Pony Express marks 48th ride

The Navajo County Sheriff's Hashknife Posse will mark its 48th year of carrying the U.S. Mail by horseback to the Valley in 2006.

Regardless of weather conditions each winter, the posse has carried the mail on the 200-mile ride over the Mogollon Rim and on to Scottsdale. It is the longest continuous pony express ride sanctioned by the U.S. Postal Service.

This year the posse riders will gather in Holbrook Jan. 31, where they will visit the schools to pick up designated pony express mail. At 2 o'clock that afternoon, Holbrook Postmaster Robin Hurtado will administer the oath of office to posse members in front of the mural at Living West Park in downtown Holbrook. The riders will also spend time at the post office to help postmark the thousands of letters they will carry with them.

A send-off dinner will be hosted that evening by the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce at the Elks Lodge. There will be a social hour at 6 p.m., and the chicken-fried steak dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tickets for the dinner are available from the chamber at $9 for adults and $7 for children 12 years and under by calling 524-6558 or stopping by the chamber office, located in the historic courthouse at 100 E. Arizona St.

A pre-ride breakfast will be hosted by the Holbrook Senior Center at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The public is welcome to attend. Breakfast will be served for $4 per person.

The first bag of pony express mail will leave the Holbrook Post Office at 8 a.m. that morning. Posse Captain Mark Reynolds will start the 2006 ride, taking the mailbag to the first relay point on State Route 77, where he will pass it on to the next rider.

The riders also collect pony express letters from post offices along the route to Heber and Payson, where they spend their first night on the trail. On the second day, Thursday, Feb. 2, the riders will continue from Payson to their campsite on the Verde River, just outside of Scottsdale. On Friday, Feb. 3, the posse will carry the mailbags into Scottsdale, where they will deliver the mail to Scottsdale's main post office on Osborn Road.

Postal patrons may now deposit letters they would like to send via pony express in the special canister at the Holbrook Post Office, or enclose the pony express letter in another envelope and mail it to the Holbrook Postmaster, Holbrook, Ariz. 86025.

Letters to be carried by the posse riders should be addressed in the normal manner with the required postage. In the lower left-hand corner, "Via Pony Express Mail" should be written.

Each letter carried by the posse on the 2006 pony express rider will have special cancellation stamp that will be treasured by stamp collectors. In addition, letters deposited at the Holbrook Post Office will carry an official postal cancellation stamp.

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