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Not for Research . . . The Pony Express

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." ~Winston Churchill

MK here, with a look at the short-lived Pony Express. I always have one or two non-fiction books for research sitting at my bedside table. The one I'm currently reading happens to not be for research, since I'm not writing about the Pony Express, but it's an interesting read. West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express by Jim DeFelice brings to life the men, landscapes, and animals behind this often talked about a band of mail and message runners.

Have you seen the tv mini-series Into the West? If you have, you might remember the character of Abe Wheeler, played by Christian Kane, becomes a Pony Express rider. They gave us a visual glimpse of the skill required and the seemingly endless expanse of land the men had to ride, at great speeds, in order make good on delivery guarantees.

The first official delivery of the Pony Express began on April 3, 1860 out of St. Joseph, Missouri. It took 75 horses to make a one-way trip, and no wonder with the speed at which they traveled. The telegraph made this quickly antiquated system of delivery obsolete, but while it was around, it became the basis for many legends, books, movies, and characters for many years.

“He was speaking of you.”

Emma nodded. “And of you and Briley. Hattie’s been here the longest, but she’s not from these parts either. We’ve all been touched by tragedy and heartache, and we’ll carry those memories for the rest of our lives, but it’s our adversities which have brought us all here, made us stronger.”

"Clara of Crooked Creek"

What I'm enjoying about this particular book on the subject is the author's ability to make the reader feel you're right there with the riders, breathing dust, and hearing the hoofbeats pound across the roads and trails while sweat drips down your back. The history blends with an exciting voice that takes you on an adventure of one of the American West's brief, but fascinating periods. I still have a ways to go before I finish reading, but it's going to be an enjoyable ride.

When I do read books for research, I like to find ones that have a feeling of fiction, or that tell a story, rather than have them read like a text book. I didn't care for it much in college and I especially don't care for dry and boring reading now. My shelves are filled with books that range from witchcraft in Europe to surviving in the old west.

Some of my favorite are those written about Montana and Scotland. The American Civil War, frontier, and books on various subjects of Ireland and England also get top places on my bookshelves. Most of what I read doesn't make it into my writings, or has no relevance to what I write, but a wide variety of material adds to the general knowledge of a writer. Does it make a difference in how or what we write? I believe so.

I'll leave you with a few great lines from the 1939 movie, Frontier Pony Express.

"Ann Langhorne: Who are those tough looking men? Brett Langhorne: The big one leaning against the post is Luke Johnson. They say he is an outlaw. Ann Langhorne: Well, why isn't he in prison? Brett Langhorne: This isn't Maryland, honey. This is the frontier. The last two marshals that went after Johnson are dead."

Ah, the frontier. So many stories, so little time.

Meet the Author

Book Spotlight

Four courageous women, an untamed land, and the daring to embark on an unforgettable adventure.

The Women of Crooked Creek by MK McClintock

Genre: Historical Romantic Western

Type: Short Story Collection

Heat Level: 1

Language Level: 1

Violence Level: 2

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Image Credits:

Rider garb in cabin: Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The overland pony express / photographed by Savage, Salt Lake City ; from a painting by George M. Ottinger.

Site of a change station of the Pioneer Stage Company in the 1850s and 1860s: The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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