Photo courtesy of the Navajo County Historical Society
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Hashknife Posse was organized in 1955 as a search and rescue group. The original members included (front row, left to right) Jack Woods, Cephas Perkins, Roy Downing, Charlie Jennings, (middle row) Allen Hensley, Ben Pearson, Bobby Koury, Dutch Rupky, C.F. Lee, (back row) Vic Gerwitz, Harvey Randall, Ted Gerwitz, Harve Smithson, Art Whiting and Grant Brinkerhoff.
By Nolan Madden
With Hashknife Pony Express Week on its way, the Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse continues its courier legacy.
The anniversary also tips another hat the posse riders wear, as Posse Captain Mark Reynolds explained to Mayor Tyler and the city council this month.
“Even though we’re one entity, this is also the 60th year for the Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse Search and Rescue, and the 58th year of the Pony Express,” said Reynolds.
According to historical accounts, the crew handled one of its first rescue operations in the winter of 1957, when a military plane crash landed northwest of Joseph City.
The U.S. Navy had lost contact with the craft and had called Winslow law enforcement, who in turn called the Holbrook Sheriff’s Office, who sent original posse members Harvey Randall and Cephas Perkins out to investigate.
Randall and Perkins radioed for more posse member assistance as needed, eventually locating and transporting all 11 airmen back to safety. The two reportedly received a letter from the Defense Department thanking them for their efforts.
Holbrook Chamber of Commerce Director Billie Anne Perkins, who is a granddaughter of Cephas, noted, “There is so much history with the Hashknife Posse. Throughout the year, if a citizen is lost or missing, or if the authorities are trying to track down a criminal and need extra search support, they will call out the sheriff’s posse.”
Although some of the original searches were mobilized on horseback, Perkins noted that motorized transport is used today. “My dad doesn’t ride by horseback anymore, but he’s got an Arctic Cat ATV that he uses for search-and-rescue, and a lot of the other riders have four-wheelers,” she said.
She recalls, “I can remember being about 5 or 6 years old when my dad was called for a search and rescue. It was for a little boy; he was 2 years old, and was also blind and deaf.
“He had wandered away from camp in the middle of the night. It was in the late fall. He couldn’t hear the searchers calling for him and he couldn’t see where he was going. Somehow, he’d managed to crawl underneath a bush and fell asleep. But my dad found him.”
Perkins also relates that four years ago the posse dispatched in response to a citizen in mental distress spotted wandering on Interstate 40 east of Holbrook. The disoriented individual was located by posse member Cameron Reidhead near Reidhead’s family ranch.
“The posse really does a lot,” she said.
“Hashknife Posse Week is a big thing. We’re excited to have the upcoming parade for them, because we really want to build the public’s interest. Coming from the posse family, it’s tradition.”