Galloping back in time with the Pony Express
BENSON — A group of men on horseback rode into the Benson Post Office late Saturday morning delivering saddlebags of mail.
Nineteen riders, members of the Navajo County White Mountain Sheriff’s Posse Search and Rescue team, rode 235 miles from the Lakeside, Arizona, post office to Benson. The 48th annual White Mountain Pony Express Mail Ride started Wednesday morning after the horsemen were officially sworn in by a postmaster at Lakeside, with the group arriving in Benson around 11 a.m. Saturday.
The commemorative ride is organized to recreate a glamorized era of Western history that lasted a mere 18 months — between April 1860 and October 1861. The original Pony Express, which delivered mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, covered an 1,800-mile stretch and took riders 10 days as they carried the mail across rugged country in shifts.
In that brief amount of time, the Pony Express became synonymous with the Old West.
“This ride took us about three-and-a-half days from start to finish,” said Teryl Murray, a sixth-generation Cochise County native, who now lives in Linden, west of Show Low. “We started out with 21 riders, and came into Benson with 19.”
Born and raised in Cochise County, Murray is a 1992 Benson High School graduate who grew up on the Fourr-F ranch in the Dragoon Mountains. He is the son of Theresa Wick of Hereford and David Murray of Cochise, and is the great, great, great-grandson of William Fourr, who established the Fourr-F ranch.
Murray has been riding horses, working cattle, and ranching for as long as he can remember.
He joined the all-volunteer Navajo County Sheriff’s Posse in 2010, and participates on the Pony Express rides every year. He is now captain of the group. While the rides frequently go from Lakeside to Globe, Murray said they have also delivered mail to Camp Verde, Tucson, Phoenix and Reserve, New Mexico, to name some of the destinations.
As this year’s captain and trail boss, Murray wanted the ride to end in Benson, in honor of his Cochise County roots.
The group averaged between 70 and 80 miles a day.
“From Lakeside, our first stop was in Sawmill, which was about a 65-mile ride that day,” Murray said. “We went through the town of San Carlos and camped between Winkelman and Mammoth, rode through Casabel and camped at the Three Links shipping corrals about 12 miles north of here (Benson) before riding into the post office.”
Murray’s mother, Theresa Wick, was among the crowd of spectators at the post office to greet the riders when they arrived.
“Teryl was raised around horses, and loves these kinds of adventures. I’m very proud of him, and am really excited they chose to ride into Benson this year,” said Wick, who is a 1972 Benson High School grad.
Along with commemorating the iconic mail-delivery service that traversed the West beginning just before the outbreak of the Civil War, the Sheriff’s Posse uses the ride as a way to condition its horses and make sure equipment is in good working order as the search-and-rescue team prepares for the start of the rescue season, Murray said.
Once in the Benson area, the Sheriff’s Posse Pony Express was joined by seven Benson Pony Express riders who rode with the visitors from Pomerene Road, along Fourth Street to Ocotillo.
Mark Sterling has been a member of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Posse for 38 years, and is a past trail boss and captain.
“I look forward to this ride every year,” he said. “It’s great sleeping on the ground, under the stars, living the dream. We have a great bunch of guys here, and we all enjoy each other’s company.”
Sterling said in two years, when the Pony Express riders celebrate their 50th anniversary, they want to reverse the route.
“We’re talking about starting outside of town and riding into Pinetop for our 50th ride,” he said.https://www.myheraldreview.com/news/community/galloping-back-in-time-with-the-pony-express/article_c0df3ef0-4853-11e8-a58f-03bde99f6357.html