2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Through rain and snow and frozen-solid soil

Published: March 17, 2014, 9:35 am, by Stephanie Earls

IMAG0874My Irish grandfather spent his career as a mail carrier walking a beat in neighborhoods in Winston-Salem, NC.  He got to know the families whose mail he delivered, and they got to know him. When I see a walking mail carrier, I’m reminded of kinder, gentler times that I didn’t necessarily live through (I appropriate some of my best memories from movies, so it’s hard to tell sometimes). But I digress.

Everywhere I’ve owned a home so far, my mail carriers have walked their routes. Though I can’t remember his name now, I was friendly with my mailman in Yakima, WA. In Albany, NY, I became good friends with my mailman, Victor, who would join in for the annual neighborhood block parties. Once, when my dogs slipped out through an unlatched gate, unbeknownst to me, Victor collected them and brought them back home.

At my new-to-me old house on the west side of Colorado Springs, I no longer have a walking mail carrier. I did for about six months, but as it turns out, that was just a honeymoon period.

In early January, I received a notice from the post office letting me know that I needed to install a freestanding mailbox that would allow my carrier to deliver mail without leaving the truck.  Of course, I took this personally – until I surveyed the street and saw that every other house on the block had a curb-side box. Then I felt guilty and clueless for not noticing until it was pointed out to me. I was living in a “mounted route” neighborhood and didn’t even know it.

On one of the strangely summer-like weekends in late February, I set out grudgingly to install a mailbox. I’ve installed fences, dry sunk cedar posts and floated concrete enough to know that these are far from my favorite home improvement tasks.  I was expecting a major ordeal and purchase – post hole digger, concrete, a 4×4, plus the mailbox itself – but things turned out to be far more streamlined.

I ended up spending under $50 for a freestanding post kit, box, and the sledgehammer I used to (awkwardly, slowly, dangerously) pound in the post’s anchor stake.  To prepare the possibly-frozen soil to accept the spike, I dumped a kettle of boiling water on the ground first. From there, my just-add-water mailbox was a breeze and took less than a half-hour to complete.

I’m still getting used to life with my strange new freestanding mailbox, which is a bit wobbly and leans to the left. But that’s OK. I only notice the flaws when I walk out to meet the mailman.