Hashknife Pony Express

Part of Arizona's enduring heritage since 1958

The Navajo County Sheriff's Hashknife Posse began making the 200 mile trek from Holbrook to Scottsdale since the 1950s on horseback - and they still do today.

The hooves of galloping horses echo as they pound across a vast expanse of desert and neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night keeps the Hashknife Pony Express from reaching its destination. Every winter since 1958, more than two dozen riders from the Navajo County Sheriff's Hashknife Posse make the 200-mile, 2 ½-day trek from Holbrook to Scottsdale to deliver more than 20,000 pieces of mail and to kick off the annual Parada del Sol, a celebration that revels in popular myths of the American West.

The Hashknife Posse began as a search-and-rescue unit in the mid-1950s, but the Hashknife "brand" began with the rough-and-tumble cowboys who, in the late 1800s, staked out turf for the Aztec Land & Cattle Co., a New York investment company eager to profit off the still untamed land of northern Arizona. The original Hashknife cowboys, whose name came from the shape of the brand on the cattle that looked like the hash knife used by cowboy cooks, have become the subjects of rowdy tall tales that evoke an Old West of turf wars and gunfights, barroom brawls and dance-hall girls.

This "Old West" lies in a grey area between reality and myth, but it is based on the unsettled and unsettling nature of Western expansion during the nineteenth century. Land was up for grabs, ranching opportunities were seized, and settlers pushed the frontier ever forward. It is the spirit, the feeling, of this age of wild possibility that the Hashknife Pony Express resurrects each year in its symbolic ride into Scottsdale. The real Pony Express never operated in Arizona, but for 18 months, from April 1860 to October 1861, it filled the need for a swifter method of communication between the East and West. The completion of a telegraph linking both coasts made the Pony Express unnecessary, but brave young men battling harsh conditions and making their way across long stretches of the countryside remains one of the most popular images of the American West.

Today, the riders of the Hashknife Pony Express, who are not re-enactors but are actually sworn in by the US Postal Service, draw on the icons of the past to bridge the "Old West" and the "New West" and provide a reminder of the pioneering ideals that shaped "the West's most Western town." Even so, it is worth noting that the original Pony Express only operated briefly from 1860 to 1861, before the telegraph made it obsolete, and it never traveled through the Arizona territory.

Audio

The Hashknife Gang Scottsdale's poet laureate Robert "Bob" Frost vividly depicts the iconic ride of the Hashknife Gang. Source: Papago Salado Association/Story Tour Creator: Robert Frost; Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11. Date: 2012

Images

Parada del Sol Program
Parada del Sol Program The roots of the annual Parada del Sol date to the Sunshine Festival of 1951, shortly after Scottsdale branded itself "the West's Most Western Town." It 1953 the Scottsdale Jaycees took charge of the festival and renamed it the Parada del Sol, which is translated as "walk in the sun." The program from 1959 captures the spirit of this annual celebration. Source: Scottsdale Public Library, 014-MAG-JC; Digital: SCOT_HIS_2009_1163. Creator: Charles LaSalle Date: 1959
Galloping into Town
Galloping into Town The ride of the Hashknife Gang is the oldest commemorative Pony Express event sanctioned by the U.S. Postal Service. During the first ride in 1958, a dozen Hashknife Pony Express riders delivered delivered just one letter to then-governor Ernest W. McFarland inviting him to the Parada del Sol rodeo. In this ride, in the 1970s, Banker Myron Deibel is in the middle wearing glasses; Scottsdale Charros and Scottsdale Jaycees member Bill Mack is to the right of Deibel. According to the Scottsdale Public Library catalog other riders are unknown. Source: Scottsdale Public Library; SCOT-HIS-2009-0832 and CCL-HIS-2013-0755; Digital: ccl-his-2013-0755. Date: 1970
Victorious Ride
Victorious Ride In celebration of their annual victorious ride, the Hashknife Gang always stops off for a well-deserved round of drinks at the Rusty Spur. These historical re-enactors ride from Holbrook to the Scottsdale Post Office as part of the Scottsdale Jaycees' annual Parada del Sol event. Source: Scottsdale Public Library CCL-HIS-2013-0755; Digital: ccl-his-2013-0755. Date: 1970
Dedication of the Hashknife Statue
Dedication of the Hashknife Statue Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the Hashknife Pony Express' first ride from Holbrook to Scottsdale, February 1, 2008, also marked the dedication of Scottsdale Public Art's monument to the annual journey. In "Passing the Legacy," local sculptor Herb Mingery (pictured in front of his creation at the dedication with then mayor, Mary Manross) sought to symbolically capture the Old West meeting the New West by depicting a nineteenth-century rider handing off the mailbag to his twenty-first-century counterpart. Source: Scottsdale Public Library, SCOT-HIS-2009-1417; Digital: SCOT_HIS_2009_1417b.jpg. Date: 2008
Passing it Off
Passing it Off Two Hashknife riders demonstrate how the the mailbag is passed from rider to rider as it makes its way from Holbrook to Scottsdale. Source: Petrified Forest National Park
Date: ca. 2012

Location

Metadata

Amy Long, “Hashknife Pony Express,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/4.