Orphans Preferred

The train was late again.

At the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania streets, seven men impatiently walked their horses through a gathering crowd. It had started out as just a few dozen curious well-wishers, but by the second hour of the delay there were several hundred people. All of them wanted to get as close as possible to the young daredevils. Mayor Thompson was there, making speeches and shaking hands. Women and children were even pilfering mementos for themselves. The decorations on the thoroughbreds were being reduced to tatters.

“I hope they gets here soon, else all that’s gonna’ be left of my pony is her bones,” said one of the riders.

At just past 7 p.m. on April 3rd, 1860, a single locomotive pulled into the station at Saint Joseph, Missouri. Before it even came to a stop, a man carrying a leather pouch hopped off and ran as fast as he could towards the crowd. As he reached the edge of the throng, the pouch was ripped from his grip and passed overhead, hand to hand, until it finally, somehow, reached the mayor.

He tucked it under his arm and shoved his way to Billy Richardson, the first mounted rider he came to.

A canon sounded.

“Go son, go!” he yelled as he tucked the pouch into a satchel and slapped the horse’s rear.

Nine blocks later, the riders stopped at the river and Billy Richardson took the pouch from under his saddle and gave it to another rider.

“Here you go, Johnny, I think you’re supposed to have this.”

Johnny Fry nodded, took the pouch, and boarded the ferry that would carry him and his bay mare “Sylph” across the Missouri River. The “Pony Express” was beginning the first eighty mile leg of its first cross-country service.

No comments: