GENOA — After agreeing not to use profane language or intoxicating liquors, Sen. Dean Heller and his wife, Lynne, rode their horses three miles down a Douglas County road as part of the annual Pony Express re-enactment.
Except for their sunglasses, the Hellers, decked out in red shirts, yellow scarves and blue jeans, looked exactly like the hundreds of Pony Express riders who carried the mail on its 1,966-mile journey between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif., from 1860 to 1861.
“I’m proud of our history,” Heller, R-Nev., told well-wishers at Mormon Station State Historic Park in Genoa, about 15 miles south of Carson City, before their ride. “Today we take the delivery of mail for granted.”
The oath the Hellers took not to swear or drink was given to all Pony Express riders. Those riders typically rode 75 miles a day, stopping every 10 miles to 15 miles for fresh horses. They were paid $25 a week.
He added many people don’t realize the hardships and potential dangers that Pony Express riders experienced in crossing the West, including 455 miles in what is now Nevada. Several riders and station managers in central Nevada were killed during the Paiute Indian War.
The Pony Express was the Internet of its time. Because of the fast riders, Westerners learned that Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in just seven days, not months. But by mid-1861 telegraph lines reached the West Coast and the Pony Express quickly closed down.
Heller and his wife rode their own Tennessee Walker horses, Jackson and Cruise. He didn’t grow up riding, but Heller said he rides regularly, even taking Jackson on a recent four-day trip into the Sierra Nevada. The couple own four horses, which they keep at their Smith Valley ranch.
Bystanders said Heller probably is the highest-ranking government official to participate in the re-enactment ride.
“I could be where there are earthquakes. I could be where there are hurricanes, or I could be in Southern Nevada where it is 111 degrees,” quipped Heller, happy to be on horseback in more temperate Northern Nevada.
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