Saturday, April 3, 2010

They're Off!

So, you all probably know that cheerful, far-traveling Washington Irving (future author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, future dancer with lovely Dolley Madison, future U.S. Ambassador > Spain, + subject of a swell book I wrote and illustrated, published by the Nat'l Geographic: The Literary Adventures of Washington Irving: American Storyteller. Join the tiny throng of those who bought a copy of it! You won't be sorry!)
And if you don't know, let me remind you that it was on this day in 1882 that the real-life-legendary outlaw Jesse James, 34, was killed on this day in 1882, snuck up upon from behind by glory- & bounty-seeking coward, Robt. Ford. This happened up in St. Joseph, Missouri, exactly 22 years after the first horse and rider galloped past a cheering crowd, down the path and onto the ferry that would carry them over the Missouri River to Kansas. Nearly 2,000 miles away, another pony, another rider, was doing the same, heading NE out of San Francisco. The Pony Express was off and running!
Here's my poem. You can sing it if you're a mind to (I surely hope you will!) to the tune of the old cowboy song: I Ride an Old Paint.

The Ballad of the Pony Express

Come eighteen and sixty
The country had a test:
How'll we get our letters
To folks from east to west?
Three Missouri fellers
Say try this on for size:
We'll get us some ponies
And some tough little guys.

From the edge of Missouri,
From the town of St. Joe
They galloped the prairies
Just as fast as they could go,
And over the mountains
Down to San Francisco Bay
Ten days of hard riding the lightning relay.

Think on those horsemen
With their bold, careless smiles...
One thousand, nine hundred
And sixty-six miles!
'Twixt Missouri and the ocean,
Far off in the West,
Went the horses and the riders
of the Pony Express.

Chorus: Ride on, ye young travelers!
Ye bravest and the best,
Go follow your fortunes
Out there in the West!

p.s. If your travels should take you to the Land of the Show-Me, do visit the swell Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, MO. Big doings up there today!

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