The Mailbox

It’s taken four years, but we are finally the proud owners of a mailbox.

The horizontal side of the pole sticks out 10'.  The vertical part is 7' high because 5' additional feet are buried underground!

The horizontal side of the pole sticks out 10′. The vertical part is 7′ high because 5′ additional feet are buried underground!  In the foreground near the road is the overgrown culvert, which is a steep ditch and makes it impossible for the mail delivery truck to get close enough to a mailbox.  The mail delivery person never leaves the delivery truck; instead they perform all sorts of contortions to put the mail into the mailbox by reaching over and through the truck window.  It’s simply  too cold in winter to leave the delivery truck.

Until now, we have traveled 8 miles to our rural post office every time we wanted to get our mail from a rented post office box.  I really didn’t mind at first, because I liked Heidi, our postmaster, very much and enjoyed speaking with her each time I’d get the mail.  I learned all sorts of stuff from her – – not just the goings-on of our town and its residents, but she was a great reference for “where can I find . . . ?” and “where can I buy . . . ?” and “how does one . . . ?” plus she was great at recommending tradesmen, doctors  – – you name it.

Then the US Post Office, in its efforts to save money, started making all sorts of cutbacks, which included shuffling hours and clerks and routes.  Heidi was transferred to another post office, and we got Lili in her place – – another lovely person.  But then 3 months later Lili was given the axe and then it was Wendy.  But Wendy lived 1 hour 20 minutes away and the drive in the winter at 5 a.m. wasn’t practical, so then we got Debbie.  But then the Post Office decided that our little branch wasn’t busy enough, so they cut the hours to 4 hours a day – from 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m and 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.  These hours proved hugely inconvenient for us, and by now I didn’t even know who the clerks were, they were changed so frequently.

mailbox1

I pasted lots of red and white reflective tape on the box and the pole so the snowplow guy can’t say he “couldn’t see it” while plowing at night. Mailboxes are commonly knocked down by snow plows in Maine. If this happens, you can’t dig a new hole until Spring because the ground is frozen solid!

If you are reading this blog from a large city, you are probably wondering what difference it makes who my postmaster is.  Because we go back and forth from Maine to our hometown, our mail is always in a state of getting forwarded or held.  With our local rural post office,  you can simply call and ask if you got anything important, and they will not only tell you what’s sitting in your box, they will offer to send it to wherever else you happen to be.  If you are expecting a package and you let them know, they will be excited for you when it comes.  A rural postmaster looks out for his customers.

The new branch hours were more than inconvenient – – they also affected our Fed Ex and UPS deliveries.  Those companies would often deliver to us via the post office, where we’d pick up our parcels.  Their routes from the city meant they arrived sometime between noon – 1 p.m. daily.  But since the post office was closed at that time, they couldn’t drop off the packages there, and the post office had no interest in creating some sort of secure drop box for their deliveries.

Besides the expense of the rented post office box, there was the cost of gas.  The 16-mile round trip, at $3.75 a gallon, meant I was paying almost $2 each time I went to check on the mail.

But getting a mailbox was no simple matter.

Our local Post Office was willing to deliver the mail if we’d put a mailbox at the bottom of the driveway, at the street.  Unfortunately, however, there is a culvert (drainage ditch) on either side of the driveway, so there was nowhere to put a mailbox because the mail truck couldn’t pull up to a mailbox without the vehicle falling into a ditch.

Our difficult set-up is in no way unique.  So I began paying attention to rural mailboxes whenever I’d go out for a drive.  I saw right away that even if I could place a mailbox on a post, it would be at the mercy of the snowplow, and snowplow drivers are notoriously careless about knocking down mailboxes.    The best design for our situation would be a very, very long, extended pole, with a mailbox hanging from the pole by chains.

It took me nearly a year to find someone who could create this design at a reasonable price, but Jeremiah Johnson is a welder who was up to the task.  I showed him a pencil sketch, told him what I wanted, and a few days later he brought the 10′ x 12′ L-shaped pole that he had welded for us.  It was HUGE.  Of the side that was twelve feet high, 5′ had to be sunk into the ground.  It had to be sunk that deep due to the frost line.  I also knew that I needed to get that hole dug before it got too cold and the ground froze.  I called a local excavator, but he was busy.  I called a handyman and he said he’d do it, but he wasn’t quite sure when.

Three weeks later, we still did not have a mailbox hole dug.  But luck was on our side.  The road maintenance excavation crew happened to swing by our street.  Their job was to clean out and replace culverts that drained into the bog known as Little Pond across the street.  They brought huge monster trucks and bulldozers to dig up our road, put in new culverts, cover it with gravel and smooth it down with asphalt.  They also  re-dug the ditches on either side of our driveway.  They were happy to dig my mailbox hole for a little proffered cash on the side.  And so we now had a 5′ feet deep hole at the bottom of our driveway.

Next I bought two 50 lb bags of “Quikcrete” – –  a fast-setting concrete mix – – and my husband and I filled the 5′ hole with a combination of Quikcrete, gravel, and dirt.  I put plenty of reflective red and white stickers on both the pole and the mailbox, so our snowplow guy won’t hit it (but at least the mailbox will swing on the chains instead of snapping off a post if it does get hit).

It is pretty nice not having to drive to the post office to get my mail, although I still go occasionally to buy stamps, send a package, or catch up on town news with the latest postmaster.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by June Swanson on March 26, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    My mom has a similar set up for her rural home in Wisconsin. Her mailbox needs to be replaced but we cannot find another mailbox that can hang from a chain. Where did you find yours?

    Reply

    • We bought a standard plastic mailbox at Lowes. We drilled a hole at the top at each end. We put an eyebolt and nut to be able to hook the chain – but then I realized that the little hole would probably leak if it rained and get the mail inside the box wet. So we also added a large silicon disc that acts as a washer, plus we put some silicon on the top of the box surrounding the hole to avoid any leakage. So far, so good.

      Reply

      • Posted by June Swanson on March 27, 2015 at 12:29 am

        Perfect – That’s on the order of what I was thinking if I couldn’t find one already ready for mounting. However, I didn’t think of the silicone. Great solution. We’ll take your advice and see if we can manage it as well as you have. Thanks so much for responding so quickly.

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