You’ve Got Mail—Maybe. Rural Post Offices in a Cyber Age

Update–April 2017:

Dog attacks on postal workers surge with package delivery spike–it’s “Dog Bite Prevention Week.”

Earlier links: (1) This article/podcast looks at the future of the Postal Service. (2) This article from Harvest Media looks at how small towns will be affected by post office cutbacks, and  (3) this piece from the Daily Download gives a view about how the magazine industry will be impacted. The following blog is a look at some of the intangibles about letters, mail delivery, and rural post offices.

You Had Mail–The excitement of a special letter in the mailbox

During the summer of 1961 I turned eleven, and for several days in early July, I’d walk up the quarter-mile lane on our farm to check the mailbox. If the mail hadn’t arrived yet, I’d look to the north, watching for a vapor trail of dust rising along the gravel road. “Come on. Bring it today.” I was waiting for an envelope from the Minnesota Twins. Somehow I’d talked my parents into letting me order tickets for a game in Metropolitan Stadium—our nearest field of dreams, some five hours north.

Of course, it’s easier nowadays to print e-tickets for flights or send out a cyber birthday card complete with awkwardly posed family members. Communication is instant. That’s progress. But I still think communities will lose something if rural post offices close. It might be gradual. Saturday service fades. The postmaster is replaced by a part-timer. Eventually the building is carted away on some huge flatbed truck. It gets quiet on Main Street in Pleasantville when the Post Office floats away.
For some, the post office is a connection to the outside world. A small town deliverer might slow down for a bit of small talk. Shut-ins and the elderly often receive medicine by mail, and at times, postal workers have had to be medics for someone in need.  My brother walks a route in a college town and says he’s pleasantly surprised that young people still enjoy receiving real mail. “They may be surgically attached to their smart phones,” he said, “but they still love getting a package from home.”
My brother knows the feeling. He was nineteen in army boot camp, and since we’re a family of letter writers, he scored big at mail call. “I loved it,” he says, “but there’s a downside. The drill sergeant got sick of hearing my name called, so he started making me drop and do push-ups for each new letter. And when Mom sent a package of cookies, well, I’d be lucky to keep more than two for myself.”
Postal blood runs deep in our family. For years, my parents have sent out two hundred or more newsletters each month. Dad writes a down-home letter about family, friends, and rural life—Mom does the mailing. “Self-sealing envelopes and sticky stamps saved my tongue,” she said. These two had set up their own snail-mail twittersphere well before Ashton Kutcher was out of diapers.
My other brother is the postal road warrior of the family. Early in the morning, he sorts mail in a small town with a crew of joke-telling Cliff Clavins. Then he hits the trail ready for dust, deer, mud, manure spreaders, and whatever else rural roads throw at him. Rural carriers can be the main contact for those on remote farms. A bachelor farmer might meet for a short chat or stand at the box waiting for a much-needed item he’s ordered. My brother noticed one elderly widow didn’t get her mail, so he checked the house, and in the end had to make that final, sad call to the authorities.  “That was tough,” he said. “People have fallen or are sick and need help, but things can be light-hearted too.”
At holiday time, he has found cookies or even apple crisp and milk in the mail box.  “Another time I opened the box, and a big pigeon stared back at me. Took me a while to get it out. I eventually saw Steve and Gerald watching from behind the shed, laughing their butts off.”
I’m sure the postal system is in for more changes. I just hope that even in this cyber age, everyone gets a chance to receive a meaningful letter, a hand-written birthday card, or a package with something special in it.
Oh yeah, the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 on a squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth. But the image I see most clearly from that summer is an open mailbox at the top of a dusty lane. An official-looking envelope containing baseball tickets sits there with my name on it.  by dan gogerty (photo from blogworld)
Opinion about the postal closings and a look at how much post offices are valued in small towns.
Small town news story about retiring postmaster.
Previous CAST blog, Twittering with Stamps and Envelopes.

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