The cry of "Hashknife" sounds out on a frosty January morning, as the first leg of the 200 mile trip over the Mogollon Rim is started from the Holbrook, Arizona Post Office.
For over 50 years members of the Navajo County Sheriff's Pose, under the oldest continuous official contract with the U.S. Postal Service, has carried the U.S. Mail from Holbrook to Scottsdale, via "pony express"
The Hashknife Posse was organized in 1955 as a search and rescue team for the Navajo County Sheriff. In 1957 the posse borrowed the style of the country's original Pony Express and 27 posse riders carried an invitation for Governor Paul Fannin, who was then Arizona's governor, to attend the posse's annual Hashknife Stampede in Holbrook. That first ride was in March and took 26 hours of straight riding.
From this first ride, the idea of an annual Pony Express was born.
They rode to Phoenix again in 1958, and in 1959, then Holbrook's Postmaster Ernest Hulet helped the posse acquire an official contract with the U.S. Postal Service. This was the birth of the annual Hashknife Pony Express Ride that has become part of history for Holbrook, Navajo County and the state of Arizona.
Each year the posse riders receive the oath of office from the Holbrook Postmaster authorizing them to carry the U.S. Mail by Pony Express..
The Holbrook Chamber of Commerce hosts a send-off dinner for the posse riders each year.
The 2011 Pony Express ride started from the Holbrook Post Office. Leaving Holbrook, the posse's annual 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 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 Osborn Road.
Designated Pony Express letters are each stamped with a special cachet that is a collector's item. Letters that are mailed from the Holbrook Post Office are also stamped with an official Pony Express Station cachet. Once the Pony Express Mail is delivered to the Scottsdale Post Office, it is then delivered to the addressee by conventional mail delivery.
The Hashknife Posse has already been making plans for its 54th anniversary ride in February 2012. Every year the number of letters designated for the Pony Express Ride increase, coming from all corners of the world.
To mail a letter in the 54th Annual Pony Express, 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. All letters for the 2012 Pony Express Ride must be received at the Holbrook Post Office before the ride in late January.
Holbrook has established a committee for a commemorative statue of two posse riders exchanging the mail bag. Plans are being finalized for a larger than life bronze statue or alternative artwork to be placed in the community's Living West Park.
Final details on the project will be updated on this website. For further information or to support the project, persons may contact the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce. Mark Reynolds is the posse captain, and he may be reached through 928-524-4155. The Hashknife Posse, which is a 501-C organization, is presently updating its website that may be found on the link from the chamber's web page.
The Holbrook Chamber of Commerce invites the public to help relive the Old West each year by mailing Pony Express Letters, or to visit Holbrook during the Pony Express activities and capture the ride's spirit in person.
The Historical Society maintains a museum in the Historic County Courthouse in Holbrook, where a visitor's center and chamber offices are also located. Included in the museum's exhibits is a display of Hashknife Posse and Pony Express items that visitors are invited to view.
By Jo Lynn Fox (With Many Thanks From the Chamber!)