Memories of a rural mail carrier
As the seasons turned, her route told its own story.
Robert Harbison / The Christian Science Monitor / File
I spent 10 years delivering mail amid rolling fields and soft meadows. One hundred and eighty stops in 90 miles, a ballet’s cadence. A route full of twists and turns: Sometimes I’d be dizzy inside the maze – all those pirouettes.
It’s all bits and pieces of memory now. But here is some of what I recall:
The old farmsteads looked like oases with ancient, gnarled trees and farm equipment scattered about like giant toys. There were wheat and bluegrass, peas and lentils, a yield dependent on enough rain in the spring and none at all at harvest.
Afraid of strange dogs (as I am to this day), I stepped away from the car, parcel in hand, when the German shepherd came roaring at me. Baby robins fledged in my chest as I backed away. A boy ran from the house, shouting, “It’s all right! He doesn’t have any teeth!”
Calves appeared in early spring, white-faced, pristine, and spindly-legged. Before long, they became sure-footed and silly, bucking and frolicking. Then later came the mournful lows as mother and calf were separated into different pastures.
People whose names I can’t remember lived in an old farmhouse with many children. One day the youngest, a little blond-haired boy, stood next to the gravel road, arms outstretched, palms up, waiting for me to place the letters and pretend he was the mailbox. He was naked.
Grasshoppers plagued me during harvest. They’d spatter against the grille and roast on the radiator, emitting a fried-bug aroma that, oddly, did not seem entirely unpalatable. Mostly, though, they’d catapult through the window and boomerang through the car’s interior. On more than one occasion, one of them would creep up my pant leg. To avoid wrecking the car, I’d reach down and squash it through the cloth, shivering.