The Postal Service

Prenote: each and every single one of us IS government and politics.  I post frequently on politics at this space.  I will write about the Democratic nominee for President and Vice-President after they are officially nominated at the Democratic Convention in a few days.  Check back.  This is our country, all of us, together.


In our garage, above my car, is the ancient mailbox that stood at the end of the driveway to the ancestral farm of my mother.  Here it is, photo’ed July 4, 2020:

I had rescued the mailbox, as one of the last family artifacts to leave the 110-year family farm in 2015.  No heir even asked about it.  It was just junk.  I just couldn’t leave it behind.

In this picture it sits on the ancient chair that Uncle Vince sat on in his last visit to his farm in 2013, right before the Nursing Home ended his semi-independent living in town.   Vince’s mental acuity was declining rapidly.

For Vincent, and for most everyone else, including me, every day, checking the mail is a daily ritual.  It is central to most of our lives, even in this time of fewer ‘real’ letters, and the dominance of The Tube – TV or computer.

Personally I would guess I’m in the post office, physically, two or three times a week.  I like the post office employees.  I enjoy getting mail at the curb.  I still write letters by hand.

Now the postal service is again controversial, through no fault of its own.  Here’s today’s long post from Just Above Sunset, well worth your time: Mailing it in.

Put “mailbox” into the search box for this blog, as I just did, and you’ll find 26 references, the oldest of which is here, June, 2009, two months after I began to blog.

I wonder what Vince would be thinking, were he around today.  He was a quiet man, but my guess is he would have a strong opinion on this.  One of his daily rituals was to go down to get the mail.

That old chair on which the mailbox sits?  Here’s the story I wrote which includes a photo of that chair, from September, 2013.

Vince is now five years deceased (Feb. 2, 2015).  I can’t ask him for an opinion now, but I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t be happy at the current chaotic state of affairs.

You, reader, and I, and hundreds of millions of others, are still here, and the current issue is in our hands.

Do something.  To use the post is your, and all of our, Constitutional right.

COMMENTS: (see also the on-line comments below)

from Steve: Your latest story was a lovely way to begin this weekend morning. There’s some nostalgia, some plea for more human correspondence, and some politics. Receiving one’s mail–or delivering one’s thoughts and information–without an effort beyond opening a computer or phone is convenient, I guess, but for me it offers less adventure than “going down to get the mail”–an act of some commitment, especially if the hike were more than a short driveway in distance. The current pushing match over this postal system seems especially profane when the tradition of stamps and delivery that’s been a confident exchange has become a political match stick. I hope that the mailbox in your garage has the karma or whatever it takes to keep us from the corruption of this connection to our democracy.

from Carol: My grandparents, living out in the wilds of North Dakota (as you know), got mail from TWO post offices.  Now people are in danger of not getting mail even from one.  This is NOT progress 🙁

This charming little story is from Grandma’s tape-recorded memories:

“You know, the Oriska mailman, he drove horses.  ‘Giddup. Giddup. Giddup. Giddup.’  You could hear him comin’ way from that Catholic church east of our place.  That was a mile.  You could hear him comin.’  ‘Giddup. Giddup. Giddup.’  So Pa told him every time he come to the farm he should put the horses in the barn and feed ‘em and then come to the house and I’d give him somethin’ to eat.  So we did that.  He brought the mail from Oriska, you know.  We had that mailbox right on the corner and then we had a Fingal mailbox down to the other corner, so we could get mail from both routes… That dress that Inez has got in that picture, his wife made that.  We fed the horses, you know, and give him somethin’ to eat.  And then this mail carrier got me a set of pans.  Three of ‘em.  And I liked ‘em so well, they was nice pans.”

(She went on to say that she found some of my uncles had “borrowed” her nice pans to make a still in the woods.  But, I digress…)

from Larry: When “Carol” mentioned Oriska and the postman, I am reminded of my maternal grandfather, Louis B. Musselman. He was a rural mail carrier out of Oriska during the mid-30s. There was a day during each year when he had to distribute Sears catalogs. This would be quite foreign to today’s Amazon users. That distribution day was a huge event to the rural mail carrier, as you can see in the attached photo.  My grandfather is the fellow behind the wheel and the other guy is probably the Oriska postmaster.

from Dick: A letter to the Postal Service which I began to deliver Aug. 17, first to my home mailbox:

Dear Postal Worker:  I have a long and very positive experience record with the USPS, including the last 20 years in Woodbury.  There are no horror stories in my files, and I’m in the post office two or three times a week; am shepherd for one PO Box in Woodbury for an organization I’m part of, have excellent residential service, and spend many hundreds of dollars every year for stamps and other services at the post office.

The Post Office to me has always been the people who provide the service…still today, every day, I look forward to the mail.

Thank you.

from Sonya: This was such an interesting blog post. At age 65, I also love getting “snail mail” instead of only text messages and emails, though I myself very seldom write a paper letter anymore.

from Walt: We still use the USPS every day of the week, and we buy stamps by the roll of 100!  We write checks to mail bills, send actual birthday cards to friends and family,  and mail gifts and other packages.  We do not use FedEx or other delivery companies. This is our choice, and we feel that we are doing our best to support the Post Office.

I have two really great stories about our postal service and how its employees are the best!  I will share them with you in my next message.
9 replies
  1. Penelope Gardner
    Penelope Gardner says:

    The photo of the mailbox brought back childhood memories of “getting the mail” when staying at my grandparent’s farm. Even better, was being tasked to put a letter in the mailbox to be picked and flipping up the red metal flag to alert the rural mail carrier to stop and pick up the outgoing mail.

  2. John Bernard
    John Bernard says:

    Regrettably, I am likely one of the people contributing to the decline of the postal system. As a suburban dweller, I use the actual physical postal system less and less. When I was a contractor, I started moving away from using “the mail” probably 15 years before I actually retired, since electronic transmission via fax or email was becoming much more normal; and frankly was a lot faster and reliable (even at that point) than the post office.
    That being said, I still consider it essential service, since even today not everyone has the advantage of having secure and rapidly electronic communication. This is most evident on my travels; mostly by car mostly in western United States; where I encounter great areas of cellular and/or Internet dead or barely alive zones.
    I consider it an essential government service, much like public transportation, and on a much grander scale – national defense. People rarely question whether not the defense department is making a profit!

  3. Christina
    Christina says:

    Because I knew Vincent and the Busch family well this article was so interesting. I will be 90 years old in Dec. I know how important it is to exercise. My form of exercise is to walk. My mailbox is 1/2 mile down the road.Every day except Sunday I walk down to the mailbox to get the mail. I always look forward to getting the mail.

  4. Lois M Young
    Lois M Young says:

    As a person who is of the “Silent Generation”, I am among those who will likely continue to enjoy being the recipient of mail delivery to a box at the edge of the curb. I share a brick “fortress” for 2 boxes that were replaced a few months ago, and my neighbor’s box was probably 50+ years old, mine about 30. Going to my mailbox daily is not a task, but a walk during time that conjures up thoughts of delivery by the Pony Express and Wells Fargo stagecoaches bringing news and items to remote areas of the country. May the Post Office survive, along with technology of all communications!

  5. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    REAL MAIL is appreciated when it nests among all the junk that comes to our mailbox, Monday-Saturdays. Thanks, Dick, for being a regular correspondent! Your letters are my most recent “collection” of family memorabilia.

  6. MaryEllen Weller
    MaryEllen Weller says:

    It’s bad enough that broadband and wifi and reliable internet access are not dependable or not even available in rural areas. Without our mail delivery we would be horribly isolated. I am only a summer resident (May to October) but the link to the outside world is priceless in a northern Minnesota winter. Three cheers for the USPS!

  7. norman hanson
    norman hanson says:

    The USPO should be seen as a needed and necessary utility and not just as another business as so many see it as. Like Dick, I look for the mail every day and always pick up and deliver to her the mail of our neighbor whose health issue makes it difficult for her to get up to her mailbox. She watches for the mail as well and calls me as soon as it arrives to make sure that I know that it is there…and that I can now pick her mail up for her as well. I grew up in the rural area of the Gopher state and remember how important the daily mail was to all of us. For me, it meant, letters from pen pals, the Weekly Reader and later Current Events during the summer. The USPO is such an important part oh the fabric of America that it must be maintained and funded as a utility and not as a business expected to survive on its own revenues. There should not even be a question about that!

  8. Larry Gauper
    Larry Gauper says:

    President Trump and the Republicans who support him are doing everything they can to discourage voting for the POTUS. Their latest tactic is to disparage mail-in balloting which is run and controlled by the STATES, not the feds. North Dakota and 49 other states have used both absentee and mail-in balloting with no fraud, certainly none that was measurable. The only substantial ballot “fraud” that was committed in recent history was by that Republican candidate’s campaign in, I believe, North Carolina, where a substantial quantity of ballots were actually thrown away and were discovered later prompting a recount. Mr. Trump and his MAGA cap wearers are doing every thing they can to destroy a constitutional right of every American: voting! This is why Trump and company wants to financially handicap the U. S. Postal Service, just as President Bush II wanted to do when he and the Republicans required the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of pension financing.

    • Lydia Howell
      Lydia Howell says:

      Larry has raised most of the issues I wanted to raise. I guess I stand in both 21st century e-mail and the 240 years of the postal service. While email is convenient and sometimes useful in its immediate response-time–but, I still feel REAL mail is much more PERSONAL. As post-Sept. 11 correspondence to elected officials has been slowed down due to “security measures”, I no longer write letters to Congress-members or Senators: I send post cards– my message has to go through a first draft (to insure clarity within brevity due to small space of a post card). Post offices sell post cards that come with postage already applied. But, I also keep an eye out for postcards primarily from thrift stores or from some non-profits as part of “thank you gift–such as the National Museum of African American History & Culture or the Sierra Club. When a loved one is fighting cancer or gong through some other struggle, I like sending them, some encouragement in the mail. During the pandemic, I’ve sent “cultural care packages”—books & DVDs–to friends who due to disability and/or more remote location than the city, might have a difficult time getting such things (& because at 62, I am feeling more & more that I DON’T want to hold on to every single thing I have but, keep things moving. I, too, love gong to the post office or seeing my postal carrier.
      In the midst of the George Floyd protests, much of my neighborhood was burned down (mostly by bored young people or actual criminals–such as break-ins of drug stores & theft of narcotics). The post office I’ve gone to for 30 years was burned to the ground.

      What Donald Trump & the Republicans are dong is the same sort of grotesque VANDALISM in their destruction of our institutions–and now, they’re doing it to the U.S. Postal Service–how many Americans DON’T know that this institution of the USPS is IN OUR CONSTITUTION and that the first Postmaster General was BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. Trump has done so much damage, but, this act of all-out assault on the Post Office with the goal of undermining our VOTING RIGHTS is alone enough to vote Donald Trump OUT of office.
      I hope people will do whatever GOTV efforts they can. I’ve been researching when EARLY VOTING starts in “swing states” and posting basic voting info on groups based in those states. Urging peopole to vote as both an act of RESISTANCE and one of PRESERVATION. The Trump-GOP has been steadily REVERSING the 20th century for the last 4 years–and it’s up to stem that dangerous tide.


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