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Aubry left before dawn on Sept. 12, 1848. He was riding a big yellow mare named Dolly who was to become almost as famous as her rider. On her was a Grimsley dragoon saddle, the prototype of a model which would be favored by Confederate cavalrymen like Jeb Stuart. Aubry later endorsed the Grimsley, becoming one of the first American athletes to hit on the profitable notion of making commercials.
About 125 miles out of Sante Fe, bent over Dolly's neck, pounding down the trail, Aubry met an old friend, Alexander Majors, then a teamster but later, as one of the founders of the Pony Express, judged to be a great rider himself. Majors later wrote that Aubry flew past his caravan "at full gallop without asking a single question as to the danger of the Indians ahead."
There were no Indians this time but the weather was terrible. For 600 miles Aubry rode through rain and mud and swam across flooded streams and rivers. The gallant Dolly carried him the first 200 miles in 26 hours (and lived to carry her owner on subsequent adventures). He left her at a fort and took the first of his remounts. Thereafter he ate only six times and slept as he could, having lashed himself to his dragoon saddle. On the evening of Sept. 17, his "foaming horse half ran, half staggered" down the main street of Independence—five days, 16 hours and 800 miles from Santa Fe. Aubry was cut from the saddle, to which he was affixed not only by the ropes but by his own dried blood. Wobbling to the Noland House, he ate ham and eggs, drank a cup of coffee and then went to bed, leaving a wake-up call for three hours hence. The sympathetic proprietor let him sleep six hours and for his kindness received a tongue lashing. "He was rather wrathy," said an eyewitness of Aubry, "in telling Noland he preferred taking his food and rest in broken doses and that they were working against him with their intended kindness."
Though his own Pony Expressmen were to make some faster sprints of a hundred miles or so, years later Majors maintained that Aubry's ride was "the most remarkable ever made by man," and that only "one in a million" would be courageous enough to even attempt what he had.
Satisfied that neither he nor any other mortal could ride harder, Aubry made no further record attempts. Over the next six years he tried a few other schemes, the last of which was promoting a railroad route that would connect California with the eastern states and pass through Santa Fe, which had become his base of operations and investment. This last hustle led directly to his violent death.
Returning to Santa Fe from a California expedition in August 1854, Aubry went to a cantina to wet his whistle. There he struck up a conversation with one Richard H. Weightman. Having served as a captain in the Mexican War, Weightman had settled in the Southwest, where he practiced law, was elected to Congress and published a newspaper. Like Aubry, he was a prominent man, noted for his courage and quick temper.
There had already been conflict between the two, principally because Weightman and his paper backed a different railroad route from the one Aubry was promoting. In the cantina Aubry started needling Weightman on the subject, asking how his newspaper was doing. (It had gone bankrupt a few months before, as Aubry must have known.) Weightman replied rather amiably that the publication had died a natural death—due to lack of subscribers. Angrily Aubry said it deserved to die because of the lies it had printed and the "abuse" it had heaped on him in regard to railroad politics. Weightman threw his drink in Aubry's face. The little man went for his pistol, but it misfired, sending a slug harmlessly into the ceiling. Weightman had no gun but was packing a Bowie knife.
With one swift pass, he dispatched the Skimmer of the Plains, whose last words were, "Let me bleed." He died on that cantina floor on Aug. 18, 1854, a few months before his 30th birthday.
There was a quick trial, and though Aubry was said to be much the more popular man, the jury acquitted Weightman after less than an hour's deliberation. Community feeling was that, given the prevailing Code of the West, it had been an unlucky but unavoidable accident—one of the men was bound to die and the Skimmer's number had turned.
Aubry was widely eulogized. Among the many obituaries was one that appeared in the Daily Missouri Democrat. It concluded, "Monuments have been raised to men of inferior character and less renown."