“I am bold. I smoke a big black cigar. I drink whiskey. I carry a pistol. I love adventure. I am independent. Nobody tells me what to do. Nobody tells me where to go. You got a problem with that?”
Applying at the age of 63 for the job of driving a mail coach, Mary Feilds listed as one of her credentials that she “would knock out any man with one punch.” For the interview she and a dozen old west cowboys were asked to hitch a team of six horses to a stagecoach as quickly as possible. Mary won hands down. She hitched the horses, ran to the saloon for a shot, returned to the interview and smoked a cigar while laughing at the other cowpokes still working at it. She got the job, becoming the 2nd woman ever, and the 1st black person of any gender, to work for the U.S. Post Office. She never missed a day of work, was never late once, and never failed to deliver a single letter. If the snow was too deep for her horses, she delivered the mail herself on snowshoes carrying the sacks over her shoulders.
She'd worked on riverboats in Mississippi, and been a nun until the convent decided she was a bit rough for the business. Mary had a standing bet at her local saloon: Five bucks & a glass of whiskey said she could knock out any cowboy in Cascade, Montana, with a single punch. According to her obituary in Great Falls Examiner “she broke more noses than any other woman in Central Montana.”
Stagecoach Mary's life was for more exciting than anything most people will probably ever experience. She fought wolves, trudged through the freezing rain, drank hard, brawled harder, revolted against every cultural stereotype the planet had to offer, and routinely punched out cowboys half her age. Imagine receiving your mail from such a person!
“Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.” -Gary Cooper