I still remember learning about the Pony Express in maybe fourth or fifth grade. Sound familiar? It made for a great story for kids of that age. Teams of young riders plowing through the snow on their sturdy horses. Fast horses! They rode back and forth at breakneck speeds between Missouri and California.
In reality, beyond the romanticized picture, the Pony Express only operated for 18 months before it went broke. But it was still impressive. Riders couldn’t weigh more than 125 lbs., rode night and day, and were “changed out” every 75-100 miles. In an emergency the rider was allowed to ride a double shift of more than 20 hours.
The Pony Express was not a part of the U.S. Postal Service. It was a business. Even with all the California gold making its way across the country and a strong and very experienced businessman at its helm, the company never lasted two years.
What it did do, however, was to show that one well-connected and organized communication system for the entire country was possible. I like to think it contributed to the further development of the USPS.
The USPS, unlike the Pony Express, was never intended to be a business. It was developed as a service for its citizens. It gets mail to and from all the little towns and rural communities in our country, something a profit-minded company could never do. It delivers social security checks and medications, Christmas cards and gifts, even baby chicks! It employs many veterans who are given preferential status when they apply. And the USPS delivers absentee ballots to our citizens. My state, among several, votes completely (and very successfully) by mail.
Every few years we citizens need to fight for proper funding for this service. We need to remind our representatives, and this year even our President, that this is a service and not a business, and we expect it to be adequately funded.
It’s time to call Republican senators (since the funding bill has passed the House) and demand adequate funding for the USPS. Maybe even suggest an experienced and knowledgeable person to lead it?
From Missouri to California, we need to swamp those offices with postcards and telephone calls until they get the message. We did it once before when mothers and babies were being separated at the border–the huge outcry from all over the nation stopped that. If you know your senators will support a funding bill, you might call or write Republican senators in other states. Sure, they give more weight to people in their own state, but a huge pile of mail sends a message in itself. Phone numbers and addresses are easy to find on the internet.
We don’t have to ride a horse for 20 hours through a snowstorm, nor do we have to defend that mail pouch with our very lives. All we need to do is speak out and speak loudly. it’s what we do in a democracy.