Western Short Story
The Lost Rider of the Pecos Run
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Western buffs, historians, story tellers, etc., continue to this day to promote the unfinished story, and highly mysterious surroundings, of the Lost Pony Express rider to leave Pecos, Texas on his last ride of the day, and of his life, if disappearance is allowed to enter the argument.

Next up for the incoming Pony Express ride of the day, from right there in Pecos, Texas, was Wingate “Wingsy” Edgefield, due for his second run ever on his stretch of the trail that lead from Missouri to California on the western edge of the continent, at the coast of the Pacific Ocean. That trail, covering about 2000 miles, went through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. It had cost the lives of 10 or more riders. However, it was never known the number killed of station hands who maintained their often-lonely mid-trail sites where refreshed horses for next messengers were stocked.

Up to the date of Wingsy’s run, 10 riders had been killed; 4 by Indians who would chase down or intercept any lone horseman, and shoot, stab, scalp, and/or suspend him from a tree branch for invading their territory; one rider hanged by authorities of an on-line territory for his part in a crime; two men by accidental shootings in a drunken spree; two Pony riders frozen to death, perhaps right in their saddles in high winter; and the 10th rider shot in a duel over a woman’s favors. This latter case happened in Colorado and we are investigating the circumstances, after a hand-written report had been discovered by an ally in these mysteries.

Wingsy’s send=off was in July of 1861 and the Pony Express, as history has it, would come to the end of its short span later that year when the transcontinental telegraph was established, linking the entire country, east to west, and back again in undreamt quick order. That newest enterprise marked the end of the Pony Express and the uncountable interventions to mail delivery.

Ahead of Wingsy were horse changes at every station, most of them about 10-15 miles apart, enough to expend a horse for the day, and the succeeding full day in the saddle adding up to as much as 75-100 miles of the Pony Express route for that particular rider. The total route was known, no mystery there, the landscape was known, the pitfalls were known, the temporary interruptions of Indian activity suspected, and prior experiences with thieves, bandits, bad men galore bent on stealing what might be valuable information.

These bandits hunted leads to possible riches, other sites to be watched for other possibilities, new finds in old explorations, gold and silver in the mix of wants. Land of every kind, once useless it appeared, suddenly exploded with silver, gold, and thus, impossible riches.

And Wingsy Edgefield, our Lost Rider as he has been identified, was well-known to most folks in the Pecos area: he was strong, hardy, adventurous, a notable and no-nonsense ranch hand for two ranches, had been on the beef-driving trail, could shoot his twin pistols with spectacular accuracy, and was involved to an unknown level with one very beautiful Miss MarthaJean Maxwell, daughter of Carl Maxwell, a long-established rancher, with the MJM brand, named for his dead wife and living daughter in her 20th year.

Word had it that the elder Maxwell had no objections to Wingsy’s hanging around his daughter, having known him for a dozen years, and had seen him working as a ranch hand for half that time. “Knowing is believing,” he thought, “and ignorance is its own excuse,” as he was fond of saying to any group of cow people, some of whom believed Maxwell was a deep reader, because Shakespeare himself must have first said that phrase aloud to his own audience. So be it, the words of an immortal coming back in later times, which the locals somehow treated as fair and uplifting to their own situation, and their own measurement as good old folks of the west

And those same people had no idea how much Wingsy enjoyed his privileges, known only to Wingsy and Miss MarthaJean Maxwell herself.

So, on Wingsy’s appointed day of Pony Express duty, MarthaJean rode away from the ranch, alone, saying she was going for a spirited ride. That was early morning, the sun beaming its hello off the hills beyond, her spirits apparently full of goodness and expectation. She rode northwesterly into well-known country, country where she and Wingsy had ridden many times in the past, part of their casual enjoyments where they noted different kinds of birds, growths, ground animals, all being part of the world around them. She had even kept a small diary about such sites, with her added and personal comments.

Anybody from the ranch or the Pecos would have loved to read the diary if they had known about it, considering that one of their own cowmen found entry into those personal notes, those secrets set to ink, in fact appeared on many pages of the good little book. MarthaJean fully realized what its disclosures would have become as they would have been bandied about town, taking on their own color, their own interpretations.

She was never seen again, not by her father, not by any of his working hands, not by anybody from Pecos, vanished without a trace, her and her favorite mount, a color-scattered palimino she called “Perty Boy.”

When Wingsy, on his mount, grasped the bag of west-bound mail from the incoming Pony Express rider, he flew out of Pecos as if he had wings himself. “Wingsy in flight,” some of the townsfolk might have said, for he too was never seen again; not a word, not a peep about him or his dearest pal, and now perhaps his most obvious lover in cahoots with each other in the wide and wild West of the whole American continent, and surely nowhere seen or found on the 2000 mile trail of the short-lived Pony Express trail from Missouri to California, upon which these two disappearances certainly had some impact along with the transcontinental telegraph, quick as a wink, quicker than an arrow in flight, quicker than a bird flies, and certainly faster than the Pony Express riders made it.

The word slowly grew as pieces of information came from various sources: MarthaJean gone riding and not back after hour and hours; Wingsy’s mount wanders into the next station, where it had come on countless trips, riderless, mail bag still attached, at which the station master sent a rider back to Pecos with the news.

Down to this very day, from all the land in all the country, and Canada and Mexico tossed into the mix for kicks, has a single word come forth about the couple (who left kinfolk and a huge ranch behind them), though hundreds upon hundreds of us can picture some handsome and beautiful offspring, on a wide and productive ranch somewhere in the wide spaces, maintaining a collection of memorabilia of distant grandparents who carved out a life of their own, on their own, which surely lasted longer than the Pony Express.