Hell-Bent-For-Leather

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 4.43.48 PMA little over 150 years ago (April 3, 1860 to be exact) the Pony Express started running mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. Part of the route runs through Utah from Lehi to Ibapah though Utah’s west desert. With the exception of the paved road, I’m not sure that the scenery has changed much since the brave young riders rode Hell-bent-for-leather through what was likely hostile country.

Following the Gold Rush of 1848 the population of California steadily grew until becoming a free state in 1850. A faster way to get the mail across country to the new and important State of California, prompted William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell to found the Pony Express. The three were prominent and successful businessmen at the time and offered a 10-day mail express for $5 per half-ounce. They were hoping for an exclusive mail contract with the Federal Government, but it never came about.

Majors was a religious man and made sure every rider had a bible and took the following oath:

While I am in the employ of A. Majors, I agree not to use profane language, not to get drunk, not to gamble, not to treat animals cruelly and not to do anything else that is incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman. And I agree, if I violate any of the above conditions, to accept my discharge without any pay for my services.

I imagine there weren’t too many riders who kept the oath when chased by bandits or shot at by Indians, but having spent a fair deal of time in Utah’s west desert, I don’t think Majors was witness to any ungentlemanly behavior.

A highly dangerous and challenging occupation, riders rode from station to station—157 in all (about 10 miles apart). With not much more than the bible, a revolver, some water, and a mochila (the bags that held the mail), a rider (who couldn’t weight more than 125 pounds) would ride 75-100 miles before someone else would take the next 100 or so miles.

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 4.35.29 PMOther than a home or two, there’s nothing left of Faust Station except for the name and a monument on the side of the road. The weather was beautiful today as we rode along the part of the route that is now part of State Hwy 73. A not-quite-spring morning, I can’t help but think of how cold those boys must have been as they chased the clock from station to station all winter.

After stopping in Vernon for some bacon and eggs, Kelly, Phil, Kathy, and I mounted up and headed south and east for Eureka down Hwy 36. Last spring, Amanda I and did this ride the other direction to celebrate Amelia Earhart’s crash landing near Eureka in 1928.

Leaving Eureka, we made the short hop to Elberta, turned left and headed north up the west side of Utah Lake and home. There aren’t too many things much more relaxing than breakfast with friends, a few hours in the saddle, the sun on your face, and the road passing underneath your feet.

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