Pony Express Riders Continue Christmas Card Tradition

Pony Express Riders Continue Christmas Card Tradition

Members of the Sweetwater County Pony Express ride through Green River, escorted by the Green River Police Department. SweetwaterNOW photo by David Martin.

SWEETWATER COUNTY – A Sweetwater County Christmas tradition continued Saturday morning as the county’s chapter of the Pony Express Association made their annual Christmas card ride.

According to Pete Gailey, the ride is in its 22nd year and started as an idea to keep the chapter active. Each summer, the chapter is involved in the annual Pony Express Re-Ride, during which members transport mail between Sacramento, Calif., and St. Joseph, Mo. Gailey said the idea came while when he was in a bowling league with the late Carl Schultz. He said he, Carl and Carl’s brother Howard Shultz discussed ways of ensuring the chapter would be active in the winter months. He said the group transported 300 cards during their first ride and the most they’ve taken is more than 6,000.

The cards are transported by horseback in mochilas. Riders set up relay stations along the route from the Green River Post Office to the Rock Springs Post Office and the mochilas are passed along between riders at each station. When dealing with thousands of Christmas cards, several mochilas are transported, with other mochilas driven to relay points, but the group ensures each mochila is taken by horseback at some point along the route. Each card also receives a special Pony Express stamp to certify it was carried as part of their ride.

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Abigael Hughes saddles her horse Sugar moments before the Pony Express riders start their annual Christmas Card Ride. SweetwaterNOW photo by David Martin.

The route utilizes segments of the Lincoln Highway along Interstate 80, which lends a means of avoiding the busy interstate and allows riders to have a closer experience to what Pony Express riders experienced during the short-lived service’s heyday from 1860 to 1861.

“It puts you in the 1860s when you’re out there carrying the mail,” Gailey said.

For Gailey, history is more than just a passing interest. He describes himself as a history buff and used a saddle that is more than 100 years old for the card ride. He said the saddle was made in Douglas between 1905 and 1910 and bought it in an auction. Gailey said one of the aspects of the ride he likes the most is the support the community has given it over the years. That support was evident Saturday morning. Residents stopped at the Green River Post Office as the riders saddled their horses to talk with them or look at the horses. A few riders allowed children to ride their horses as they guided them in short circles in the parking lot.

“The community has really become involved with it.” Gailey said.