Johnny Fry's father rode for the Pony Express. Growing up in Kansas, Johnny listened to stories of his father's and his uncle Bill's adventures when they were but little older than him.
When Johnny's father dies in the Spring of 1884, Johnny and Jinx, his little black cat, set off on a 1900 miles trek along the Pony Express Trail to Sacramento, California where his uncle has offered him a job and a home if need be.
Johnny, man-grown at 18 but still a boy in many ways, rides into a reality much different than the imaginings of his boyhood dreams. Three days into the trip, with Jinx's help, he foils an attempted robbery, gets the drop of the gunmen and watches them walk away barefoot and in long johns, while he keeps their horses and guns. He has no idea he has created and implacable enemy, one who will follow him across the country to a deadly showdown in the shadow of the high Sierras.
His route takes him along the Great Platte River Road in the footsteps of pioneers, where he meets a tall, blue-eyed Swede, five years his senior, who wants to come along on his adventure. In Casper, Wyoming, where the trial turns south and west, they meet another who wishes to join them. His name is George Washington Moore, also know as Wash. He is an ex-slave and Buffalo Soldier, who one night in a Casper saloon hears some men planning to ambush and rob Johnny on the trail over South Pass and decides to help him.
With Wash's help they ambush the ambushers, but as they approach Salt Lake City, Johnny is thrown when his horse is spooked by a rattlesnake and wakes up in a hospital with many injuries, including a broken right hand, which forces him to learn to use his left.
While in the hospital he learns the wonders of love and redheaded nurses, and finds out his pursuer is still dogging him. He spends the winter recovering among the Latter-Day Saints, and as he and his friends are preparing to leave in the spring, learns his old enemy will be waiting for him in Carson City and has hired a gunman to kill him.
The trip across the Utah/Nevada desert with his friends amazes him with its wild, rugged beauty, but always in the back of his mind is the idea that soon he must face a professional killer with only the newly won skill of his left hand and the loyalty of his friends and Jinx to carry him through.
The 1880's were the time of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, of Jessie James and Billy the Kid and Geronimo, the great Apache warrior. The west was wild and dangerous and the Pony Express Trail takes Johnny right through the heart of it to a future he can only hope for.