Tales of the Express
TALES OF THE EXPRESS
This true story begins in 1826, at a small farm in New Hampshire. The main character is a scared, thirteen-year old girl, named Charlotte Parker. An alcoholic and abusive stepfather and stepbrother complicate her life and she runs away from home with an old horse.
After running as far as the horse could take them, Charlotte disguises herself as a boy and tries to find work at a stable. She meets a kind-hearted man named Ebenezer Balch, who owns a livery stable and tavern called the Balch House. Eb takes the boy under his wing and vows to make a man of him. Reinventing herself as Charley Parkhurst, the "boy" becomes part of the family business.
Charley stays on at the Balch house and learns to become a respected coachman. In 1844, when the Balchs' relocated to Providence Rhode Island, Charley, now 31 went along as well. At the "What Cheer House", in Providence, Charley meets two young men named James Birch and Frank Stevens, who are hired on as stable boys. Parkhurst trains them well as coachmen and during the California gold rush, Birch and Stevens helm a wagon train to the west. James Birch starts a stagecoach business in Sacramento and is wildly successful.
Here we are introduced to a lawman named William Wallace Byrnes and see California hang its' first woman. Several future outlaws are introduced before James Birch can convince Charley Parkhurst to come to California to drive stagecoaches.
Parkhurst travels to California with Birch and another coachman named Hank Monk, aboard ship, stopping in Jamaica, before taking a boat ride through the jungles, then riding mules over the mountains to Panama and a waiting ship, with cholera still lingering on her decks.
When they get to California, Birch shows them the ropes and sends them down the road. While driving a stagecoach in the Mariposa mountains, Parkhurst is attacked by a sadistic killer named Tres Dedos and left for the bears to finish. A Cherokee poet, John Rolling Ridge, who was camped nearby, rescues Charley. The Mexican gang captures the two of them, but the leader, Joaquin Murrieta decides the gang doesn't need trouble with the U. S. mail and releases them.
When back to work, Parkhurst drives with William Byrnes as a shotgun, they forge a tight friendship.William Byrnes joins the California Rangers to hunt down Murrieta.
In the fall of 1855, Parkhurst was again in the company of his friend Hank Monk in the foothills of the Sierras, Placerville, where they befriend a young man from Norway, named John Thompson. Remembering his childhood in the Alps, Thompson builds himself a set of skis and eventually signs on to carry the winter mail across the Sierra Mountains to Carson City.
In the spring, while Charley was on route to Redwood City, Parkhurst has trouble with a nasty horse and is kicked in the face and loses his eye. Monk cheers up his pal on a bear hunt, that nearly finishes Hank in the river.
The following winter, Snowshoe Thompson saves the life of James Sisson, who was freezing to death in an abandon cabin in the Sierras.
Charley Parkhurst and Hank Monk both drive the new Pioneer route from Placerville to Carson City. While on this route, Parkhurst is robbed at night by the bandit Sugarfoot.
Horace Greeley then makes an appearance, and is treated to a wild ride and ridicule by Hank Monk. Promoting Monk to the rank of legend.
April of 1860 saw trouble with the Paiute Indians, near Carson City, after some station keepers at a remote relay station kidnap two Indian women. When Snowshoe Thompson signs up to hunt Indians, Byrnes signs on to keep the Sierras' only winter mailman alive.
Parkhurst decides to see the rest of the frontier, the plains. He signs on with the new "King of Stagecoaching" Ben Holladay, but doesn't find it to his liking. Charlie learns that Byrnes has been shot seriously and is in need of a trip to Ne