Hashknife Time

Relish rowdiness; honor the tradition of Pony Express

Hashknife Pony Express riders know they are close to their goal when they gallop into the Payson Post Office paarking lot.

Hashknife Pony Express riders know they are close to their goal when they gallop into the Payson Post Office paarking lot. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Happy moments are here and now, taking in these sights and sounds and Western smells, one cannot find anywhere else in the world.

It’s Hashknife time. The 55th Annual Hashknife Pony Express comes to Payson Wednesday, Jan. 30.

You can bet Rim Country youngsters are already looking forward to some rowdy times. The children learned about the annual event Jan. 9 when riders visited area schools.

Pony Express drawings from Rim Country school children are in the post offices in both Payson and Pine this week. This year, organizers of the program had judges (the postal workers) award the best efforts in each class with blue, red and white ribbons. The honors will be displayed along with the prize-winning pictures.

Riders are expected at the Payson Post Office around 4:45 p.m., Jan. 30.

A dinner for the Hashknife Riders is planned that evening at Tiny’s Family Restaurant, 600 E. Highway 260 Payson. A social hour is set from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the roast beef buffet dinner following at 7 p.m. There will be a dance at the Oxbow afterward.

The cost is $20 per person. For tickets call Bonnie at (928) 951-6536. She recommends making reservations by Friday, Jan. 25.

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Dreams will play in his mind of a fast horse and mail to be delivered and he, above all, will be the hero.

The riders will leave from the Payson Post Office at 10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 31 and head to Scottsdale where they ceremonially lead the annual Parada del Sol.

On the average, three-dozen members of the posse go on the ride. Their route takes them through Holbrook, Heber, Payson, and side trip to Pine, Sunflower, Rye and Scottsdale.

The Hashknife group originally referred to the crew of cowboys that worked a large Arizona ranch. The name was adopted by the Navajo County Sheriff’s Posse, based in Holbrook. The ride in honor of the Pony Express was started in 1959 and has since attracted many participants from outside the posse.

About the Pony Express (from Wikipedia)

The first Pony Express ride started from the Pikes Peak Stables in St. Joseph, Mo. April 3, 1860. The rider ran the first leg of a 2,000-mile journey to Sacramento, Calif.

In St. Joseph, the stables are still standing and serve as a museum honoring this fleeting part of the Old West.

The Pony Express only operated for 18 months, from April 1860 to October 1861, when the telegraph replaced it.

Largely California’s newfound prominence and its rapidly growing population prompted the idea of a fast mail route to the Pacific coast. After gold had been discovered there in 1848, thousands of prospectors, investors and businessmen made their way to the California Republic. By 1850 California entered the Union as a free state. By 1860 the population had grown to 380,000. The demand for a faster way to get mail and other communications to and from this western most state became even greater as the American Civil War approached.

William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell were the founders of the Pony Express.

By having a short route and using mounted riders rather than traditional stagecoaches, their proposal was to establish a fast mail service between St. Joseph, Mo. and Sacramento, Calif., with letters delivered in 10 days — something many said was impossible.

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Hard riding can wear your body like an old boot that doesn't fit anymore.

Russell, Majors and Waddell organized and put together the Pony Express in two months in the winter of 1860. The undertaking involved 120 riders, 184 stations, 400 horses and several hundred personnel during January and February 1860.

The Pony Express stations were about 10 miles apart; this was roughly the distance a horse could travel at a gallop before tiring. At each station stop the express rider would change to a fresh horse, taking only the mail pouch with him.

The employers stressed the importance of the pouch. They often said that, if it came to be, the horse and rider should perish before the pouch did. Riders, who could not weigh over 125 pounds, changed about every 75 to 100 miles and rode day and night. In emergencies, a given rider might ride two stages back to back, over 20 hours on a quickly moving horse.

The riders received $25 per week as pay. A comparable wage for unskilled labor at the time was about $1 per week.

Sorry, Willie and Waylon got it wrong when they advised, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” — not when the babies are as cute as the ones pictured. Check it out for yourself when the Hashknife Pony Express Riders come to Payson the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 30. The riders are expected at the post office at 4:45 p.m. You can also check out the great art work by the babies at area elementary schools prepared to welcome the riders. Both the Payson and Pine post offices are displaying art work by area elementary students and the best work has blue, red and white ribbons attached.

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