Pony Express more than just a ride
June 20, 2013
Pony Express Nevada website:
Kim Copel should feel right at home on Wednesday when the Pony Express re-ride passes through Genoa.
Copel, a Genoa resident who serves as secretary for the Nevada Division of the National Pony Express Association, is passionate about the organization's rich history and especially when it comes to the re-ride, which carries mail by horseback along the original 1,900-mile-plus route from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento. The final leg through Nevada passes through Genoa, where the mail exchange is scheduled to occur some time around 8:30 a.m. in front of the Douglas County Historical Society's courthouse museum. The time is tentative, give or take a couple of hours, due to the unpredictable conditions the riders may encounter, Copel noted.
Visitors will have an opportunity to see various displays at the courthouse museum, which opens at 8 a.m., in addition to various activities at Mormon Station State Park. Among those, Copel will give a combination Chataqua/historical presentation at 10:30 a.m., when she portrays Warren Upson, who rode through Lake Tahoe's South Shore on the original Pony Express route. She will also discuss the history Upson and other riders were part of in helping link East and West during an 18-month period in 1860-61.
For example, one of her favorite riders from yesteryear is "Pony Bob" Haslam, who rode a regular route between Friday's Station at what is now Stateline on Lake Tahoe's South Shore and Bucklands Station near Fort Churchill. Copel recited an account how Haslam once rode 120 miles in what was then an unheard of time of 8 hours with a message that carried Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Address.
Other activities at Mormon Station State Park will include a mochila (the lightweight carriers original Pony Express riders used) exchange demonstration, a talk by one of the association's founding members, in addition to a cowboy poetry presentation by Ron Bell, a Silver Springs resident who recently published "The Pony Express Rider" (Ronnie Campbell Series), a fictional book that revolves actual events from Pony Express history.
Copel, who is in her fourth year of involvement with the Pony Express Association, explained this is much more than a performance.
"It's not just something theatrical, we take it seriously," she said. "Once that mail takes off from its starting point, we need to get it delivered in 10 days and that's why our riders need to be skilled."
The re-ride departed from St. Joseph, Mo., on June 17 and is scheduled to end on Thursday (at approximately 10 a.m.) in Old Town Sacramento. Much of the Pony Express route remains unchanged as far as open desert scenery, according to Copel, who added the average distance for each is three to five miles.
"A great portion of the re-ride in Nevada is out in the middle of the desert where people can't even drive to," she said. "We ride in the middle of the night, so it can get scary at times."
Passage through Carson City en route to the Carson Valley presents another set of challenges.
"We have to get through Carson City on the street," Copel said. "That may sound easy, but you have traffic to deal with, some people are inconsiderate and horses do get scared."
She was quick to point out, however, that today's riders do not face the many dangers their predecessors did.
"The point of this is so riders appreciate what those riders did 153 years ago … how brave they were and how skilled they were and how seriously they took their jobs," Copel said. "The original riders changed horses, but they rode 75 to 100 miles alone. That's why they had these young men who were in great shape and had great endurance."