Donna Armstrong

PONY EXPRESS
(The Young Riders: An Essay)
by Donna L. Armstrong

I enjoy a program based on the Pony Express, "The Young Riders." This may not sound logical for a grandmother, but I become immersed by this dramatic "faction." The program is aired each Saturday night at seven o'clock on Channel 2, American Broadcasting System.

The "riders" include a group of young men who are employed by the Pony Express under the management of an old-timer called Teaspoon. Two of the several riders are Bill Cody and James Butler Hickok (better known as "Wild Bill Hickok"), who were young men at that time.

Bill Cody later was nick-named "Buffalo Bill," but when he was born in Scott County, Iowa, his full name was William Frederick Cody. During his lifetime from 1846 to 1917, this flamboyant character was a government guide and scout at the beginning of the Civil War, served in the Sioux War and killed Chief Yellow Hand in personal combat at the Battle of Indian Creek.

Bill, with his flair for showmanship, organized his Wild West Show in 1883, and became president of the Cody Military College and International Academy of Rough Riders. He also wrote several books about his frontier life.

The Pony Express mail service sent its first rider from St. Joseph, Missouri, to San Francisco, California, April 3, 1860. The journey was extremely hazardous and often interrupted by hostile Indians. The schedule was stringent with each rider expected to cover seventy-five miles daily. Eventually, there were one hundred stations, eighty riders, and four to five hundred horses involved in this communication mission. The regular Pony Express Service discontinued October, 1861, after the completion of the Pacific Telegraph Company.

In one of last season's episodes, a rider was discovered to be a young woman. This revelation added some spice and romance to the series. (Women in "a man's job" is not such a modern achievement after all.)

The most recent adventure, aired March 9, 1991, involved the tribulations of a school teacher wanted for bank robbery. Teaspoon named Hickok a deputy Marshall to track down and "bring in" the accused man. The captured man was innocent and a "good guy."

The simplistic presentation of "The Young Riders" is deceiving. Each story is a sublime lesson in history and moral values. The stories are truly sophisticated. I think this entertainment revives my memories of summers on my grandparents' farm. Also, my young Aunt Bonnie and I used to joke about our letters arriving by pony express when one or the other failed to respond promptly. I find the performance irresistible.

I wonder if . . . . . . perhaps . . . . . . there is reincarnation.

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Universal Standard Encyclopedia source of statistics.

I wrote this essay in 1991 when I was a member of a creative writing class sponsored by Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. The still-active class was initiated for senior citizen students, and the title for this assignment was, "A Television Program That I Enjoy." To my regret, the television series no longer is aired.