OAK — Dozens of onlookers watched as Chris Boele of Oak rode into town carrying a parcel on horseback as a part of the 37th annual National Pony Express Association Pony Express Re-Ride here on Friday morning.
The re-ride — which began on June 15 in Sacramento, Calif., and is expected to travel nearly 2,000 miles to its terminal point at the Patee House in St. Joseph, Mo. — is a time-honored way to preserve history for this organization and its members.
“It’s a historical re-enactment and it was such a deal back in the 1860s when they started it and carried all the news to the central United States to the West Coast,” said Dick Heinrichs, a member of the National Pony Express Association and re-ride participant for 35 years.
Throughout the journey, riders across the country are dressed historically accurately — donning red, long-sleeve shirts; jeans; boots; a yellow bandana knotted around their collar; and brown vests, tattered with patches from years of participating in the re-rides.
The patches, which highlight significant years of riding, fill the vests of veteran riders and serve as badges of honor.
“That’s what they wore,” Alice Heinrichs said, referring to the Pony Express riders of the 1860s. “Every so many years you get another patch.”
Riders recalled memorable rides from over the years, including some rides that went straight through the night in certain areas. One ride in particular, during 1996, featured special historical significance.
“Back in 1996, when they had the Olympics in Georgia, we got to carry the Olympic torch,” Dick Heinrichs said. “Nebraska and Kansas carried it, and the torches were lit and we carried them.”
While on horseback, the riders transport the mochila — a leather mail pouch — and specially postmarked mail across seven states. The journey begins in California, and riders will venture through parts of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri during the trip.
The particular route through parts of Tribland started late Thursday night, with riders reaching Fort Kearny around midnight, and continuing south and east until reaching the Oregon Trail historical marker just off U.S. Highway 281 south of Hastings.
Boele took to horseback around 7 a.m. in Hastings and made the four-hour trek to Oak. He was pleased with his first experience as a re-rider.
“This is my first year, and it was pretty fun,” Boele said. “There was a lot of rich history, and it’s awesome to ride horses, and to be a part of this is pretty cool.”
After Boele arrived, fellow re-riders greeted him while they signed the mochila. The riders signed the mochila before it was transported to a different horse and Carol Anderson of Deshler embarked on the next stretch of transport.
Newcomers Boele and Seth McClure of Deweese also took the Pony Express Oath Friday morning and were initiated into the National Pony Express Association.