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Mark Twain's Colorful Story of the Pony Express

November 30, 2003|From Associated Press

To author Christopher Corbett, no one offers a more vivid account of the Pony Express than Mark Twain, who encountered the riders while on an 1861 stagecoach trip to Nevada. Here's what he wrote about them in "Roughing It":

"The pony rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of day or night his watch came on, and no matter whether it was winter or summer, raining, snowing, hailing or sleeting, or whether his 'beat' was a level straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags and precipices, or whether it led through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind! There was no idling time for a pony rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness -- just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman: kept him at his utmost speed for 10 miles, and then, as he came crashing up to the station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of rider and mailbag was made in the twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eagle pair and were out of sight before the spectator could get hardly the ghost of a look."

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