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Pony Express gallops through Gering
June 25, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Express rider Max Cawiezel of Morrill shares some of the history of the Pony Express with the public during the group’s stop at Scotts Bluff National Monument.

The once familiar cry of “Rider Coming!” was heard again last week as Pony Express riders stopped at Scotts Bluff National Monument for a change of horses on their way west to Sacramento.

The annual re-ride traces the route of the original Pony Express, from St. Joseph, Mo. to Old Town Sacramento, Calif. Along the nearly 2,000 mile ride, riders go through Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.

This year’s ride started in St. Joseph on June 15 and will arrive in Sacramento 10 days later on June 25, the same amount of time it took the original riders to make the trip.

“This is the 35th anniversary of our association and the 155th year of the Pony Express,” said Lyle Ladner, national president of the National Pony Express Association. “We do this every year to keep the history alive.”
The group’s mission statement is “to identify and preserve the Pony Express National History Trail today and for the future generations by partnering with others, providing education and creating public awareness through an annual reride and other activities.”
Starting with a small group in California in 1978, group members made short rides to Salt Lake City. By 1981 or 1982, the event had grown to trace the original route of the Pony Express from St. Joseph to Sacramento.
“We have about 650 to 700 riders participating this year and about as many horses,” Ladner said. “They’ll be carrying about 900 letters in the mochila on the trip west.”

The mochila was a lightweight leather mail pouch that went over the rider’s saddle and could be easily removed. Riders would exchange the pouch to the next rider on the trip.

This year, riders will travel about one to five miles in the relay before handing off the mochila to the next rider.

Ladner said history of the American West is popular in many parts of Europe with people staging reenactments. “We have a group of about 10 folks from the Czech Republic who are here for the ride.”

From a historical standpoint, the Pony Express lasted just over a year, from April 1860 to October 1861. It was founded by the St. Joseph based freight company Russell, Majors and Waddell as a way to get mail quickly to the rest of the western United States, including the new state of California. But once the telegraph was developed, communications delivered by express riders became obsolete.

But there are still people across the country who do what they can to keep the history alive with many volunteering their time to ride in the relay across the west each year in remembrance of the Pony Express.

After a change of horses and passing off the mochila at the monument, the next rider headed down Old Oregon Trail and through Mitchell Pass on the trail to Sacramento.
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