Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express

Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express

Christopher Corbett

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0767906934

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

—California newspaper help-wanted ad, 1860

The Pony Express is one of the most celebrated and enduring chapters in the history of the United States, a story of the all-American traits of bravery, bravado, and entrepreneurial risk that are part of the very fabric of the Old West. No image of the American West in the mid-1800s is more familiar, more beloved, and more powerful than that of the lone rider galloping the mail across hostile Indian territory. No image is more revered. And none is less understood. Orphans Preferred is both a revisionist history of this magnificent and ill-fated adventure and an entertaining look at the often larger-than-life individuals who created and perpetuated the myth of “the Pony,” as it is known along the Pony Express trail that runs from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. The Pony Express is a story that exists in the annals of Americana where fact and fable collide, a story as heroic as the journey of Lewis and Clark, as complex and revealing as the legacy of Custer’s Last Stand, and as muddled and freighted with yarns as Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Orphans Preferred is a fresh and exuberant reexamination of this great American story.

















three bodies), the expeditionary force swung north to Pyramid Lake, a two-day ride. The party consisted of 105 men, most of whom had no experience fighting Indians and no military discipline. There was no leadership, and they appear not to have scouted their enemy. That might explain why late on the afternoon of May 12 they rode into a canyon a few miles south of Pyramid Lake (near the present town of Nixon). DeQuille reported that the Indians, who were sophisticated in military tactics (they

miles at a time—about eight per hour—with four changes of horses, and return to their stations the next day—of their hardships and perils we shall hear more anon. The letters are carried in leather bags, which are thrown about carelessly enough when the saddle is changed, and the average postage is $5 = one [British] pound per sheet.” Not long after spotting his first Pony Express rider, Burton and his party came to Marysville, then a point where several immigrant routes west converged. “Passing

in that branch of the Keltic family, viz. Porcine, equine, and simian: the pig-faced, the horse-faced, and the monkey-faced. Traveling among the Mormons, Burton had the good fortune to stop at another station kept by an exile from Ireland. “The station-keeper was an Irishman, one of the few met amongst the Saints. Nothing could be fouler than the log hut, the flies soon drove us out of doors; hospitality, however, was not wanting, and we sat down to salt beef and bacon, for which we were not

effects by exaggeration. In sending one story to the publisher he wrote: “I am sorry to have to lie so outrageously in this yarn. My hero has killed more Indians on one war-trail than I have killed in all my life. But I understand that this is what is expected in border tales. If you think the revolver and bowie-knife are used too freely, you may cut out a fatal shot or stand wherever you deem it wise.” —HELEN WETMORE CODY AND ZANE GREY QUOTING BUFFALO BILL IN Last of the Great Scouts, 1899

late 1889, following his arrival in the Adirondacks, he more or less settled down for a number of years. He ran a riding school for a while. It requires little effort to find holes in Broncho Charlie's story. On May 11, 1944, he moved his date of birth to 1849 when the New York Post ran a full-page Sunday feature on him titled “Those Were the Days When Men Were Men.” “He can see, hear and remember better than a lot of people half a century his junior. He eats what he likes in the T.S. House

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