Sunday, August 31, 2008


Contrary to popular belief, the U. S. Postal Service has no "official motto." Actually it is just the inscription found on the General Post Office building in New York City, having been put there by the architects who designed the General Post Office.

The mail carrier assigned to delivering the mail in my neighborhood, in my opinion, is a saint and a friend. No matter how cold, how hot, how icy, how rainy, and how uncomfortable he might be, he delivers my mail with a smile and a "hello." Sometimes he brings those dreaded monthly bills, but oftentimes he delivers those letters or greeting cards that we all love to receive. E-mails just can't replace holding the personal greeting in our hands from a loved one. He has become a neighborhood friend and confidante to many of us. His concern for our well-being is a blessing. Due to his tight schedule, he is unable to converse for long periods of time, but he always has time to inquire if we are doing OK. He has been known for helping one friend of mine to look for her lost keys when she was unable to gain access to her house, not once, but twice. We were all saddened when he was assigned to another route, but eventually he was reassigned back to our neighborhood. The entire neighborhood was delighted to see him back and he was happy to be back also. Today I am writing about the different facets of the U. S. Postal Service, but to most of us, the home mail carrier is the most important of all the services the post office offers and he/she can never be replaced by the internet.

It all began back on April 3, 1860, when a fast mail service, the Pony Express, carried mail from St. Joseph, MO, to Sacramento, CA. The original mail service had messages carried by horseback riders crossing the prairies, plains, deserts, and mountains of the Western United States. It was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. The westbound trip was made in 10 days, 7 hours, and 45 minutes. The eastbound trip was made in 11 days and 12 hours. Every 24 hours they covered approximately 250 miles. The Pony Express, established a year before the beginning of the American Civil War, reflected the need to provide fast and reliable communication with the West. Stations were placed at intervals of about 10 miles, roughly the distance a horse can travel at full gallop. Riders changed to a fresh horse at every station. There were all kinds of restrictions placed. The rider could not weigh over 125 pounds, riders were changed every 75-100 miles, and the total weight could not exceed 165 lbs., including the mail pouch, Bible, knife, horn for alerting the station master to prepare the next horse, rifle, and a choice of a rifle or another revolver. The riders were paid $100 per month. When my late husband worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, he was transferred to St. Joseph, MO, and we were able to visit the original stables where the Pony Express began.

Mail can be delivered in so many different ways today. We do not have to depend on the faithful horse and rider. There are boxes located in post offices, boxes located in offsite locations, mail is delivered by independents, such as UPS and Fed Ex, mail is delivered in some apartment complexes or neighborhoods to cluster boxes located in one area, we also have rural route delivery, and, in many neighborhoods, delivered to the door by a home mail carrier.

We take these home mail carriers for granted. I know first hand that accidents can and do happen to carriers while on their daily route. My niece and her father, my brother-in-law, are home mail carriers. My niece has injured her same ankle twice, has had one surgery, and at the time of this posting, another surgery is pending, both from stepping in holes or on uneven lawns. My home carrier has also injured his ankle while on his route delivering mail. There are also incidences of dog bites. In Oklahoma City, we do have a leash law and bites are probably not as prevalent as they once were. The carriers are permitted to carry mace for protection against dogs.

No work site is completely safe these days. On Wednesday, August 20, 1986, in Edmond, OK, 15 postal employees were slain by a disgruntled postal employee. This was believed to be, at the time, the worst mass murder case recorded in Oklahoma history. After killing 14 employees, wounding 5 others, the gunman committed suicide. Although two decades have passed, the memories remain vivid for those who were at the scene that day. Every single person, except one, went back that night to the post office to work. They had to; nobody else could sort the mail. Shell casings still littered the floor and blood stains were visible inside the building. The deaths were difficult to cope with because the postal employees are such a closely knit group. A monument has been erected at the Edmond, OK post office to honor those slain employees.

I wish to thank all U. S. Postal Service employees, especially Rod, my neighborhood mail carrier, for their tireless and thankless job of delivering our daily mail in snow, rain, heat and gloom of night.


Judy said...

We have certainly come a long way since the Pony Express. I used to have a mailman like yours years ago when I lived on the farm. He was like a friend stopping by every day. I hate to say it but the one I have now leaves a lot to be desired. I live in the county and have a mailbox at the road. He is supposed to bring a package to the house but he just throws it on the side of the road if it does not go in the box and drives away. Anyone could drive by and pick up your package off the road. I have to say he is doing better since someone reported him. I guess it takes all kinds! Great post. I loved the history part.

Kelly said...

What a wonderful history of our postal system. Judy is sure right when she said, that we sure have come a long way since the Pony Express. You always seem to pick such interesting things to write about! I think that our mail carriers are certainly not given enough due credit for all of their hard work and dedication. This is such a nice post and it really makes one stop and think about the importance of these fine, loyal and dedicated people. Another Great Post!

Rod said...

Thank you, I appreciate the nice comments, and I enjoy all of you on my route.