The Pony Express statue at the Colorado Welcome Center in Julesburg.

(Courtesy Frank Reese/Flickr)

Late Wednesday evening, some 600 riders on horseback will race across Colorado's northeast corner. They are re-tracing the route of the Pony Express as the short-lived, but legendary mail service marks its 155th anniversary this year. 
 
Colorado State Historian Bill Covery explained the state's role in Pony Express history and why the service continues to hold on to the American imagination. Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation, and read highlights below.
 
On the connection between the Pony Express and Colorado:
 
"The Pony Express dipped just ever so slightly into Colorado at Julesburg. It was following trails that had already been established along river routes.  In the case of Julesburg, that settlement sat on the South Platte River on the Overland Trail, a major migration trail to Utah and Oregon and California. So it was a fairly major stop on the Pony Express route."
 

Riders set out from Kansas to celebrate the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express. 

(Photo courtesy Lyle Ladner)

On Julesburg's Wild West past:
 
"Julesburg was a military post so it had soldiers. It was the headquarters for bandits from time to time. It was rough around the edges. But it was this kind of this thriving frontier depot where everybody was sooner or later going to come to it. So it created a lot of opportunity."
 
Why Mark Twain called Julesburg “the strangest, quaintest, funniest frontier town that our untraveled eyes had ever stared at and been astonished with:”
 

"He traveled West with his brother to Nevada to really escape service in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. He came West on a stage coach line and later in his life he wrote a beautiful description of the West called "Roughing It."  In that, he described all of these little frontier communities including Julesburg."

On the romantic appeal of the Pony Express: 
 
"After a very short period of time, 18 months, the Pony Express had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But we still remember this romantic moment when you could write a letter and give it to a horseman and he could race it across the country, 24 hours a day, regardless of the weather, occasionally outrunning Indians and bandits.
 
This represented to us the romance of the West. Yeah, telegraphs are faster. Railroads are more reliable. Obviously automobiles and the Internet make our lives so easy today. But just the human and equine achievement of the Pony Express is something we really remember fondly."