Despite occasional refuge in hyperbole, it is easily discerned that even routine life in the saddle was poorly calculated to attract applicants from the skittish or faint-hearted, or from the pampered sons of gentle birth. Wherever restless men pushed the frontier beyond the borders of established society, the vanguard was liberally comprised of uneducated, roughhewn individualists, misfit escapees from the monotony of civilization and malcontents turned adventurers. Bankers, lawyers, financiers, conservative men of mark and substance, were in small minority among the explorers of the wilderness. The demand from the unknown, uncharted West was for muscled stamina in men who had little to risk, and to whom chance and fate were synonyms of excitement and opportunity.
Which is not to gainsay the clever prowess and dauntless bravery of the Pony Express rider. The American hero, for good or bad, is made of wonderful physical stuff, and with this commodity the valiant mail courier was richly endowed. So, if we find him departing the straight and narrow, neglecting the tenets of his employer, or, as Burton put it, “enjoying the mental refreshment of abundant bad language,” he is not discarding the badge of heroism, only demonstrating the capacity of character.