Communities join for Pony Express mail delivery

Freedom New Mexico: Karl Terry Steven Lopez, of Rogers, rests his horse Lightning in front the Pep Post Office Saturday after bringing the mail crosscountry from Rogers. Lopez said the ride was rough but the hardest part of the day was catching the horse that morning.

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico

Despite heat, dust and a few slightly uncooperative horses, the mail to Pep got through Saturday.

Normally that’s not a major accomplishment for the tiny little village 23 miles south of Portales but Saturday it arrived from six other southeast New Mexico communities on horseback.

The newly formed Southeast New Mexico Oldtimers Association organized a Pony Express ride to bring the southern Roosevelt County communities together and relive a piece of history.

“We’re just tryin’ to get the community together,” Association President Buster Keener of Pep said. “It seems like we don’t associate like we used to. We’re trying to get people talking to one another.”

Bruce Senior, another organizer, pointed out proudly that most of the more than a dozen riders were extended family members.

“You know the saying it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it took this town and (six) others to give birth to this,” he said, referring to the group’s first Pony Express ride.

For the sake of their horses, riders took a much more leisurely gait than a traditional Express rider, who went at full gallop and changed horses frequently.

Marvin Roberts of Portales, who helped carry the mail in from Elida, said his group did honor the tradition of changing mounts, though, having a horse trailer with fresh horse flesh stationed along the way.

“It was a lot of fun,” Roberts said. “We’re slow mail carriers, though.”

Roberts said he got involved because his granddaughter, who lives in Pep, wanted to ride and he thought it would be fun to go with her.

Asked if the job of Pony Express rider were open today, if he would take it, Roberts was quick with his reply.

“I’m too old,” he said. “Not unless I only had to carry it a few miles everyday.”

While many riders stayed on county roads or even in the right-of-way on N.M. 206, Steven Lopez of Rogers made his way across country on what he figures was about a 16 mile ride. He started a little before 7 a.m. from the Rogers Post Office, where he says he lives. He said it was rough and rocky coming across fields and pastures but he had a good time.

Lopez, the last rider to make it to the Pep Post Office, arrived at 10:30. Pep Post Master Valarie Watson said 287 pieces of official USPS mail arrived on horseback.

Watson and other area postmasters said there was a good bit of red tape involved in getting the USPS to allow the mail to be carried in the old-fashioned mode, but it was worth it.

“I’ve got to thank my fellow postmasters for making this a great event,” Watson said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.

The USPS also authorized a special Pony Express cancellation stamp for mail delivered to Pep that day. People were able to buy stamped envelopes with the cancellation on it for a keepsake or to send to a friend or relative. T-shirts with a map of the various routes were also available. Irene Mapp, postmaster relief at Rogers, designed the stamp, which was also used on the front of the T-shirts.

In the evening a barbecue and dance were held at the Chuck Neece barn just down the road from the post office.

Ag New Mexico supplied the beef and Mark’s Restaurant cooked the barbecue. Joe’s Boot Shop in Clovis supplied prizes and T-shirts.