FROM: Larry Carpenter, Member California Division, and Corresponding Secretary of the NPEA
June 26th, 2015 PST

Long before the last Rider and Escort arrived at Pony Express Plaza, a growing group of NPEA (California and Nevada Division) members, friends, a dignitaries, and friends of the Pony Express began arriving there in anticipation of the event. Postal Service employees set up the PA system, a tent for the Official Volunteer Cancellation crew (they would Cancel the Postage on the Commemorative Letters) and chairs for Speakers. Members of the Media interviewed NPEA members and got material for news to be written. A security detail from Sacramento Police Department arrived to make sure the Riders and horses were protected from traffic which can be heavy on 2d Street. We had time to wait, to do a little sightseeing, greet old friends, and talk to the public. Red shirted Pony Riders in the Plaza attracts attention and this day was no exception.

Included in this mix of people were 10 members of the Czech Republic Pony Express Association, part of the European Pony Express. They were redshirted, with yellow bandanas and western hats and became instant friends. They had been in the states for almost 2 weeks to see the Re-ride, sightsee, and had been in St Joseph on the 15th to see the Start of the Ride. Later they turned up a couple of times on the Trail in Wyoming. As we talked we exchanged news of mutual friends and experiences. In 1991, members of the Czech Republic’s Pony Express came to the US and participated in our Re-ride. Later 6 NPEA Members participated in an International Ride, and went to Czechoslovakia. They took a mochila with them and rode the Czech’s horses. The Americans came away with many tales about the hospitality of their horses, their horses, and their love of the American West and the Pony Express. There was a common appreciation for the heritage of the Pony Express. A heritage that spans continents and languages. Ken Martin was NPEA President at the time, and when he passed away a few years ago, the Czech group did a Commemorative Ride in his memory. Sadly, we did not know they were coming and did not prepare a suitable welcome.

Pony Express Plaza is located at 2nd and J Street in Old Sacramento. A Pony Rider Monument dedicated in 1976 sits in the southwest corner of the grassy area and shadowed by oak trees. Directly across the intersection on the corner is the BF Hastings Bldg that in 1860 housed the Pony Express Agency and from which William Hamilton departed on the inaugural trip of the eastbound Pony Express. A Wells Fargo Museum occupies a portion of the building and at each Arrival and Departure of a Re-ride these add to one’s understanding of the times.

In anticipation of the arrival of the last Rider, we as is our custom began a Welcome Ceremony. I acted as MC, and introduced Jeffrey Lelevich, District Manager, for the US Postal Service, and Jagdeep Grewal, Postmaster for Sacramento, who brought greetings and a short address on the history of the Pony Express and its heritage. Christopher McSwain, Executive Director of Old Sacramento, brought greetings from the merchants of Old Sacramento. Lyle Ladner, National President of the National Pony Express Association, spoke briefly of the events of the Re-ride from a perspective of coming West with the mochila from St Joseph. Eleanor Fesova, President of the European Pony Express, and a member of the Czech Republic Pony Express brought greetings from that group, and expressed how happy they were to visit America and see the Re-ride.

At 1:57 PM, the last Rider Crystal Newborn galloped down 2nd Street, escorted by a three member flag escort. She became the center of attention and adoration, and the object of numerous photographs. The mochila was taken off the horse, the cantinas opened and the letters taken to the waiting Cancelling Team. The three member team began hand cancelling the 1000 Commemorative and Personal Letters with the special Re-ride Cancellation prepared by the Postal Service. Tomorrow the mail will go into the USPS system and be delivered world-wide.

It must be said that the Re-ride is done not just by one Rider but by many, each taking their turn transporting the mochila. They and their horses are links in the Re-ride. Each contributes their time and energy to moving the mail. Each gains an appreciation of the history of the Pony Express, and a feel for the operation of the mail service. We all come away in awe of what it felt like to ride the Pony Express, the ride a relay of horses 75 miles plus, twice a week, across the American West. Many come away with the necessity to preserve that history, the trail, and the Re-ride so that others may experience it. With our Trail Partners….National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Partnership for the National Trails, historical Pony Express sites and regional groups that is being done, but it is a continual effort.

With sadness we said goodbye to our Pony Express friends, wished them well, and to our NPEA buddies……see you at Convention in September at the Patee House in St Joe! Long Live the Pony Express.