Hashknife Pony Express
America's longest continuous Pony Express is the Hashknife event that happens every January in Arizona. The route begins in Holbrook and covers over 200 miles, picking up mail at post offices in Heber-Overgaard, Payson, and Fountain Hills. By the time delivery is made to Scottsdale, over 20,000 pieces of mail have traveled via horseback. Since Heber-Overgaard isn't far from my home, hubby and I decided to enjoy some living history. I wrote a letter to myself (photo below) and mailed it at the Heber-Overgaad post office. My letter will receive a special postmark and I'm going to leave it unopened. Perhaps one of my descendant's will open it and say, "That was written by great-great-great grandma." As for myself, I have letters from the late 1800s written by family members to my great-great grandparents that I have framed in special glass so they can be enjoyed for years to come.
This modern day Pony Express has twenty-five riders from every walk of life. I overheard one rider say he is a policeman. Their ages range from young to seasoned. I was interested in how twenty-five men cover 200 miles and was told each man rides approximately one mile before handing off the mail pouch to the next rider. The men have set positions along the route and after finishing a mile, they load their horse onto their trailer, drive to their next location, unload their horse, and wait for the hand off again. It's a lot of work. We followed the riders for about four miles and stopped at their gathering place for lunch. I even got several autographs on the poster I bought (see below).
Since I love Old West history, I had a blast, and hubby, although not a history buff like me, also had fun and took some of the photos below. For anyone interested in this event, click here to go to the Hashknife Pony Express website. I hope this tradition never ends!
As a recap, 2014 was wonderful because hubby and I purchased a home in Arizona after a couple of years "wandering" in our RV. We tried several towns before deciding on the mountains/forests of eastern Arizona. The area is reminiscent of Oregon, a state we love, but without the long winters.
Before moving to our new home, we lived near Sedona, and it was during that time the beautiful red rocks gave me an idea for another historical romance. However, I had to "sit" on the idea for almost a year until my schedule was freed up. In 2015 I began writing HEALING WOMAN OF THE RED ROCKS. Sedona has a wonderful history of its settlement, but I chose a timeline before settlers arrived. More about the story (with photos) at the end of this blog.
The year 2014 was special for another reason. During the summer I was elated to learn that my story ABBY: MAIL ORDER BRIDE, was a finalist in the Readers' Favorite International Book Contest. In the fall, I was notified that I had won the gold medal for historical romance, and in November, hubby and I traveled to Miami for the awards ceremony. Receiving recognition for a story dear to my heart was an honor I will never forget, and never expected.
Also during 2014, I revised and re-released a backlist novella (JAZMINE) and released six new stories (a feat I may never repeat). Two of those stories were in an ongoing series titled ROMANCE ON THE RANCH. Whenever I think I've exhausted that series, a new idea pops into my mind. I'm now pondering an idea for book eight, with a possible title of FORGOTTEN KISSES.
Now, back to 2015...As I said before, I was finally able to begin writing HEALING WOMAN OF THE RED ROCKS, but before that, a friend who lives in Sedona and knows the trails, took me on a hike so I could scout out a location for the story. Here are a few of the photos I snapped.
As for the storyline, it takes place during the 1880s and revolves around a doctor whose wife died of a mysterious illness. Sadly, his daughter is displaying the same symptoms. He is heartbroken over the death of his wife and at a loss as to how to save his daughter. During a chance overhearing of a conversation, he learns of a woman living in the "red rocks" that the Indians call Healing Woman of the Red Rocks. Supposedly, she has great skill in helping humans and animals. After much consideration, he decides to make the long journey with his daughter to seek her help. During their travels they chance upon famous, and not-so-famous, real life characters from the Old West.
As for the Healing Woman, she comes from an ancestry of healers. For years, she has lived alone in the wilderness and helped those who come to her, both human and beast. She is often visited in her dreams by her dead grandmother who always foretells the arrival of a man who is different from the ones she has helped. After so many years, with no one arriving, she wavers in her belief of his existence.
I'm hoping to release the story in April, 2015. Here is an excerpt.
Tana awakened still hearing the echo of her grandmother's words from the realm of dreams. He coming, dearest Tana. He's the one who will make you cry.
Inhaling and slowly exhaling, Tana turned onto her side and yawned. Her grandmother Franny had died when Tana was sixteen and she often visited her granddaughter in dreams, always with the same message about someone coming. Years ago, Tana had eagerly awaited his arrival, but when it never happened, she'd decided her grandmother was confused in her heavenly home. Of course, how that could be so, she'd never found a satisfactory answer.
Tana stretched and watched dawn lighten her window. She loved the golden rays that reached like loving fingers through the precious glass. It was the only window in her cabin with glass and so it remained permanently unshuttered, except in inclement weather. The other windows were shuttered each night, not because she was fearful, but because of all the forest creatures drawn to her small cabin. If the windows were left open, she could awaken to any number of guests--birds, squirrels, raccoons, even an occasional snake.
The sun continued its ascent and Tana scooted to the edge of her bed until the light hit her squarely in the face. Drinking in the warmth of late spring, she pondered Franny's words, He's coming, dearest Tana. He's the one who will make you cry.
Speaking aloud, she said, "Franny, you've been teasing me with those words for years. I'm thirty now and still no one has come. And you know I don't cry. I didn't even cry when you were buried, or Papa or Mama, because I know you're always with me." She chuckled, "I sometimes see you out of the corner of my eye. And I always feel your presence. So, if I don't cry for the departed, why would I cry for a living person?"