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The Pony Express

My dad was a lover of western television programs and movies. Critt and I grew up sitting on the floor in front of his chair watching the shows with him. All three of us intently followed the black-and-white stories brought alive by the small screen in our den. Many included riders of the Pony Express, and we were all excited to see the rider changing ponies at full gallop. Jumping from one pony to another was a scary feat of balance, and we cheered the riders on.


The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail.

The famed Pony Express riders each rode from 75-100 miles before handing the letters off to the next rider. These brave, young men raced against the cruel elements of nature and a rugged terrain to unite a country separated by distance.

A total of 190 way stations were located about 15 miles apart.

The service lasted less than two years, ending when the overland telegraph was completed.

The original 1860 Pony Express stables in St. Joseph,  Missouri now serve as the Pony Express Museum.

History galore






Pony Express rider

Illustration by Ed Vebell from 1950’s Los Angeles Times Sunday supplement from the Dave Thomson collection




Mark Twain, who encountered the riders while on an 1861 stagecoach trip to Nevada. 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.



As the veteran rider Buffalo Bill said, “Excitement was plentiful during my two years’ service as a Pony Express rider.” (What irony!)

It was a memory of these times watching those westerns that sent me to check them out this morning and share it with you. During these stay-at-home days, I find that various memories appear more often.

My grandmother used to call this wool-gathering. I think I will continue this indulgence in idle fancies and in daydreaming.


Donuts, Birthday Wishes, Starfish, and Turkeys

Image result for picture of elephant holding umbrella

We are all touched by the kindness of others.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

My dad loved donuts, as well as all things chocolate and more specifically my mother.

When I was a teenager, I found out that he had a donuts ministry. At random times, he would visit Krispy Kreme to buy several boxes of donuts. Then he would deliver these boxes to his mechanic, his doctor’s and dentist’s offices, and the law offices of men that he worked with. Several times a year, this was his schedule before he went to work at the bank.

I found out about this when he had surgery and couldn’t drive. He asked me one day to help him with some errands. After we picked up the donuts, he shared his route with me. At each stop, Daddy delivered the boxes of donuts. It was quite obvious that he was welcomed by all.

When we headed home, I asked why he was taking donuts to these businesses. His response was simple; “I want to let them know I appreciate them.”

There is no telling how many years he treated his cohorts to a box of donuts, but I do know he gifted them after his retirement.

Then he started another thoughtful gesture with his friends at church. He was a member of a group called the Young At Heart. Obviously this was a group made up of retirees. They met each month for lunch and went on trips together. In their newsletter was listed individual birthdays. Daddy started calling those on the list to wish them happy birthday. Even when his macular degeneration took his eyesight, he would have mother dial the numbers for him and  then greet his friends.

It was amazing through the years to hear the genuine thanks from others for these two small things he did on a regular basis.

You probably remember this old story.

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

My brother had a turkey ministry. He bought turkeys and took them to families during the holidays. Whether they were members of his church or not, he seemed to find out about situations where a turkey would make a difference.

Then when he was going through his last bout with cancer, he took homemade chicken salad or pimento cheese to the those nurses and technicians that worked in the chemotherapy department. No, he didn’t make these Southern standbys; his sweet wife did that. But he never went to an appointment empty-handed. He was grateful they were trying to help him, and he appreciated it.

“There are things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” -Henry James

So shall we be more kind? Can you imagine the difference in our world if everyone chose to be kind?

Whether a box of donuts, a phone call, a turkey, or homemade pimento cheese, kindness takes on its own heart when shared with someone else.