Pony Express rider blazes through South Lake Tahoe
Most little boys and little girls have imagined themselves among the characters of the Wild West. Few actually ever get to live that dream. But Davey “Doc” Wiser has. For the last 30 years, Wiser has ridden his horse in the annual re-ride of the Pony Express. He took a few minutes to talk to Lake Tahoe Action about living his boyhood dream.
Lake Tahoe Action: Why do you do this?
Wiser: Because I was born 100 years too late. I go on wagon trains. I ride Pony Express. I like riding horses. I like reliving the past. I like presenting it to all ages that are interested. Cowboys and trains will never lose their popularity.
How did this start?
In 1968, 1970, a bunch of guys in Placerville got together and started retracing the old trail. They got going pretty good. Then in 1978, they got a hold of all the riders in other states that were interested. Each state has its own division. Now, we have the eight states and we do the vignette of one of the states in a letter. If you get in early enough, you can get a personal letter.
Do you ever lose yourself in your imagination while riding?
I think about it and I get tears in my eyes. It’s like being able to relive your childhood dream when you used to play cowboys and Indians. You get up there, you’re riding along and you kind of go off in your own world. Sometimes, I think there’s Indians or outlaws chasing me.
As I’m riding down the trail, every once in a while I’ll yell, “Pony rider coming,” when there’s people walking or riding a bicycle to let them know I’m going around them. People love it. They say, “Alright, good, keep going.” Ah, the thrill.
Then when I come in, I usually hoot and holler when I get to Trout Creek on Pioneer Trail to let the other rider know I’m within earshot and they should get ready. I come flying in there, take the mochila off and throw it on their horse.
Do you think you could run a full leg of the Pony Express?
I have. In 1983, the highway slid, so we had to go out of Pollock Pines to Kyburz then the Nevada riders would take it. We were doing that for three months. We actually delivered the mail. We were in newspapers all around the world. One of our guys in the Nevada division was in a Chinese newspaper. It was funny seeing Chinese writing all around him.
Why do think this is so important?
It’s important for people who like the old West, but it’s also important for the little kids. This gives them another perspective on the Pony Express. It only lasted 18 months.
Why did it only last for 18 months?
The guys that got it started weren’t good money managers. A letter was $5 then too, but they had a lot of expenses with all the way stations and the Indians wiping out the way stations and losing horses. They only lost one rider, if I’m not mistaken, in the whole 18 months.
There was one guy who rode for 24 hours straight or more. He was the only guy there. He just kept changing horses. He was so tired when he got there I think he slept for two days.
The Pony Express is such a small part of the history of the country, but it’s attracted so much lore. Why is that?
Probably because of the fact that we actually delivered the mail from St. Joe, Mo., to Old Sacramento in 10 days nonstop. When they advertised for riders, it said, “Wanted: Pony Express riders 14 years old, preferably orphans,” because they didn’t want to have to deal with families. In those days there was a lot of kids that got orphaned and were working like a man. You know when you’re 14, you’re tough, you’re cocky. Those guys were something else.
We try to honor them and their stalwart activities with the Pony Express and let people know what they went through, even though we’re in modern day. Nevertheless, we’re waking up America to some of our greatest history. It was 18 months of the greatest mail delivery and horseback riding you’ll ever find in the old West.
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Thunderstorms made their way through the Lake Tahoe basin this weekend and more rain and cooler temperatures are on tap this week.