Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Filling You In

...but in the informational not physical sense as there has been quite a gap in my blog posts since I arrived in St Joseph in October.
On Thursday October 15th Patti and Kenny from Greenacres Riding Centre came to fetch Lady and take her back to Jamesport where she is spending the winter in a large sheltered field with equine buddies.  Then it was a round trip to Chicago by hire car to move all my excess baggage to store in Patti's garage at Jamesport, passing through Hannibal, Mark Twain's boyhood home town en route.
Thus an obligatory selfie with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn..
On Sunday I met up in St Joe (as we locals call St Joseph) with Lyle Ladner, the current President of the National Pony Express Association, though I was rather bleary-eyed after a night sleeping in the car.  He not only treated me to a slap up breakfast, but promised to help as much as he can. It is helping hands such as this that makes me feel following the Pony Express Trail is now feasible in spite of the private land and desert areas that I will need to negotiate.

Fortified by breakfast and encouragement, I spent the rest of the day looking round the Pony Express museum in the former Pony Express stable block, and the huge Pattee House museum just up the road, a former luxury hotel which housed the Pony Express office.
The Pony Express was founded by William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell in 1860. Surprisingly in view of its iconic place in the history of the Opening up of the West, it only lasted for eighteen months, overtaken by the construction of a telegraph line to California by autumn  1861.
St Joseph was chosen as the eastern end of the trail since at the time it was also the westernmost terminal of the railway. Mail bound for San Francisco arrived by train, was delivered to the Pony Express office in Pattee House and was then carried by Pony Express for 2000 miles across prairies, mountain ranges and deserts to Sacramento, passing through Salt Lake City en route.   Each rider covered about hundred miles between 'home stations', changing horses at smaller 'swing' stations positioned every 12-15 miles or so. The whole ride took about ten days, amazing when you consider it will conservatively take me around four or five months!  Apart from riding all day and night through baking summer heat and biting winter cold, not to mention tackling rivers in flood,  and deep snow in the mountains, the riders occasionally had to escape attacks by Paiute Indians.
A life size tableau of a pony express rider about to leave the stables....
..a bit too spookily realistic for me - don't think I will be emulating Ben Stiller's  'Night at the Museum'. 
 From here the rider would pick up the mail from the Pony Express office in Patee House and gallop down to board the ferry across the Missouri river.
An exact replica of the mochila which was used to carry the mail....
...this is a removable leather cover which in Pony Express days fitted over a specially designed lightweight saddle - if you look closely you can see the cantle and horn of the saddle poking through slits in the mochila.  Four lockable pockets or cantinas contained the mail. Three pockets carried mail for the whole distance, and only the station keepers at either end of the trail held a key. The fourth pocket which was at the front left hand side (thus not visible in the photo) was called a 'way pocket'  and was used for mail being picked up from or delivered to home stations - only the home station masters held keys.
At each station the mochila was rapidly removed from the exhausted horse and flung over the saddle of the fresh horse before the rider jumped on and galloped on his way.

Leaving Lady in Patti and Kenny's capable hands, I drove back to Chicago to spend my last evening in the USA having a Mexican meal out with the Crown Point 'girls' ...
L to R, Debbie who hosted me before I started out from Crown Point, me, Pat who looked after Lady over the summer, and last but not least Carol, who is behind the camera.
Many thanks to the public spirited Debbie for putting me up or rather putting up with me overnight, particularly as she was in right in the middle of moving house. What teenage fun to have a sleepover with Debbie, me and the dogs all piled on a mattress on the floor in the empty living room!
And all the best in your lovely new home!

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