The Pony Express Rides Again

Some of Today's Pony Express

Some of Today’s Pony Express

Have you ever gotten a tardy piece of mail and joked, “It must have come by Pony Express?” Of course, we all learned about the Pony Express in school, right? I remember that I did–and I loved it. It was one of the few bits of history that starred horses! But that’s what it always was to me, and I’ll bet to you, too–history. Until I moved to Holbrook.

 Here’s the background to my story: In the 1880’s,  there was a ranch near Holbrook owned by The Aztec Land and Cattle Company. The brand of that ranch was the hashknife, which, in case you’re interested, was the knife the cowboy cooks used to cut up the leftover meat into small bits for breakfast hash. If you look at the picture on the left, you can see a couple of white mugs on the table in front of the men, and the black or red design on them is the famous hashknife brand. The Hashknife cowboys were known in our area for a lot of things, including–I must admit it–being hell-raisers. But none the less, they were glorious hell-raisers, who left a legend behind. The Hashknife Pony Express and the Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse carry their name. 

In 1958, the Hashknife Pony Express began carrying the mail between Holbrook and Scottsdale once a year, in January, to correspond with–and lead–Scottsdale’s Parada del Sol, a huge horse-drawn parade. Up here in Holbrook, nobody cares much about the parade at the far end, but the carrying of the mail has an amazing cachet to it. 

The Pony Express riders will be sworn in as official mail messengers of the US Postal Service today at noon, and tomorrow morning will begin their mountainous 200 mile ride from Holbrook to Scottsdale. If you wish, you can mail letters which will have a special cancellation and be carried by the Pony Express. You still have to stamp your letters in the normal way, of course. You have to admit, it’s sort of cool. In fact, people around the world send letters to Holbrook to be carried and stamped in this way. 

The actual ride is still cold, often snowy, and arduous, but made a bit easier than in was in the Pony Express days that we learned about in school. There are horse trailers and relays of horses and riders, but it still takes a couple of days to get from here to the Valley. The riders camp out at night, eat cowboy food, and (I’ve heard), carry on a little in the old Hashknife tradition. But they plan for the ride all year, and they take it really seriously, as does the community.  

Last year, Jeff and I didn’t attend the send-off dinner. It sounded like grown-ups playing Cowboys and Indians to us, uninitiated as we were. But we see it a little differently now and understand it better. You see, for some of the Hashknife membership, who are children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of area settlers, this isn’t a game to them, it’s living history. Their history. And they feel passionate about keeping it alive. Why not? So last night, we went to the dinner, along with friends, and we enjoyed the cowboy beans, barbequed pork, and cornbread with the Pony Express. When in Rome, after all…Next year, cowboy hats? Who knows?

Our friend and former Navajo County Sheriff's Deputy John May

Our friend and former Navajo County Sheriff’s Deputy John May


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by James Ombrello on January 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Hello— How fun for you two to go to the dinner this year. I hope our staying with you last year didn’t prevent you doing this last year, but we certainly enjoyed being with you and being part of the pony express ride from Holbrook the morning we left for Phoenix. We took pictures along the way and it was exciting to witness this annual ride. Thank you for this posting that brought back such good memories of last year’s visit and the special time with you two. P.S.– (I don’t think we’ve played Hand & Foot since then….so, Jeff, we will be waiting for the next games!!)

    Love, Karen & Jim P.P.S.—- Last night we were at a concert here and so enjoyed it…….It was Jay & the Americans…….Mary, didn’t we so to their concert at Northern when we were in college? It was in the spring……. right?


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