The Concord Coach Driver

The Concord Coaches were a magnificent sight coming into a stage station, but it was the drivers who were actually idolized. The Overland Stage drivers were ordered to arrive at each stage station with a gallop, if at all possible. It must have been quite a sight! With the driver's whip cracking furiously over the horses' heads, and the messenger sitting next to him blasting on a trumpet, the four to six matched horses would thunder down the road, and pull up to the Stage Station snorting and prancing.

From the earliest days of stagecoaching, the colorful and dashing men who handled the horses and drove the stage were likened to the Roman chariot racers. Not just anybody could handle the job. Each driver was required to be an excellent reinsman, as it was no easy task to command the six-horse teams rolling swiftly and safely through the darkest of nights, in a blinding blizzard, over narrow trails carved into the side of a mountain, on the edges of ravines, avoiding rocks on the trail, or bogging down into the deep sands along the South Platte.

On Ben Holladay's Overland Stage, every driver had his own route. This was usually a section of the trail about fifty to sixty miles in length, and the driver would travel this route in both directions. Each driver would learn every twist and turn of the route.

At the home stations, the driver would hopefully have time to take a meal, and then rest up before an incoming stage would have to be driven back over his route. But, no matter what, the driver would have to be ready to take command in about ten minutes from when that stage came in.

Drivers came in all sizes and shapes, but the typical driver was under forty years of age, often times a swaggering, rough-spoken man. But strange as it may seem, they were always polite and courteous, especially if there were ladies on board.

A stage driver's whip was a prized possession, and usually handmade to exact specifications. It was perfectly balanced, and often the handle would be made with silver inlays. An excellent stage driver was usually called a "whip" or a "jeru," particularily in the West, especially if he was famous for his fast driving.

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