos, documentaries, and a book review on Buffalo Bill Cody: click here.

Also, tune in next Sunday, 8 a.m., when we'll feature a story about saddle vs. bareback riding, authored by WMD's very own horseman, Gary Miller.

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Buffalo Bill Cody: Movies, Documentaries, and Reviews

The infamous Buffalo Bill (Cody) was born on February 26, 1846 and died on January 10, 1917. Almost anyone of us who have a special interest in the Old West by way of movies and historical accounts know of this man and his Wild West Show. This is a collection of movies, documentaries, and music reviews concerning this most famous of all Wild West figures.

Be sure to read Bill Cody's own words concerning the first pony express: click here.

History Summarized: Buffalo Bill's Wild West


Buffalo Bill (1908) - William F. Cody on Horseback - Wild West Show Tour





Buffalo Bill Western 1944 Joel McCrea, Maureen O'Hara, Linda Darnell


The Life of Buffalo Bill. 1912


Inventing the Wild West: Buffalo Bill Cody - Biography, Facts, Quotes (2003)


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