". . .The next day he [Mr Slade,the manger
of Cody's Pony Express station] assigned me to duty on the road
from Red Buttes on the North Platte, to the Three Crossings of
the Sweetwater - a distance of seventy-six miles - and I began
riding at once.
One day when I galloped into Three Crossings,
my home station, I found that the rider who was expected to take
the trip out on my arrival had got into a drunken row the night
before and had been killed; and that there was no one to fill his
place. I did not hesitate for a moment to undertake an extra ride
of eighty-five miles to Rocky Ridge, and I arrived at the latter
place on time. I then turned back and rode to Red Buttes, my starting
place, accomplishing on the round trip a distance of 322 miles.
Slade heard of this feat of mine, and one day
as he was passing on a coach he sang out to me, 'My boy, you're
a brick, and no mistake. That was a good run you made when you
rode your own and Miller's routes, and I'll see that you get extra
pay for it.'
Slade, although rough at times and always a
dangerous character - having killed many a man - was always kind
to me. During the two years that I worked for him as pony-express-rider
and stage-driver, he never spoke an angry word to me.
Pony Express rider ca. 1861
As I was leaving Horse Creek one day, a party
of fifteen Indians 'jumped me' in a sand ravine about a mile west
of the station. They fired at me repeatedly, but missed their mark.
I was mounted on a roan California horse - the fleetest steed I
had. Putting spurs and whip to him, and lying flat on his back,
I kept straight on for Sweetwater Bridge - eleven miles distant
- instead of trying to turn back to Horse Creek. The Indians came
on in hot pursuit, but my horse soon got away from them, and ran
into the station two miles ahead of them. The stock-tender had
been killed there that morning, and all the stock had been driven
off by the Indians, and as I was therefore unable to change horses,
I continued on to Ploutz's Station - twelve miles further - thus
making twenty-four miles straight run with one horse. I told the
people at Ploutz's what had happened at Sweetwater Bridge, and
with a fresh horse went on and finished the trip without any further
About the middle of September the Indians became
very troublesome on the line of the stage road along the Sweetwater.
Between Split Rock and Three Crossings they robbed a stage, killed
the driver and two passengers, and badly wounded Lieut. Flowers,
the assistant division agent. The red-skinned thieves also drove
off the stock from the different stations, and were continually
lying in wait for the passing stages and pony express-riders, so
that we had to take many desperate chances in running the gauntlet.
The Indians had now become so bad and had stolen
so much stock that it was decided to stop the pony express for
at least six weeks, and to run the stages but occasionally during
that period; in fact, it would have been almost impossible to have
run the enterprise much longer without restocking the line.
Another rider for the Pony Express was Wild
Bill Hickok, a friend and mentor of Buffalo Bill. Buffalo describes
an incident when his friend was riding the trail:
"The affair occurred while Wild Bill was
riding the pony express in western Kansas.
The custom with the express riders, when within
half a mile of a station, was either to begin shouting or blowing
a horn in order to notify the stock tender of his approach, and
to have a fresh horse already saddled for him on his arrival, so
that he could go right on without a moment's delay.
One day, as Wild Bill neared Rock Creek station,
where he was to change horses, he began shouting as usual at the
proper distance; but the stock-tender, who had been married only
a short time and had his wife living with him at the station, did
not make his accustomed appearance. Wild Bill galloped up and instead
of finding the stock-tender ready for him with a fresh horse, he
discovered him lying across the stable door with the blood oozing
from a bullet-hole in his head. The man was dead, and it was evident
that he had been killed only a few moments before.
In a second Wild Bill jumped from his horse,
and looking in the direction of the house he saw a man coming towards
him. The approaching man fired on him at once, but missed his aim.
Quick as lightning Wild Bill pulled his revolver and returned the
fire. The stranger fell dead, shot through the brain.
Buffalo Bill Cody
'Bill, Bill! Help! Help! save me!' Such was
the cry that Bill now heard. It was the shrill and pitiful voice
of the dead stock tender's wife, and it came from a window of the
house. She had heard the exchange of shots, and knew that Wild
Bill had arrived.
He dashed over the dead body of the villain
whom he had killed, and just as he sprang into the door of the
house, he saw two powerful men assaulting the woman.
One of the desperadoes was in the act of striking
her with the butt end of a revolver, and while his arm was still
raised, Bill sent a ball crashing through his skull, killing him
instantly. Two other men now came rushing from an adjoining room,
and Bill, seeing that the odds were three to one against him, jumped
into a corner, and then firing, he killed another of the villains.
Before he could shoot again the remaining two
men closed in upon him, one of whom had drawn a large bowie knife.
Bill wrenched the knife from his grasp and drove it through the
heart of the outlaw.
The fifth and last man now grabbed Bill by the
throat, and held him at arm's length, but it was only for a moment,
as Bill raised his own powerful right arm and struck his antagonist's
left arm such a terrible blow that he broke it. The disabled desperado,
seeing that he was no longer a match for Bill, jumped through the
door, and mounting a horse he succeeded in making his escape -
being the sole survivor of the Jake McCandless gang.
Wild Bill remained at the station with the terrified
woman until the stage came along, and he then consigned her to
the care of the driver. Mounting his horse he at once galloped
off, and soon disappeared in the distance, making up for lost time.
This eyewitness account appears in: Cody William
F., The Life of Buffalo Bill (1879, republished 1994); Bradley,
Glenn D. The Story of the Pony Express (2006); Davis, William C.,
Joseph G. Rosa (editors), The West (1994).).
How To Cite This Article:
"Pony Express Rider, 1861" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com