Mailboxes, etc.

The old, dead mailbox.

Mailboxes are a quintessential part of rural living and those in the mountains are no exception.

The trick is to not get too attached to your mailbox; either it will be flattened by the local snow plow or someone will take it out with a shotgun.

Mine was a battered black metal box with no red flag and a fancy piece of wood on top that sported the house numbers. It was ugly but worked fine until it simply gave up the ghost in January 2012 and fell over in a snowbank where it stayed until spring. For a few months I had to endure a wet Denver Post and I’m sure the mailman cursed my name because he had to get out of his car and bend way down to get to the box.

What came next was a feat of engineering genius – how to build a mailbox that spans a drainage ditch, is high enough that the plows won’t knock it over yet close enough to the road that our mailman can get to it. I started looking at people’s mailbox design and tried to find one that would work. I found one nearby that has stood the test of time and my son-in-law Jason copied the idea by using a timber from the Slightly Unenchanted Forest, a piece of 2 x 4 and a few local rocks. By using the long piece of timber, the mailbox and Denver Post box sit above the height of the plow blade. The front legs sit in the drainage ditch and are held in place by rocks. The effect is an efficient but rustic mailbox.

Most people down the hill have a mailbox that’s just a box with a lock on it, no house numbers, no individuality. It’s smarter – those boxes are hard to break in and your mail stays dry in bad weather. Safety protects outgoing mail; your correspondence slips through a tiny slot but something so perfunctory means the romance of the red flag is gone.

Mail up here is more vulnerable to thieves who can just drive up and grab and go with your checks and possibly this month’s shipment of Proactiv. We get around the theft by getting the mail each day and sending off outgoing mail at the box in Conifer. Most people have a locked box that would take too much time to mess with.

It’s important to check mail each day because you might miss something. I lived in an apartment complex for a year in 2008 and each day my box was stuffed with so much junk, so many bills and crap that I couldn’t stand it. I hadn’t checked my box for about 2 weeks and missed a notification about a great job with the Colorado Department of Education’s media department. I still kick myself for that one and I check my mail each day.

Bless our mailman,an older gentleman that drives a right-handed Subaru of uncertain vintage. A faded bumper sticker on the back says, “fisherman.” Every day, come rain, shine or a shit-ton of snow, he delivers without fail sometimes as late as 7 p.m. If he’s in the mood he’ll acknowledge a friendly wave or a hello. He doesn’t seem to have time for much more what with all the little back roads on Black Mountain.

The new mailbox just waiting for the snowplow.

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