Teaspoon Hunter was nothing like I expected. Instead of a dashing, distinguished figure in impeccable clothing, with a charming personality, and an air of authority about him. Hunter had leathery, wrinkled skin, silvering hair, and a stout body dressed in faded denims and patched flannel.
He had an eccentric personality, quirky eating and bathing habits, and a quick wit. His sage advice and life experiences enabled him to be more than just an employer to us. He first became our friend and confidante, and then our surrogate father.
Cody sat back in his chair and chuckled. He had such high notions when he was a youngster. He had thought the way a man looked and dressed meant he was something, but Teaspoon had taught him different. It was a man's ethics and actions that were important, as well as how he carried himself, and not anything else.
He had never known anyone like Teaspoon, and never would again. Next to his Pa, Teaspoon was the best man he had ever known. He leaned forward and started writing again.
Jimmy Hickok was cocky, quick tempered, and fearless. I knew that by the way he swaggered over to the corral when he arrived at the station that first day so long ago. It made me wonder if we would be friends as well as co-workers.
Cody paused in his writing to contemplate the last line he had just written. He was so glad that he and Jimmy had not become friends, but brothers' of the heart as well. Jimmy was much more than the notorious 'Wild Bill' so many dime store novelists had so incorrectly written about. He was a fast draw with a gun, but he was not as quick to pull the trigger as one would think. He usually only did so to protect his friends and loved ones, or to defend himself. Jimmy was an honorable, loyal man, and he had been lucky to count him as a friend and surrogate brother.
Ike McSwain was quiet, gentle, caring, and compassionate; yet he was also tough and dangerous if he needed to be. Ike was steadfast and loyal friend who could always be counted on to lend a hand or help out in a gunfight. His capacity to love was what had eventually gotten him killed.
Cody felt moisture fill his eyes. This brother of his heart had been taken away from all of them too soon. Ike had died protecting the woman that he loved, and Cody knew it was a sacrifice that the mute rider would have made for any of them. That was just who Ike was. He wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hands and set back to work writing again.
Buck Cross was a conflicted young man. Troubled by the prejudices he had experienced most of his life for being half-Kiowa and half-white, he had kept himself closed off from all of them for awhile, except for Ike. The two of them were blood brothers who had met at an orphanage a few years before they had signed up for the Pony Express.
Buck soon learned that they were all different at the PX. They saw him as a person, not as and Indian. Buck was a loyal and true friend. Someone who really cared about how his loved ones were feeling. He was a good listener and confidante.
Cody missed Buck. It had been a few years since he had last seen Buck, his wife Cherokee, and their small brood of children. Buck had stayed in Rock Creek for awhile, before he had headed back to his tribe. It was soon after that he had learned through Rachel that Buck had gotten married. Now Buck and Cherokee ran a trading post near the Kiowa reservation, and he had not been down that way in awhile, so busy he had been lately with his Wild West show. He made a decision there and then that he would make a visit soon to go see Buck and his family.
The Kid. This brother was quiet, strong, loyal, caring, and stubborn to boot. Those were just a few of the character traits he admired most in his friend. What you saw was what you got when it came to Kid. He was as fast with a gun as Jimmy, steadfast in loyalties, and could be counted on in a fight.
Cody smiled. He had never met a truer friend than Kid. He was as strong and true now as he was back when he had first met him. Kid had worked hard to make a life for Lou and their children, and now the family lived quite comfortably on the sprawling ranch they had built around the old home station they had shared in Sweetwater.
Lou McCloud was puny, but spry. She had proven right off that she could ride and shoot as good as the rest of them. She was quick-tempered, passionate, stubborn, and loving. She did not let anyone boss her around and was determined to do right by her younger siblings. Lou had a heart of gold and the capacity to love anyone who was fortunate to get close to her.
He was closer to Lou than his own sisters. Maybe it was because she had experienced so much with him and the others. Lou was as handy in a gun battle as nay of them, and she had proven time and again that she was capable of protecting their backs as they were hers.
Noah Dixon had a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Like Buck, he had experienced cruelty and prejudice because of the color of his skin, even though he had been born a freed man. He had butted heads with a few of them, especially Kid due to his Southern upbringing, but eventually Noah grew to trust them all, and became a part of their PX family.
A sigh escaped from Cody's lips as he paused in his writing to read what he had just written. Even though many years had passed since that day when Noah died, he remembered it in vivid detail. He had ridden with the military to stop a band of Southern sympathizers from stirring up trouble. Noah had wanted to ride with them, but the Army CO had turned his request down. Noah had been furious.
So mad, in fact, that he had allowed Rosemary Burke to coerce him into going with her to see the military take care of the sympathizers, and they had inadvertently found themselves smack dab in the middle of the battle. Noah had defended Rosemary until he, himself, had ridden up on them and lay down some cover fire for them. They had all thought they were in the clear, but then more shots rang out and Noah was struck twice. He had crumpled to the ground with a stunned expression on his face.
He had gone to Noah, held his friend as he died, and wept for the loss of his brave, noble brother
Cody swiped more tears from his eyes and let out a wry chuckle. Who would have thought that writing down memories would draw such emotions from an old codger like him? He rose from his chair and moved across his room to the dresser where he kept a bottle of whiskey. He used his teeth to pull the cork out of the bottle, and took a long swallow, before returning to his desk. When he was resettled in his chair, he dipped his pen in ink and began to write again.
Marshal Sam Cain was a man integrity, grit, and courage. He stood for justice with every fiber of his being and he made it easy for others to look up to him. He had had a bit of a checkered reputation in the past, but that all changed when he put on the badge. There was not a man he trusted more to have at his back in a gun battle, than Sam Cain. Once Sam had married Emma, he had become another member of their family. When Sam had taken a job as Territorial Marshal, he had Emma had married, and they had moved away.
Rachel Dunne had joined the Pony Express soon after Sam and Emma had left Sweetwater, taking over Emma's job as housekeeper. She was a buxom beauty with a steel edge to her that she kept hidden under a caring nature.
Cody gave a low chuckle as he recalled how he and the other boys had made fool out of themselves over her appearance. His own mind had run with lewd thoughts until Rachel had put him and the others in their place. Her spunky attitude and candor had quickly earned their respect.
Jesse James had come into their lives at a rocky time. They had all just moved from Sweetwater to Rock Creek, and the town's citizenry were not too keen on accepting them in their bustling community. Jesse introduction to most of them came after he had tried to steal Lou's horse, Lightning, and had taken a couple of potshots at Jimmy. To say the least, Hickok was not thrilled with the incident, and would have throttled Jesse, if Lou had not stopped him.
They had soon learned that Jesse's guardian was murdered and they had helped him bring the man's killers to justice. Hickok had had a shadow from that day on. Jesse was hell bent on growing up too fast, and had a thirst for blood that most fourteen year old's did not. His quest to prove himself as a man had led him to ride with his older brother Frank with the rest of the Southern sympathizers the day Noah died.
For a long while after that day, Cody had carried a lot of animosity towards Jesse. He had believed the boy to be a betrayer to them all, and partially responsible for Noah's death, even though he knew that Jesse had not been anywhere near their location when his fellow rider was shot. It had taken time, and some growing up, for him to finally forgive the young boy.
Unlike the rest of them, Jesse had not heeded Teaspoon's advice, and had allowed his brother to lead him into a life of violence and crime, which ultimately got him killed by someone he trusted.
Cody spent a few moments rereading over the entry he had just written in his journal, changing a few words, adding in others, but eventually deciding he had done his friends justice in his depictions of them. It made him realize not for the first time, just how fortunate a man he was. He had been lucky enough to have been blessed with two families'; the one he was born with, and the other that had chosen him.
He hoped one day, that after he was gone, that someone would read his journal, and learn for themselves just how special this group particular group of Pony Express riders really was.
Bumps and Bruises
Bumps and Bruises-1860
What I thought I knew about riding and shooting was nothing compared to Teaspoon's vast experience. He taught us things that none of us would have ever have though of on our own. A few of them we thought were plain foolish, but we quickly learned how wrong we were. Like when he told us to carry a bunch of firecracker in our saddlebags.
A few of us laughed when he mentioned the firecrackers, but after Kid survived a renegade Indian attack on a ride using some as a diversion, none of us ever laughed again about carrying them.
Besides showing us the usefulness of firecrackers, Teaspoon taught how to fall from a horse to lesson injury to ourselves, how to use out horses as cover in a gunfight when nothing else is available, and numerous other things that would have taken us all a lifetime to learn on our own.
Cody paused in his writing to reflect on the man who had become a surrogate father to him and the other PX riders, before jotting down:
Teaspoon had taught them all more than a handful of tricks. He had taught them what was really important: loyalty, honor, trust, family. He was a unique man who was a gift to all who knew him. There isn't a day that goes by since he passed, that I haven't missed him, and wished he was still alive.
Natural Born Leader
There was something about Kid that said to me that he was someone who could be depended on…who could be trusted. He had a quiet strength about him that suggested even back then that he was a natural born leader. Our first understanding of this came when he led us throughout a battle with some nefarious outlaws.
It was back during the first days of the express. Lou had been shot when she encountered the outlaws at a way station where she was supposed to exchange horses while she was on a ride. Not only did they take the mochila from her, but they took several horses, including Kid’s prized paint mare, Katie.
By the time the rest of us arrived at the station, he and Lou were both ready to go after the outlaws. Buck cautioned us that there were twice as many outlaws as us and Kid devised a plan to even up the odds. He sent Ike back to the station to retrieve the box of Gatling guns, while the rest of us rode on.
We found the outlaws camped out in a little valley, and thanks to Ike’s arrival with the Gatling guns, we quickly made the outlaws surrender. Jimmy wanted to string the men up then and there, but Kid told him ‘no’, and we all rounded them up and escorted them back to town and Sam. It was the right thing to do.
His quiet strength and strong moral code are only two of the things that made Kid the man he is today. I’ve been lucky to have such a man as my friend and brother.