For nearly half a century, a group of men have saddled up to commemorate the riders of the Pony Express. They ride and relay mail from Holbrook to Scottsdale, stopping in communities all along the Rim.
The 49th annual ride of the Hashknife Pony Express arrives in Payson on Jan. 31. The Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff's Posse will leave Holbrook the morning of Jan. 31 and reach the Payson Post Office around 4:45 p.m.
"We all line up at Rim Country Mall, then go to Corral West Ranchwear for photos, then ride to the Payson Post Office," said Chuck Jackman, assistant trail boss and a Payson resident.
He said 62 people will be taking part in the 2007 ride -- 35 will be riding, the others are support personnel.
This year's commemorative mailer, which can be purchased at the post office for $1, tells the tale of the Hashknife tradition.
The Hashknife Pony Express tradition began in January 1958, with riders carrying an official proclamation announcing the beginning of Parada del Sol in Scottsdale, which is the country's largest horse-drawn parade. Some members are actually members of the sheriff's posse, others are Scottsdale Jaycees, and the balance are invited guests.
All are sworn in as official mail messengers of the U.S. Postal Service and carry the commemorative Pony Express mail, which is hand-stamped with a special cache and hand-canceled.
"We're the only group in the U.S. allowed to hand-stamp and hand-cancel the mail," Jackman said.
Prior to the arrival of the Hashknife Pony Express on Jan. 31, a variety of events are planned in which riders will participate.
School visits are planned next week. Participating riders will be at Pine School Wednesday, Jan. 17; and on Jan. 19 at Payson Elementary, Frontier Elementary and Julia Randall.
Hashknife representatives will be at the Payson Town Hall council chambers at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, to accept the community's official proclamation announcement.
The following week, there will be a "meet and greet" for the riders at Main Street Grille, 202 W. Main St. in Payson, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26. The evening will feature live music and refreshments. Representatives from the group will also be making appearances on both KMOG, at 9 a.m., and KCMA, at 10:10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26.
There are two additional events planned for the Hashknife visit in Payson on Jan. 31. A dinner will be held at Mazatzal Casino at 6:30 p.m. and a gathering at the Ox Bow Saloon at 9 p.m. Tickets to the dinner can be purchased from Assistant Trail Boss Chuck Jackman, call him at (928) 238-0090.
The visit by the Hashknife Pony Express to Payson and other Rim Country communities is made possible through the sponsorship of various businesses and assistance by several individuals.
Area sponsors for the ride are the Town of Payson, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Tonto Apache Tribe and Mazatzal Casino, Corral West Ranchwear, the Ox Bow Saloon, Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern and the U.S. Postal Service.
Local individuals helping Jackman with the portion of the event held in Payson are veterinarian Dr. Drew Justice, Rim Country Hay & Grain, and Doug Belcher with Truck/Trailer Repair.
To send mail via Pony Express with a commemorative mailer, return the mailer with a first class stamp to clerks at the post offices by Jan. 26.
The mailers, along with posters and a limited number of calendars are available at the post office. Mailers are $1. Posters and calendars are $10. Mailers can also be purchased at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Hashknife Pony Express riders will leave the Payson Post Office at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1.
For more information about the ride or to purchase dinner tickets, call Jackman at (928) 238-0090.