15. The Prairies
riders must have made good time over this flatter land but there is little
evidence of the stations so I hurried past the towering landmarks of
Scotts bluff and Chimney Rock in Nebraska to visit the site of Mud
Springs Station. A family was
picnicking and a young lad said to me,
“See that guy over there in the blue shirt?
He’s a Pony Express rider”.
year there is a re-enactment of the Pony .A mochila is carried on
horseback (this year from West to East), along the Pony Route, being handed
from one chapter of the Association to another.
More than 500 riders take part each carrying the mail a short
distance and the time taken is 10 days- the same as in 1860,requiring 24
hour a day movement. One of
the reasons I was hurrying was that they were due to arrive in St. Jo on
the 23rd June and I wanted to be there with them.
rider gave me a firm handshake and told me his wife's family had farmed there
almost since the Pony days. It’s
hard to imagine this land now, with irrigation, settled, lush and
productive being part of the frontier, but another monument next to the
Pony one talks of an engagement between the cavalry and the Sioux in 1865
after the Pony ended. When
soldiers were withdrawn form the frontier to fight the Civil War, the
tribes saw their chance to rid the land of the white menand launched
attacks on the settlements..
trail dipped south into Colorado, to Julesburg named for Jules Reni a
tough, hard-drinking French-Canadian who ruled the town by violence and
when employed by the Pony line did not keep the stock up to scratch and
was suspected of theft. Often
wagon trains were attacked soon after leaving Julesburg, and men who
survived the raids said white men painted and dressed as Indians were
involved. Reni was thought to
be involved in this as well. Jack Slade an equally rugged character was sent off to
replace him but Reni ambushed him with a shotgun.
Slade did not die and came back one month later in an ugly mood.
He captured Jules, tied him to a post and used him for target
practice until he was dead. He then cut off his ears for souvenirs. He kept a tight ship on the section of the route he was
responsible for and it ran well but outbursts of violence led to his
sacking. He killed perhaps 26
men in his career as soldier, lawman and gunfighter before being
“executed” by vigilantes in Montana.
Julesburg today, built on a new site after the original was burned by the Sioux, is a faded quiet town. I was there on a Sunday evening and the only movement on the empty, wide streets was the traffic lights, suspended on wires at the crossroads being blown in the wind.