Masyn Parker and Dakota Anderson happily flaunted their Hashknife Pony Express bling so local photographer DJ Craig could snap some shots.
The two have grown up in Rim Country together. They’ve come to the Hashknife Pony Express at the Payson post office for as long as they can remember.
Family friend Tawnya Allaire has also been to the Hashknife Pony Express since she moved to Payson when she was in the fifth grade. She’s now brings her little ones to what she went to as a child.
“We love it,” they all said.
Seeing the smiles on children’s faces brings joy to Steve Reynolds’ heart.
The 43-year veteran of the Hashknife ride loves to get into the classrooms to talk about the history of the Pony Express, a mail service that only ran for a year and a half, but has captured the hearts of western history buffs.
“We talk about writing letters,” he said of his classroom visits.
With all the modern ways of communicating instantaneously, learning the age old art of handwriting a letter that a horse then carries for three days appeals to kids’ imagination.
Reynolds said all riders must have a membership with the Navajo County Search and Rescue organization.
“Our primary focus is as a mounted rescue group,” said Reynolds.
He hastened to add there are few rescue groups in Arizona with a mounted unit.
All funds raised from the Pony Express ride go to support Navajo search and rescue, but the organization can serve anywhere in Arizona.
The morning before Reynolds and the other 27 riders arrived in Rim Country, it was a brisk 8 degrees. The horses happily ran to stay warm.
But it wasn’t the brisk pace of the horses that gave the ride one of its fastest times, Reynolds said the riders worked better together.
Riders work in teams. Each rider has a specific milepost. As the team gets close to the milepost, one partner gets his horse out of the trailer and prepares to grab the mail bag out of the incoming rider’s hand.
The partner with the trailer and truck then drives down to the next milepost to pick up the first rider.
The partners then drive to the second rider’s milepost to start the whole process over.
The handoffs, pickups and dropoffs went better than expected this year, said Reynolds. The riders made their way into the area by 3:15 p.m., leaving them plenty of time to ride into the Star Valley park and the Payson post office to enjoy mingling with families and kids like Masyn and Dakota.