But it’s also educational, so that justifies binge-playing.
Today, April 14, marks the 155th anniversary of when the first mail arrived via Pony Express, America’s short-lived but enthusiastic early transcontinental mail carrying system. In usual top form, Google commemorated the day with another fun Doodle — recreating the Google logo on its homepage with artistic and often interactive images, videos and even games celebrating the theme of the day. Today’s Doodle honoring the Pony Express is a highly-addictive side scrolling game that allows you to pilot your pony across the desert and mountains, picking up mail along the way while dodging cacti and boulders and other obstacles.
Check out Google’s video to preview the game:
The original Pony Express only operated for about 18 months before being replaced by the much-more-efficient telegraph, but for that year and a half the Pony Express became the most direct and fastest way to communicate between the East and West of the United States. Mounted couriers rode between relay stations with mail and small packages from California to Missouri, galloping about 10 miles between stations and traveling about 1,900 miles in 10 days.
For the eastern end of the route, horses were commonly Morgans and Thoroughbred-types; mustangs were favored for the western and more rugged end. Horses had to be capable to moving at a fast trot, canter or gallop for about 10 miles at a stretch and over 400 horses were used across the route. Saddles were designed specifically for the Pony Express to be lightweight, yet still able to carry the mochilla or mail pouch. The mochilla was designed to be thrown over the saddle, allowing relay switching from horse to horse to be done quickly and efficiently.
Perils along the route included natural hazards, bad weather and attacks from Native Americans. There are many accounts of wounded riders continuing their relentless ride despite gunshot or arrow wounds and other tales of relay stations burned to the ground with the station masters killed. Despite these dangers, the Pony Express included 80 riders and carried about 35,000 letters between Missouri and California in just a little over a year.
The Pony Express ride is recreated annually in June — read Lorraine Jackson’s report to learn more! Or play Google’s game and create your own adventure.
A big thanks to Patricia Franz for the tip. Go riding!