What up, it's dramas from the Life as a Gringo podcast.
We are back with a brand new season. Now Life as a Gringo speaks to Latinos who are born or raised here in the States. It's about educating and breaking those generational curses that man have been holding us back for far too long.
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Chipotle, for real. Hi there, I'm Dr. John Whyte, WebMD's Chief Medical Officer and host of the Spotlight On series from our Health Discovered podcast. In this special episode, we'll hear about living a fulfilling life with chronic heart failure, a condition that doesn't have to be as scary as it sounds. I was outside shoveling snow and I noticed I was coughing up phlegm. Unbeknownst to me, I left a trail of blood behind me and that was one sign. Now, of course, prior to I was excessively gaining weight. I had issues breathing, sleep apnea. I had a lot of those classic signs. My legs were beginning to retain fluid and I was having heart palpations. My heart would beat, you know, really excessively fast. And so, but ultimately it was when that occurred that I thought something was seriously wrong.
Listen to Health Discovered on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. The Pony Express is synonymous with speed, endurance, and the American spirit to just get things done. While the name is recognizable not just throughout the states but also all over the world, it is not widely known that the Pony Express was part of a larger corporation or that it only lasted 18 months or that it was never meant to last in the first place. Here to tell the story of the Pony Express is Jim DeFelice, author of West Like Lightning, the brief legendary ride of the Pony Express. And we're telling this story because on this day in history, in 1860, the Pony Express began.
Take it away Jim. America in the late 1850s going into 1860 is an extremely exciting, vibrant place. You have a lot of innovation, a lot of manufacturing kind of just starting, but one of the things that that's tough is to, especially for us these days, is to think back about how huge the country really was. It went from from the Atlantic coast, from the Atlantic Ocean, all the way out to the Pacific in California. California, by the way, was very very important at the time because they were it was the place where you were digging, you're actually literally digging money out of the ground, gold. And the biggest problem with this huge country is that to communicate, to simply to get from New York City, say, or Washington DC, the seat of our our government, all the way to where that to where they were digging out the money in California.
It literally took weeks and often months. As a matter of fact, something as simple as sending a letter from Washington to California could involve as much as six months. It would typically, an important letter would typically go by steamer. It would go down to roughly where the to the area of the Panama Canal, though obviously the Panama Canal wasn't wasn't up and running yet. It would go overland by coach to meet another steamer on the other side of the Isthmus.
And from there would then be taken up north to California and then you know on its go on its merry way. There were other ways you could send something by stagecoach. People were dreaming about connecting the the entire country with a railroad, which had not yet happened. And there was also this new invention called the telegraph, which showed a lot of promise.
But stringing, simply stringing the lines from one place to another was a massive challenge. And it's kind of it's in that atmosphere and that need that the the Pony Express is born. To break down the the three owners of the Pony Express and kind of the related companies, you have these really unique and very interesting individuals.
You have Alexander Majors, who the best way to describe him really is as a teamster. He ran ox carts. He knew everything about running ox carts. He knew everything about ox trains. He knew he knew how to get really heavy stuff from one place to another.
Now he had other certainly other qualities. Very devoted Christian. Gave out supposedly to every every member of the of the company, but certainly to many.
We'll leave it at that. A small Bible and he also gave them some rules. If you're going to work for Russell Majors in Waddell, there were a lot of different rules that you had to follow. One of which was a very important rule was not to curse or take the the Lord's name in vain.
Now, I don't know. We don't have many ox drivers these days, but it's but from what I've read about about them, typically, I think it's it's very, very difficult to believe that they that every ox driver that worked for these guys followed that rule. But nonetheless, that was one of his rules. He was also very hands on. I can't say he knew every employee, but he knew a lot of them and he knew he certainly knew the area and he was really the hands on the hands on guy. Then he had William Waddell and Waddell's a little bit.
There's not a huge amount of information about Waddell. He's usually looked on as, you know, as kind of the quieter business type. The guy that's keeping the books and the behind the scenes manager. And that does seem that does seem to be, you know, kind of his pattern. And then you have William Russell. Now, William Russell was in in some ways the most interesting of them. They're all entrepreneurs, but he was kind of a master entrepreneur. He had the vision. He had the vision for the Pony Express portion of their business. And he always he had the kind of the aggrandizing imagination that that kind of led them led them to expand and expand, led them to to start the Pony Express. He saw the potential, but he saw the publicity was was very important. And ultimately, he becomes the fellow who's dealing with with Washington, with the congressman, with the banks.
And he's ultimately going to be the reason that the Pony Express and their whole the whole connected enterprise go to hell, unfortunately. And you're listening to Jim DeFelice, author of West-like Lightning, the brief legendary ride of the Pony Express and giving us a context which we love to do on this show. Give an historical context to the things we now know or take for granted when we come back. More of this remarkable story, the story of the Pony Express, or that is the story behind the story of the Pony Express. Here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.
Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do this show without our American Stories. We're here to tell you the stories of the Pony Express and the Pony Express. We're here to tell you the stories of the Pony Express and the Pony Express.
We truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories.com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot. Go to our American stories.com and get.
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What's up guys, I'm Scott Disick. Nearly every person that comes into my home comments about how amazing it smells. All thanks to the hotel collection scent diffuser. I recently started using their scent diffuser here in my Edin Hills home and this is a must have product. Their hotel inspired scents make my place always smell like a luxury five star hotel. I don't know about you, but having a home that smells this good is priceless.
Check out hotel collection.com to make sure your house is always smelling good too. And we're back with our American stories and the story of the Pony Express. Jim de Felice, author of West Lake Lightning, the brief legendary ride of the Pony Express, was just telling us about the Pony's origin and how three businessmen, Alexander Majors, William Russell and William Waddell formed it as a subsidiary of their larger freighting empire.
Back to Jim with the story. Their goal was to deliver anything that needed to be delivered, whether it was people, government supplies, ammunition, maybe cattle, money especially, newspapers, whatever. They wanted to be the ones that would get it to you wherever you were west of the Missouri River. And they thought that they could basically build an empire and make a lot of money doing that.
And you know, it sounds in some ways, it sounds like a maybe a little bit like a harebrained scheme. But the reality is that another company had done exactly the same thing a few years before, based around or using strategically using the Erie Canal in New York. And that company became fabulously wealthy, fabulously rich, all of the people involved. And it's still around today, as a matter of fact, we know it as American Express. And basically, Russell Majors and Waddell wanted to do the same thing with the company that we know best as the parent company of the Pony Express. Now, the Pony Express was a very, very kind of specific subset of their enterprise. Its goal was to deliver mail, which they also had other ways of doing, but to deliver mail very quickly.
They're basically the overnight service, if you will, of the time. Although overnight in their case would be 10 days, they promised to deliver the mail from St. Joe, Missouri, over to Sacramento and then down to San Francisco in exactly 10 days. That was an amazing, amazing amount of time. We're talking actually 2,000 miles.
Specifically, it's a little bit closer to 1900. But in order to do that in 10 days, it just shocked people. It would be like going from, I guess, dial up, putting phones down into these odd modems, which made weird sounds, and going from that to kind of the high-speed internet that we're used to now.
So to go from six months to 10 days was just absolutely mind-blowing. And it captured the imagination of pretty much everybody that heard it. And to tell you the truth, that whole idea of capturing people's imagination was probably as important as any other reason that the company invented the Pony Express. I should also point out that it wasn't just this fantastic idea of gaining publicity for their company and having everybody say, yeah, well, we have to go with Russell Majors in Waddell for the service, because these guys can, if they can get mail from St. Joe to Sacramento in 10 days, they can get Aunt Louise the birthday cake that I want to send her. They were also after a million-dollar contract from the government to deliver mail. That was very important, because in expanding their empire, and they had ox trains, they had stagecoaches, they even had stores, and believe it or not, they had banks, which, by the way, included, some of their banknotes included portraits of themselves.
Not too egotistical there, right? But in kind of doing all of this expanding in the late 1850s, they ran into, well, they ran into what we'll call a cash problem, or I guess, as my Irish grandmother would have put it, their eyes were a bit bigger than their stomachs, and so they kind of bit off more than they could chew, and they needed money. They needed infusions of cash for various reasons. And so they saw this billion-dollar contract and the guarantee of delivering the mail so quickly as kind of a way not only to deliver mail, which they were committed to doing, and getting publicity for their company, but also getting a million dollars. So the route that they proposed, they already had a network of stagecoaches throughout the West, and stagecoach stops and other infrastructure.
So what they basically did is they looked at the infrastructure that they had, and they mapped out a route. In order to kind of give a, I mean, over the roughly 1,900 miles, we're talking about 186, 190 stations, and there would be places, a rider would ride roughly 100 miles at a shot, and every 10 miles or so, there would be a post where he would hop off. There'd be a fresh horse waiting. He would throw the mailbags, or the moquilas, which had the pony mail in it, over the fresh horse, new saddle, and off they'd go for another, again, roughly 10 miles. And that would happen. At the major stations, the riders would actually change, and a fresh rider and fresh horses would continue the ride, either East or West.
It would do that, generalize a little bit, but it would do that twice a week each way. The same rider would go from point A to point B, and then from point B back to point A. The riders tended to be, it depended where you were, but almost always they were from the area. They were very familiar with, they're very familiar with the route.
The routes were very expeditious. There must have been a few places where there were, you know, shortcuts that only the riders knew, but for the most part, they were along relatively well-known trails. The records, or for the most part, the records that the company had, they were destroyed, and so we really, we don't even, to be honest, we don't have an actual full ledger of, you know, who exactly was on, you know, was a rider. Now, a lot of great work has been done, and in turn of kind of sussing a lot of that out. Among other places, there's a phenomenal museum of the Pony Express in St. Joseph, and they have a great list.
They've done, or various people have done detective work on figuring it out, on who was there, but there's still, there's a massive amount of information we don't really have. We don't even know, we can't even say who the first fellow was who rode, you know, the Pony Express, and that was, you know, and that's kind of remarkable because, to be honest, that was like a really famous, it's a really famous ride. And you're listening to Jim DeFelice tell the story of the Pony Express, which started as a subset of a bigger enterprise. A few guys, majors, Russell and Waddell, were trying to build, essentially, a modern UPS, a shipping titan.
When we come back, more of the story of the Pony Express, an American dreamer story, in a way, par excellence, an American mythology story as well, here on Our American Stories. Buying a home can be an anxiety-inducing endeavor, but does it have to be? Sure, the market is uncertain, yet, with a SoFi mortgage loan, it doesn't have to matter as much. With a SoFi mortgage loan, you can save now and save later, helping to relieve the anxieties of the home buying process.
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What's up guys? I'm Scott Disick. Nearly every person that comes into my home comments about how amazing it smells. All thanks to the hotel collection scent diffuser. I recently started using their scent diffuser here in my hidden Hills home and this is a must have product. Their hotel inspired scents make my place always smell like a luxury five star hotel. I don't know about you, but having a home that smells this good is priceless.
Check out hotel collection.com to make sure your house is always smelling good too. And we return to our American stories and author Jim DeFelice with the story of the Pony Express. Before the break, we were hearing about how many of the records that the Pony Express's parent company had run by Alexander Majors, William Russell, and William Waddell have been lost over time. I mean, imagine we don't know who the first Pony Express rider was.
Remarkable. Let's return to Jim DeFelice, author of West Lake Lightning, the brief legendary ride of the Pony Express. We don't even know, we can't even say who the first fellow was who rode, you know, the Pony Express. And that was, you know, and that's kind of remarkable because to be honest, that was like a really famous, it's a really famous ride.
I kind of like Johnny Fry as the possible, you know, the possibly the first guy, but there are other candidates, admittedly. One of the reasons, there's a lot of stories associated with different riders. This one kind of got attached to Fry and like everything, like many things related to the Pony Express, it may or may not be apocryphal.
Well, actually when you hear it, you're going to tell me it's definitely apocryphal, but I'll tell it anyways. Now, these guys, what you have to know about the Pony Express riders, for the most part, they're in their early 20s. Some of them are certainly married, but on the other hand, a lot of the riders were, you know, they hadn't quite found the right one yet. Mostly in their younger 20s. They're certainly athletic.
I mean, to be able to ride a horse for 100 miles, 80 miles, 100 miles, and, you know, do it in all sorts of weather, you have to be fairly athletic to do that. You're being paid pretty well. Now, there are a couple of different estimates on how much a rider was paid.
One of the figure that's largely accepted is $100 a month. They were certainly, which is a lot of money at that time, they certainly were very well paid, and they were kind of, they were also kind of like rock stars of their time. They were very, oh, that's a pony rider, and they're very famous, looked up to, for all the reasons that I guess we still admire baseball stars or football stars these days. But the story about Johnny, Johnny Fry, is that being an attractive fellow and getting $100 or whatever, he was being paid a month.
You know, Steve was certainly an eligible bachelor. And it is said that many, many of the young women in the area right near St. Joe, well, you know, they were trying to catch Johnny's eye. And it's reputed that one of the ways that they were trying to catch his eye was actually through another bodily asset that happens to be the stomach, because, you know, the way to a man's heart is often through his stomach. And they would make different, you know, different things, and, you know, he would, allegedly, would grab them as he rode by. But, you know, it's very, very hard to grab a whole chicken while you're, you know, while you're, certainly while you're holding onto the reins and then eat it.
You know, it's very difficult. So, allegedly, this young woman, you know, history has kind of clouded out her identity, but so we were to call her Becky, just because it's a common name at the time. And it's alleged that Becky got this brilliant idea. And knowing that Johnny kind of was partial to sweets, she went and she invented a delicious concoction that could be eaten on horseback and, as a matter of fact, could be speared as he rode by. And it is said that Becky invented for Pony Express Rider the first donut, which the Pony Express Rider could stick his forefinger through and then eat at his leisure as he rode on his route. You know, I'd be honest, I don't know how true that story is, but it does kind of summarize some of the some of the fun stuff about and some of the fun legends that were connected with a with a Pony Express.
So, as the Pony Express itself was always seen as, you know, as a means to an end, it was seen as a way to get publicity to kind of shore up their system of delivering the mail, and most of all was seen as a way of getting a million dollars out of the federal government. As things turn out, they ended up only getting half of that. It's questionable whether a million dollars, by the way, would have would have kept them going anyway, but half a million certainly wouldn't.
You know, Russell was back East. They had opened an office in one of the fanciest, what was it at the time, the fanciest building in New York, as one of the first skyscrapers on Wall Street, and he was going back and forth between New York and Washington, D.C., working on on the federal contracts, also trying to get business, you know, various business, I should say, not just, just trying to get five dollar letters. And as the as the company's cash problems grew more and more, he came up with a solution to solve the to solve some of those problems. By asking the feds to advance them money that that would be owed under the contract. That started out OK, but, you know, this, I don't know, second or third time somebody comes to you asking you to pay them for a job you haven't quite done yet, you know, you get a little bit you might get a little testy. And so when the government refused, Russell said, I'll tell you what, tell you what, let's make a deal rather than I don't really need the money from you. Just give me just give me a note that says that I have a contract with you. And once I fulfill that contract, you'll all be paid.
And, you know, no problem with doing that. And so Russell got his note. And Russell then turned around and went to financiers to banks to other people with money and said, hey, I have this I have this contract, I'm going to make x amount of dollars in March. But right now I have a little cash shortage. So can you loan I'll tell you what, loan me $5,000.
And the figures are a lot more than this. We'll just use this as an example, loan me $5,000 on the fact against the note that I have for $10,000. And when my note when I'm paid from the government, I will give you $6,000 or whatever the actual numbers were.
And so they said, great. The only problem is, as time kind of goes on, you know, he gets one loan based on this note. And then, you know, if you can get one loan based on that note, maybe you can get two or three or four or five.
But unfortunately, those the cash problems going to persist. And, and finally, Russell has, has kind of worked. It's kind of worked his advances to the point where he's basically not going to get any more notes from the government. And you've been listening to Jim DeFelice tell a heck of a story about the Pony Express. I read a lot of history. And these stories I did not know. And my goodness, here was Russell knowing his company had cash flow problems, asking the post office for an advance on the work he was doing that he had a contract for. And when they finally refused, well, he sought out what we now know are factors. That is, he was selling his contracts and getting cash in advance and paying high interest. And of course, that generally doesn't end well. When we come back, more of this remarkable American story on a piece of American mythology, the story of the Pony Express here on Our American Stories. Buying a home can be an anxiety inducing endeavor.
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Just saving. Visit SoFi.com slash new home to learn more. That's S-O-F-I.com slash N-E-W-H-O-M-E. Mortgages through SoFi bank and a member FDIC. NMLS 696891. Loan and offer terms, conditions, restrictions apply.
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I'm Scott Disick. Nearly every person that comes into my home comments about how amazing it smells. All thanks to the hotel collection Scent Diffuser. I recently started using their Scent Diffuser here in my Hidden Hills home, and this is a must have product. Their hotel inspired scents make my place always smell like a luxury five star hotel. I don't know about you, but having a home that smells this good is priceless.
Check out hotel collection dot com to make sure your house is always smelling good, too. And we're back with our American stories in our final segment from Jim Day Felice on the Pony Express. We just heard that the pony and its parent company, run by Alexander Majors, William Russell and William Waddell, had run into some money troubles. While William Russell couldn't convince the U.S. government to give them a cash advance, he had been able to give him a letter ensuring the payment would be made eventually. He then took out loans against that note, but the cash problems persisted.
Let's return to the story. And he comes up with another scheme and convinces someone in the government who has custody of or access to a number of bonds that are actually don't belong to the government itself, but actually belong to Native American nations. And kind of a long story short, Russell manages to get those bonds and to use them as securities against money that, of course, he doesn't have, but he's promising to pay.
And the company's using the cash to pay things. And unfortunately for Russell and his partners and the Pony Express in general, somebody went to look at those bonds or to use those bonds and they weren't there. And kind of the whole, unfortunately, the whole house of cards, financial cards that had been constructed around the pony and the other businesses collapsed.
Russell goes to jail. The pony is, and the larger companies, the assets are sold and their main competitor ends up kind of taking over most of the assets. That main competitor, by the way, is still with us. And we know it today as Wells Fargo. By far and away, the most famous person connected with the Pony Express and in some ways with the entire West is Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Bill Cody. Now, before I say anything else about Buffalo Bill, I have to say that the guy was a legitimate Western hero. He was an Indian scout. He got a congressional medal. He showed courage in battle.
He was larger than life. At some point, though, you kind of have to think about it. At some point, though, he kind of came in contact with some people who said, hey, you know, you already have a whole bunch of fame.
You have the bona fides of maybe being a hero. We'd like to do a little something with that. How about if we wrote a book about your life and then used that book as the basis for like a stage play? And he said, show me the money. And they did. They brought him out east and they put on what essentially was a stage play, but a stage play that included horses on stage and guns being fired and bandits and hero cowboys running around and Native Americans who sometimes were actual Native Americans and other times were, you know, whoever you could get off the street for a few bucks. And they did these shows that become the Wild West show.
And, you know, they don't just go to New York City or Chicago or the big London, the big cities, but they also go to, you know, kind of to smaller places around it. And when they came to your town, if you were so lucky or maybe the town next to you or 20 miles away, it was like the Super Bowl came to you. And, you know, you would just have, there'd be several days and all these other events and these extravagant shows, but kind of the centerpiece, the way that almost every show would start and would be with a vignette of the Pony Express. Now how close to actual, the actual real Pony Express experience it was, not so much.
But it was a lot of fun because you had a rider riding through and you had people shooting off guns and, you know, other people trying to steal the mail and, you know, just made for a lot of drama and a lot of adventure. And because of that, everybody knew the Wild West show and everybody knew about the Pony Express. Buffalo Bill made a point of claiming to have been part of the Pony Express when he was younger.
Now, historians and a lot of people doing the research have pointed out that there is no way that Bill Cody, who would have been a young, very young at best, teenager at the time, could have been an actual rider for the Pony Express. But at the time, his claims to have been a rider were, you know, were enough and they were accepted by, you know, the newspapers when they would, you know, they would come to town or they do an advance story about Buffalo Bill. And Bill would tell all of these tales about supposed tales about having ridden for the Pony. He made a point of befriending and often was looked, you know, Pony Express riders or former riders, usually genuine, sometimes not so much, but usually genuine would, you know, kind of seek him out. And, you know, he would pose for photos and, you know, all these publicity things at the time.
And he would just kind of bask in that reflecting glory. He also to his credit was said to have supported Alexander Majors when Majors was very, very, very old. And really, even though it's pretty clear that, it's pretty clear that Bill Cody did not really ride for the Pony Express. I mean, maybe he cleaned a stable somewhere, who knows, but he certainly wasn't a regular rider.
But he was the most, it's because of him and because of the popularity of his Wild West shows that really that we know so, you know, that we still have the Pony Express in our in our popular imaginations. The Pony Express as a, you know, as a business really lasts a very, very brief time. The first ride is April 3rd, 1860. And really the last ride is October 1861.
So we're talking roughly 18 months or so that it, you know, really exists. And yet today just about everybody knows what the Pony Express was. I think that the reason that we remember, obviously the things that Buffalo Bill did, all of those things that they're kind of the romantic nature of the West. And, you know, kind of the American spirit really, the pioneer spirit kind of becomes attached to the Pony Express. And those stories, those popular entertaining stories, and some of the, and a lot of the legends that we tell, which are just, you know, they're just kind of fun.
Maybe they contain a grain of truth, or maybe they just kind of have a deeper grain of truth that they're attached to. They kind of get all bundled up with the Pony Express. And so, you know, we have the Wild West show, and then we have movies and television shows.
We have, you know, nonfiction books, certainly. But we also have, we also have novels about the Pony Express. And it just has those kind of facets that still speak to, you know, still speak to Americans, I think, and really all the world.
Because Pony, you can often say Pony Express in Europe, say, if you say Pony Express, a lot of people understand what you're talking about, which is amazing. But, you know, again, there's a certain romance attached to, you know, to the West. And the story of the Pony Express, by and large, is a, you know, is a positive story. And, you know, I think it speaks to, it speaks to a lot of the things that we still kind of, as Americans, as human beings really, you know, value. We value endurance. We value speed.
We value being able to overcome whatever nature can throw at us, whether it's, whether it's sandstorms or tornadoes or 10 feet of snow. And, you know, and these guys did that. And yeah, listen, let's face it, there's horses. I mean, you know, you throw horses into any story and it's guaranteed to be a success.
It's guaranteed to be a success. And a terrific job on the production and storytelling by Robbie Davis. And a special thanks to Jim DeFelice, his book, West like lightning, the brief legendary ride of the Pony Express. And my goodness, we may not know the story, but for Buffalo Bill and what Jim said is so true. The pioneer story is embodied by the Pony Express and the pioneer ethic and ethos is embedded in the Pony Express. And the Pony Express is embedded in our understanding of ourselves because we do value endurance and speed and our ability to overcome obstacles of all kinds. The story of the Pony Express, which began on this day in history in 1860 here on our American stories.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-04 04:18:29 / 2023-04-04 04:34:25 / 16