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Monday, Feb. 27, 2017

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night...

Posted Friday, January 11, 2008, at 7:58 AM

I love the United States Postal Service. It provided much of the income of my parents and grandparents, and had a colorful history that a kid growing up in the 1950's could use to fire the imagination. The Postal Service history dates back officially to 1775, and you can read more at http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub100....

My grandfather was a rural mail carrier in Holt county Nebraska. I suppose he started his route in a Ford Model A, but he turned into a Chevy man after a bad experience with a dealer in Clearwater I think it was. As near as I can tell, he went to great lengths to keep his appointed rounds. Mom tells of a bad blizzard that hit northeastern Nebraska and virtually all country roads were shut down. Since he couldn't drive his mail route, he hired somebody in the area with a plane, and delivered mail and food by air at his expense. After that storm, he and some of his buddy's modified some sort of car into a snow cat. I've got a picture of that machine someplace, and once I find it, I'll post it as it really is something to see. I guess it was a maintenance nightmare, but he was inventive.

My Dad worked for the USPS as a railway mail clerk. His job was to sort mail on moving trains, and I mostly remember when he traveled back and forth from Omaha to Cheyenne on the Union Pacific. The mail trains were passenger affairs, and Mom and I took him downtown now and then to catch a taxi from Omaha to Council Bluffs where his route actually started. The Butternut Coffee plant was downtown, and I remember the smell to this day. Dad's "case" as they were called included Minnesota. Dad sorted mail for Minnesota...land of 10,000 lakes, and there are about that many towns with "Lake" in their name. To sort the mail, you had to memorize a lot of town names, and Dad had to take tests of his knowledge of various "cases". He spent a considerable amount of his own time practicing sorting mail...you would have to see it to believe it. He told stories of train wrecks and storm delays, and showed us the downtown hotel in Cheyenne he spent the night when traveling, and the cafe around the corner that served food around the clock for the train crews.

Being a kid, my Dad had the best job of anybody I knew! In the 50's, TV westerns were filled with train robberies and shootouts with Pinkerton and US Mail Agents chasing the bad guys every Saturday afternoon. Dad had to carry a badge and gun to work, and I suppose some small level of exaggeration on my part made Dad's job sound pretty exciting to my friends.

We love our rural mail service. We've got a shorter walk to the mailbox on the farm than I had in the city, and that old Post Office saying about making their appointed rounds in all types of weather is still true today. Living in the country has afforded us the opportunity to meet a couple of guys that truly risk their lives to get us our mail. Think about some of the bad storms you have had through the years...slippery country roads, washouts, down trees and power lines, but the mail guys got it done one way or the other. Thanks USPS, and especially Scott and Gary...the guys that handle our rural mail route.

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Brian Hoag
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