So here we are, and it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I guess that means it’s time to talk about things we are thankful for.
Luckily, there are lots of things I can mention. Life, health, health insurance, doctors, modern medicine, my children, their schools, my husband, his job, my books – including Fortune’s Hero, which was released last week; yay! - my computer, my cell phone, my land line, Skype, toilet paper with Aloe Vera oil…
I could keep going, but I won’t. Much of it comes down to one thing: modern life. More specifically, technology. The technology that allows us to live long, fairly healthy lives of relative ease and comfort.
I’ve been toying with an idea for a historical mystery recently, and as a result I’ve given some thought to living in the past, specifically the American West a hundred, hundred and fifty years go. I’ve also spent some time revisiting episodes of a certain old TV-series that we all know I have a quite illicit passion for. It was called The Young Riders and debuted in 1989. Set in the American West in 1860, it dealt with a half dozen or so young men (and a girl in disguise) who delivered mail for the Pony Express.
The Young Riders never did become a huge hit, but it held its own for a few years, and spawned what I can only describe as a huge fangurrrl following. Given the eye candy factor, it wasn’t surprising. People still write fanfic about The Young Riders, and it’s more than twenty years later.
This post isn’t about the TV show, though. I’m fairly certainly I’ve covered that topic ad nauseum before. No, today I’d like to talk about the real Pony Express in the real 1860s, not the Hollywood version.
Did you know that each Pony Express rider rode up to 75 miles per day, changing horses every 15 miles or so?
Doesn’t sound like much, does it, when we can cover 75 miles in an hour or so, in a comfortable, air-conditioned car, on a smooth, paved highway?
It took a lot longer for them, and sometimes another rider wasn’t available at the next way station, so the first guy would have to keep going.
The Pony Express covered the distance between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California, in ten days. On horseback. Riding for the Pony Express was hard, dangerous work; just check out this advertisement.
Apparently, $25 a week was enough for someone to risk death daily, back in 1860.
That year, the owners of the Pony Express, Russell, Majors and Waddell, used the 1860 presidential election as a way to promote the Pony Express and how fast it could deliver the U.S. Mail. On November 7, 1860, a Pony Express rider departed Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory, with the election results.
Riders sped along the route, over snow-covered trails, and into Fort Churchill, Nevada Territory, and California’s newspapers received word of Lincoln’s election only seven days and seventeen hours after the East Coast papers, an unrivaled feat at the time.
A couple of weeks ago, there were elections held in the here and now. I don’t know about you guys, but in my house, the TV stayed on and hubby got the news as the votes were tallied. Could you imagine waiting seven days and seventeen hours to find out who won?
So let’s hear it for modern technology, shall we? News at our fingertips… the ability to pick up the telephone and talk to someone halfway across the country, or halfway across the world, at the press of a few buttons… not to mention the ability to see episodes of my favorite TV show twenty years after it went off the air just by signing up for a free trial with Netflix!
I wouldn’t have lasted a week in the Old West, and today, I’m thankful I don’t have to!