Driving home from camping this weekend, I passed a sign in the Mogollon Rim area denoting our highway as Hashknife Pony Express Route. Did you know Arizona has the only pony express that still delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. I didn’t!
The 200 mile ride originates at the Holbrook Post Office in late January/early February. Leaving Holbrook, the posse’s route takes them on Dry Lake Road to Heber, and over the rim for an overnight in Payson, and then on to their campsite on Friday night by the Verde River. Along their route the posse picks up pony express letters from post offices in Heber, Pine, Strawberry, and the riders will be handing off the mailbags every mile or two to the next rider waiting along the roadside. The riders goal is to meet at a full gallop and change bags without breaking strides.
The hand off was repeated with all of the mail bags of thousands of letters, so every pony express letter is carried by horseback before the arrival of the U.S. Mail at the Scottsdale Post Office on Osborne Road. Details of the February 9, 2013 arrival in Scottsdale, Arizona are here.
In 1959 Holbrook postmaster Ernest Hulet helped the Hashknife Search and Rescue posse acquire an official contract with the U.S. Postal Service. I included this fact because I like the idea that this living legacy came into being because of the novel idea of one man.
This was the birth of the Hashknife Pony Express and it has since become an exciting part of the history of Arizona from Holbrook to Payson to Scottsdale. The original Pony Express Route did not pass through Arizona, but the riders in Arizona effectively capture the spirit and accomplishment of the original riders.
To mail a letter in the 55th Annual Pony Express (2013), postal patrons are to address their envelopes in the normal manner with the correct postage. In the lower-left hand corner, write “Via Pony Express”. This letter is then to be sent inside of another envelope addressed to the Holbrook Postmaster, Holbrook, Arizona 86025.
To learn more about the route and the significance of the original Pony Express in uniting mid-west to the West Coast, read about it on Wikipedia’s Pony Express article. To follow the history of the Hash Knife Pony Express riders, visit the Holbrook Historical Society. The National Park Service has created a Pony Express National Historic Trail which mimics the lines of the original Pony Express.
P.S. Lexicology Note: The hashknife design was taken from the knives used by cattle camp cooks to cut beef and vegetables into cubes to make hash. The blade was a 180 degree curve with tails on the ends of it. A straight shaft connected the middle of the blade to a handle so the cook could rock the blade back and forth easily. A major advantage of using this design for a brand was that it was difficult for rustlers to superimpose another brand on top of it.