Orphans Preferred

One measure of what the job was like is an advertisement for riders allegedly posted as the service geared up: Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. It’s a famous ad, included in countless tellings of the Pony, often done up in old-style typography with appropriate illustrations and anxious exclamation marks. Unfortunately, like many mementos of the Pony, it appears to be bogus, concocted years after the last Pony rider had shaken the dust from his jeans and gone off into the sunset. But it does capture the spirit of the riders, who while they may not have faced death at least twice or four times a week, were nonetheless expected to be hardy, adventurous souls, willing to push themselves and their mounts to the limit.