Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Pony Express

This last weekend we had an opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express. Each year, a dedicated group of volunteers rerides the trail that was used in 1860 and 1861 to take the U.S. mail from Missouri to California. If you aren't familiar with the Pony Express, check out this previous post and also this post I did when my nephew was one of the riders.
Our destination to watch the reride was Callao, Utah. No matter which way you go to Callao, it's a long dirt road to get there.

Desert Boy had fun amusing himself on the way. We also had to stop several times so I could take photos of the beautiful wildflowers. We saw quite an array,with lots of yellow horsebrush and little white dusty maidens covering many of the benches (alluvial fans).

We arrived at the Willow Springs Pony Express Station. The sign says "This station was established April 3, 1860 on the route of the Pony Express between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. It was discontinued October 27, 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph line was opened. An overland stage station was operated here from 1859 to 1870."

The current owners of the station, the Andersons, planned a big celebration including tours in this old car.

Here's a closeup of this neat car, a 1913 Model T.

The Willow Springs station was open. I failed to get a photo of the exterior, but I managed to get several of the interior.

The town of Callao had another heydey when the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, went through the town from about 1915 to 1925.

The old stove is really neat. On the table are some old photos along with a guestbook.

Henry smelled something good in the tipi.

So Desert Boy went in to investigate.

Food was being served in the school house, and it was nice to have a dry spot to go because the weather was a bit blustery.

Even little Miss Emma decided she wanted to eat.

Uh oh, she's got the bag of chips. We really should start her on something healthier.

Some of the people helping with the Pony Express ride but not riding at that moment toured town by horse. A red shirt and yellow bandana identified the riders.

Desert Boy even got a human version of a Pony Express ride thanks to Anna!

One of my friends lives in Callao and has some llama-alpaca hybrids. It was a surprise to see them peeking their heads above the grass and bushes.

We had a couple friends riding, and a contingent from Great Basin National Park went out to watch in the rain and wind.

I don't think Karla liked her photo being taken!
With four of our group wearing bandanas, we thought it might be fun to stage a holdup of the Pony Express. However, stealing government mail is a federal offense, so we settled for the bandit photo instead.

Here's Wayne, watching for his turn. Usually the reride occurs during 10 days (riding day and night) and has about 600 riders. The 150th reride was expanded to 20 days (riding mostly during the day) so more celebrations could occur, and even more riders participate. Wayne's section was only 0.7 miles, but still he'd get to be a part of history.

The mail came, packaged in the leather pockets of the mochila. Also included for the reride is a GPS unit so the progress can be tracked.

And Wayne is off!

He went so fast that his hat flew off and he's off in a blur.

I wasn't in the right position to photograph the next rider, Blake, but I did get a photo of him celebrating after his ride. He stayed on his horse the entire way and got the mail delivered to the next rider, so I'd say that's worthy of celebration.
Way to go, Blake!

We followed the riders back into Callao, a long caravan of trucks. One benefit of the rain was that we didn't have a big dust trail.

Then it was time to party.

In addition to numerous parties held around Callao, there was also entertainment in the school, with an excellent quartet who sang and played instruments.

I loved the sound of the fiddle and banjo, along with the bass and guitar. They also played harmonica, accordion, and another stringed instrument I didn't recognize.
Soon it was time for dancing, and Desert Boy and I joined in for the first square dance. I haven't done that since I worked at Glacier Bay in Alaska (perhaps the only places you can now find square dancing are in really remote locations).

With the wind and rain, we opted to camp in a hard-sided tent--the back of our van. It was better than we expected.

The next morning we got up and found some breakfast being served in the school. That was better than the breakfast we brought, so we enjoyed it and talked to the current and past presidents of the National Pony Express Association. They gave us a 150th anniversary pin.

It's amazing how such a short-lived venture has really captured the imagination of so many and is still remembered so much today.

We watched as the mail left the Willow Springs Station and continued heading east. It has a long way to go. Today, June 16th, it's in Wyoming.

The weekend was a fun glimpse back into history. If you'd like to find out more about the reride, check out the 150th Anniversary Celebration page.


Cindy said...

Loved your Blog! Cindy (on the B/W horse)

jendoop said...

Fun! You always seem to be in the know.

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