Sat, Feb

The Pony Express rides again

Camp Verde News
Neither rain nor snow, the saying goes, will keep the mail from going through. Last Friday, the local Pony Express lived up to that credo.

Pony_Express_2The men of the White Mountain Sheriff’s Posse rode into Camp Verde after a three-day journey from Pinetop/Lakeside, a leather bag of mail in tow.

It was the third year in a row the riders marched their horses down Main Street to Wingfield Plaza, the site of the town’s original post office in the days when the Old West wasn’t old at all.

While they arrived on schedule, the season’s storms had left much of their usual route over the rim impassible; the riders had to find a new way to get the mail to Camp Verde.

The posse has been doing this sort of thing for nearly half a century. It started as a way for the men to get their horses limbered up for rescuing unprepared people stranded in the middle of nowhere or to help people that just experienced some bad luck, no matter how prepared they were.

Horses have fallen out of fashion in the rescue community in favor of reliable off-road vehicles, but the tradition kept going strong.

The posse was escorted down Main Street by members of the Camp Verde Cavalry dressed up in their 19th century finest, greeted by a small group of residents who turned out to welcome the men to the end of their ride.

It wasn’t just for show. The posse was carrying legitimate U.S. mail, collected from special mailboxes set up along their route. The letters and cards in those boxes will receive a special cancellation stamp, something that attracts the interest of collectors and enthusiasts across the country and even overseas.

In the past, the posse has delivered mail for people as far away as Germany.

Acting Postmaster Monica Loop was waiting at Wingfield Plaza to take the mail from the riders.

“You’ve used your form of horsepower to get the mail here,” Loop told the posse. “Now the postal service will use our horsepower to deliver it the rest of the way.”

Pony_Express_1Cavalry member Howard Parrish said the group used to never ride to the same place more than once, but they have returned to Camp Verde because of the welcome they’ve received here. The welcome goes beyond a simple “thanks for coming.” The posse joined other residents later in the evening for a catered banquet at Field of Dreams on Montezuma Castle Highway.

Parrish said the posse also provides a slight economic boon to Camp Verde, because the men and their families stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants.

Mayor Bob Burnside also welcomed the large group of men on horseback.

“We’re glad to see you here for a third time,” Burnside said. “And we hope to have you back for a fourth and fifth time.”