BNSF employees deliver mail via Pony Express in Arizona
Post date: Feb 22, 2015 12:30:14 AM
With the help of two determined BNSF employees, the Old West was again brought to life in Arizona for the annual journey of the Hashknife Pony Express.
Each year, the U.S. Postal Service puts its unofficial motto – “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – to the test. Volunteers are sworn in to deliver mail 200 miles from Holbrook, Ariz., to Scottsdale, outside of Phoenix, on the Hashknife Pony Express. The Hashknife was a tool used by chuck wagon cooks to cut meat, which was then often fed to cowboys on the range.
By car, the journey would take just a few hours, but by horseback, it takes riders three days. Shawn Maestas, signal inspector, Holbrook, and Billy Fischer, engineer, Los Lunas, N.M., take vacation to participate each year. Maestas has been riding with the group for seven years, and Fischer has been with the group for more than 25 years.
“It was a tough ride this year. We had a lot of rain, which means you really have to pay attention,” explained Maestas. “It makes everything harder to see – debris on the side of the road, washouts – and it gets slick with metal horseshoes on asphalt.”
But the journey had its highlights. On the Friday prior to Super Bowl Sunday, a rider from Hashknife delivered the Super Bowl picks to commentators live on ESPN.
The mail bags weigh about 30 pounds each, with some 20,000 pieces of mail total. Each rider carries one bag. Mail carried by the Hashknife Pony Express has its own, unique postmark.
There are 28 riders in the posse. Riders rotate in and out, giving their horses breaks along the way. Even with the rain posing a threat to riders and their horses, there were no incidents.
After 57 years, the Hashknife is the oldest officially sanctioned Pony Express in the world. It is considered a historical event by both the Library of Congress for the state of Arizona and the Smithsonian Institute.
About the photos: (Top) Shawn Maestas, signal inspector, and Billy Fischer, engineer, pose for a picture before the ride begins. (Bottom) Maestas carries the mail via horseback during the Hashknife Pony Express. Photo courtesy Ralph Roberts.