While the community is enjoying the Butterfield Rodeo and other events this weekend, eight different people on horseback will be making their way from Benson to Dragoon in three different segments of the trip.
They’re Benson’s very own Pony Express team, riding in shifts as the first two riders carry mail from the Arena Bar to an exchange point where three other team members on fresh horses will meet them, take the saddlebags of mail and move onto the next exchange point. The 20-mile trip will be accomplished in three different legs, with fresh riders and horses relieving those that arrive at two exchange points along the route.
When the final three riders arrive at the Dragoon Post Office, located at 4752 Dragoon Road, they will be greeted with a celebration on that end of the Butterfield festivities, with live music, a cheering crowd and refreshments. The celebration at the end of the ride, expected to start sometime between 3:30 and 4 p.m., was organized by members of the community with help from the Dragoon Women’s Club as a way to thank the eight riders for their participation, said Darcia Bernard, president of the women’s club.
“When we first started doing this, very few people were at the post office to greet the Pony Express riders when they arrived,” said Debi Conyer, postmaster relief for the Dragoon Post Office. “Kyle Allgood, who was one of the riders for years, took the initiative and started organizing the celebration, which is something I think the riders really appreciate.”
When the three riders arrive, Conyer will take the saddlebags, sort the envelopes and send the out-of-town deliveries to Tucson. Envelopes going to Dragoon addresses will be kept at the post office for delivery from there.
All eight mail carriers will be sworn-in as official U.S. Postal Service Pony Express riders on the day of the ride, Conyer said. Cindy Allen, who is the Pony Express ride manager, will be riding in the first leg of the trip when it leaves the Arena Bar at noon. As part of the kick-off, she will give a brief history of the Pony Express and talk about why it is celebrated as part of the Butterfield Stage Days event in Benson.
“While the Pony Express never came through Benson, we deliver the mail by horseback to commemorate the Butterfield Stage’s role in this area,” said Allen. “It wasn’t feasible to find a stagecoach to make the trip from Benson to Dragoon, but we could do it with horseback riders.”
Samantha Jepson will be accompanying Allen on the first leg of the ride when they leave the Arena Bar, while Laura Pittman, Julia Hand and Vanessa Anglin will be riding together on the second stretch, followed by the final three riders, Mark Turbes, Doralee Hill and Susan Dedrick-Shuford.
At approximately 10 miles, the third leg of the ride, which goes from Sibyl Road to the Dragoon Post Office, is the longest of the three.
Commemorative Pony Express envelopes will be available for purchase at the Benson Museum, 180 South San Pedro St., on Thursday and at a special booth located at the Arena Bar on Saturday.
For those wanting a photo of themselves with an official U.S. Postal Service Pony Express Rider, Steve Sacco of the Postal Annex will be available to snap photos as a fundraiser for the Pony Express team. All proceeds will benefit the Benson Food Pantry.