Averyt: Mail Call

Jul 24, 2018

In recent years, the postal service has been a popular fiscal flogging post for politicians. But according to this year’s Gallop poll, 74 percent of the American public rate the post office the most trusted federal agency. And I agree.

These days, I only get ‘real mail’ twice a year ... by that I mean something with my name handwritten on the envelope.

Every six months – at Christmas and for my summer birthday – envelopes appear in my mailbox like manna from heaven. Inside are cards and letters from people who actually know me and took the trouble to go out and buy a stamp – keepsake communiques from friends with the personal touch of actual penmanship.

The mail means a lot, but so does mail delivery. For years, my mother waited in her porch rocker for the afternoon mail. But it wasn’t just about the mail; it was about a friendly face and a few minutes of connection for an older woman living alone.

For me, there’s also a mystique about the postal service and its colorful history. The system of post offices crisscrossing the nation was the brain child of Ben Franklin, one of my historical heroes. And the exploits of the Pony Express have always captured my imagination, as has the postal service's informal credo that neither “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will “stay” couriers from their appointed rounds.

According to research by the Brookfield, VT Historical Society, Vermont’s early post was a rural version of the Pony Express. Horses with names like Daisy, Ned, Bell and Bess, carried the mail, stopping at every mailbox on their route, even on the Sabbath.

Most legendary in the Brookfield postal stable was Old Gray, who during 13 years of service, put in more than 50,000 miles of mail delivery – enough to circle the earth twice. And the pony delivery tradition continued, off and on, up until the early 1940s, because horses could get through drifting snow and spring mud when vehicles couldn’t.

My mail is delivered now not by horseback, but by a white van with a blue eagle. But it still brings a sense of anticipation. Each day is a surprise as I leaf through a handful of bills and flyers.

Who knows, maybe tucked somewhere in the middle will be a picture postcard from a friend on summer vacation, writing “Having a great time, wish you were here.”