Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night will stay this year's Hashknife riders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Folks who want to get their mail specially delivered by the oldest official re-enactment of the original Pony Express ride have until 4 p.m., Jan. 30 to drop off their letters at the Payson post office.
Special envelopes are available for $1 each, and are available at the Payson post office while supplies last. The tri-fold envelope bears a picture of a rider, a brief history of the Pony Express and plenty of room for a personal message.
Posters of the event, created by Arizona artist Ken Freeman, also are available for $10 each.
Correspondents who want to have their letters delivered by the Pony Express should address an envelope to themselves or a friend or relative, affix a first-class postage stamp, and write "via Pony Express" in the lower left corner.
Place the letter(s) in a larger envelope with proper postage, and mail it either to Pony Express, Postmaster, Holbrook, AZ 86025-9998, or Pony Express, Postmaster, Scottsdale, AZ 85251-9998.
The Hashknife riders arrive at the Payson post office at about 4 p.m. Jan. 31. At that time, they'll pick up the mail and secure it for the night before heading to the Hashknife celebration at the Mazatzal Casino.
Those interested in attending the celebration, which will include a dinner and dance, can purchase tickets by calling Julia at 474-6044, ext. 121. Tickets are $18 each.
The dinner will begin at 7 p.m. and will include a prime rib and chicken buffet, followed by music by Clay Sopeland and New Breed.
Pony Express at a glance
The history of the Pony Express is a short but colorful one. The following are the highlights:
Purpose: To provide the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif.
Date: April 3, 1860, to late October 1861.
Mechanics: Relay of mail by horses and riders. The Pony Express ran day and night, summer and winter.
Riders: 183 men are known to have ridden for the Pony Express during its operation of a little more than 18 months.
Rider Qualifications: Ad in California newspaper read: "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." Most riders were around 20. Youngest was 11. Oldest was mid-40s. Not many were orphans. Usually weighed around 120 pounds.
Riders Pay: $100 per month.
Number of stations: about 165.
Trail Length: Almost 2,000 miles.
Cost of Mail: $5 per half ounce at the beginning. By the end of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1 per half ounce.
Telegraph Completed: Oct. 24, 1861. Official end of the Pony Express.
Source: the staff at the Pony Express National Memorial and the St. Joseph Museum.
"Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."
This was the advertisement that appeared in an 1860 California newspaper, trying to lure adventurous young men to join the Pony Express. While the mail delivery system lasted only a short time it was deemed obsolete in October 1861 with the advent of the telegraph the legends of the Pony Express live on in American lore.
Hashknife Pony Express schedule of events
Jan. 30, 2 p.m. Riders sworn in as "official mail messengers" at Holbrook post office.
Jan. 31, 8 a.m. Riders leave with U.S. mail and make stops in Heber and Pine, with the latter arrival roughly estimated at 1:30 p.m., depending on weather and other potentially detrimental conditions.
Jan. 31, 4 p.m. All 30 riders arrive en mass at the Payson post office.
Feb. 1, 9 a.m. Riders leave Payson for Fountain Hills.
Feb. 1, 2 p.m. Riders arrive at Fountain Hills post office.
Feb. 2, 9 a.m. Riders leave Verde River campsite.
Feb 2, high noon: Riders gallop south on Scottsdale Road to the Scottsdale main post office and deliver all the mail to both the postmaster and mayor of Scottsdale.