‘West Like Lightning’ will get your stamp of approval

Click. No stamps.

And: email sent. You didn’t have to hunt an envelope down, and no trip to the mailbox; within a minute or so, the recipient of your missive read it and he can reply as quickly, even if he lives on the other side of the world. You gotta love technology; even more so after you’ve read “West Like Lightning” by Jim DeFelice.

Everyone was tense on that evening in November 1860, but nobody more so than the young man who was pacing on a porch in Ft. Kearny , Nebraska . As soon as word came from St. Louis – word that held the fate of the United States – he’d jump aboard a pony and head west because he was an employee of the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, the Pony Express, or just “the Pony.”

The Pony had begun just a few months before, a creation floated by three partners, one of whom was a bit of a criminal. William Hepburn Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors knew that success for their endeavor relied on quick missives between Missouri and California at a time “when weeks, if not months, were the norm for coast-to-coast communication.” Ultimately, once riders learned their routes well and knew where the dangers lay (and, incidentally, once most of them became celebrities), the Pony reduced that communication time to a mere ten days.

But first, funds had to be prepared and contracts signed to the tune of “over $68 million” in today’s money. The company purchased more than 7,500 oxen and thousands of ponies, most of which were “half or mostly wild when bought.” Riders weren’t required to wear uniforms but firearms were necessities, although shooting a weapon was dicey from the back of a horse. Stationmasters and supervisors were hired to hold the whole operation together; they were, says DeFelice, “unsung heroes.”

And yet, despite speedy delivery of the news, despite that the population of the West was growing, despite the romance it would gain over the decades, the Pony was only meant to be temporary.

Eighteen months after it began, it was done.

Imagine, if you will, that your book is embedded with hundreds of tiny firecrackers and each time you read something enlightening or surprising, one crackles.

That’s what it’s like to open “West Like Lightning.”

And it isn’t just that author Jim DeFelice writes about a small page in American history; he also entertains. We learn, with a few wry asides, about the shadiness of one of the Pony’s founders. A little bit of sarcasm floats around tales of the riders themselves. Even the unknown facets of the Pony Express are treated with a what-can-you-do lightness that makes readers want to learn even more. It also helps that DeFelice doesn’t ignore the rest of America ’s colorful characters of those pre-Civil War days…

This is a no-brainer for Western enthusiasts. It’s a must-have for historians and fact-fiends. Start this book and enjoy the ride. “West Like Lightning” will get your stamp of approval.

[flipp]

More in Life

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Page Carson Foster. Photo credit Washington State Legislative Support Services
Carson Foster serves as page in Washington State House

The following was submitted to the Reporter: Carson Foster, a student at… Continue reading

Matt Kidd. Submitted photo
True strength has no limits

Covington resident Matt Kidd shares his story about kidney disease to help others during National Kidney Month.

Submitted photos from Kela Hall
Inspiring young women

The KD Hall Foundation honored Women’s History Month by having empowering and… Continue reading

Two commissioner positions available this year

For The Reporter The Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District (TPMPD) is a… Continue reading

Photo courtesy Tukwila Police Department’s
                                Facebook page
Tukwila Fire raises more than $8,000 for the LLS Stairclimb

The crew climbed up 69 flights of stairs at the Columbia Tower in Seattle.

Troop 398 newest Eagle Scout presentation

The Tukwila Historical Society is pleased to announce our volunteer and Tukwila… Continue reading

Submitted photo from the Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks Tre Flowers visits Tyee

He went there to present a $10,000 grant to the school

Measles outbreak: Officials urge vaccinations

Editor’s note: Measles is highly contagious. If you think you or your… Continue reading

The Tukwila Historical Society has been the location for the Japanese Sister City Gift Exchange Exhibit for the past several years. The city of Tukwila had many of the artifacts in storage and by joint effort it was decided to place the items in the museum for all to enjoy. For a viewing of the exhibit, please feel free to contact the Tukwila Historical Society to arrange a visit. Photo by Louise Jones-Brown
Japanese influence in the Duwamish Valley

In 1907, prior to Tukwila’s incorporation, the T.S. Unos family arrived from… Continue reading

For whodunit lovers, this short story is a gleefully-dark delight

Growing older is a very good thing. First of all, there’s a… Continue reading

Winter safety tips

The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office give safety tips about the winter weather.

Search no more, you’ll want to read ‘Hero Dogs’

You felt like such a loser. It was a feeling that didn’t… Continue reading