As my regular readers know all too well by now; every morning begins with a brisk walk in the pleasant company of Xena, my Catahoula-Plott Hound mix. During the weekdays, the excursion is abbreviated; much to Xena’s disdain, I still work for a living. That means rushing back home, showering, tossing on business attire, packing a lunch, and making my daily one-way 60-mile commute. Regardless of my canine soul-sister’s strong feelings; it keeps her well stocked in kibble and treats!
On the weekends, we are able to get a later start on our trot and the duration of our journey is always longer and at a more leisurely pace. There is a nearby park, of massive size, where Saturday and Sunday mornings are spent in pursuit of doggie treasures buried under the grass. I try not to think of all the things that my four-legged vacuum cleaner has consumed over the years. Most of the time I can pull her away before she ingests Lord-knows-what; but then again, she has the quickest mouth in Colorado!
Last weekend we were enjoying unusually warm autumn weather for our part of the country. The sun was palely shining down upon us and there was a cool breeze coming in from the northwest. It was one of those days where a well-worn sweatshirt was in order as the uniform of the day. Xena scampered across the crisp red leaves littering the walking path, as crisp crunching sound coming out from under her massive paws; and I reminisced of days when I threw myself at piles of leaves with wild abandon.
My loyal hound was sniffing away at a patch of weeds in an undeveloped lot. She seemed to be catching up on the latest messages left behind by her fellow dogs. I snickered as the thought of her receiving “pee-mail” from all of the other canines that had passed through this otherwise empty field. As Xena went about her business, including leaving behind her own responses to messages; an object appearing in the corner of my eye caught my attention.
Standing off in the distance, the only landmark in an otherwise flavorless setting was a mail box. The area that my geriatric puppy and I had been exploring was a business park. At best, a third of the campus had actually been developed. That meant there were large empty parcels of land intermixed among a number of small professional buildings. It seemed unlikely that the mailbox saw much in the way of use from the tenants in the development.
The wind had picked up to a steady gust and Xena was being lured by new scents blowing towards her always active nostrils. She began to eagerly lead me in the direction of the postal container. As my hound rummaged around in the weeds, I seized the opportunity for a closer inspection of the metal relic. There were still collection times listed on a small placard on the front of the mail box; so it was still obviously in some kind of use.
As I took in additional detail, I realized that the four legs of the box were slightly twisted and heavily rusted. It was a wonder that the container was still perched upon its concrete slab. Then again, the stone foundation was cracked and beginning to wear away. This postal relic had definitely seen its fair share heavy use over the years. The paint was still intact, but had faded over the years from a deep navy hue to a pale powder blue. The elements had certainly had their way with the mailbox. On one side of the heavily weathered container I was able to make out the year of manufacture as 1968. Knowing that the area I was standing in had been developed in the late 1980s; I concluded that this steel monolith was a transplant from a previous location!
As Xena tugged me in the direction of a small creek on the horizon; I kept looking back over my shoulder at the mailbox. I wondered where its previous domicile had been. More importantly, I guessed in futility as to where it had been situated earlier in its long life. This inanimate civil servant had been answering the call of duty for 45 years. If only the cold metal could utter words! I longed to know its history, its stories, and the progression of time that it had borne witness to.
For a moment, I pictured a Currier and Ives setting. The snow was gently falling, the streets were alive with holiday shoppers, and a heavily bundled little girl was clutching an envelope in her tiny mitten-covered hand. It was a letter to Santa Claus, carefully written in her very best cursive, declaring the gifts that her heart desired this yuletide season! Arriving at the mailbox that towered over her, she turned a sparkling eye towards her father. He lovingly lifted her up to the deposit door on the mailbox and watched with joy as she dropped the letter into the cold dark space below.
What of the ambitious young businessman about to secure that big contract? He walked up to that very same mailbox a few years later with a large manila envelope in hand. Resting snugly inside was a contract for his latest customer. As he dropped the parcel into the trusted mailbox, his mind raced. He prayed that when the recipient opened the envelope they would accept his offer. His commission on the deal would finally allow his growing family to leave their tiny downtown apartment! He smiled as he pictured his two toddlers playing in a suburban lawn, his wife cooking dinner in a spacious kitchen, and his new dog dancing around his feet.
The mailbox had dwindled to a speck as my canine companion continued to lead me on her excursion. In a final glance over my shoulder, I pictured the letters dropped off to faraway grandparents, servicemen stationed overseas, and even family on the other side of town. There was a time when the handwritten letter served as our most effective way of communicating.
We would await the mail delivery, separate the junk mail from the bills, and hope there was a personal letter in the pile. Many of us would study the postage stamp, itself a piece of art, take notice of the sender’s address, and gladly suffer a paper cut as we opened the envelope. Then we would drop into an easy chair and take in the latest events in our loved one’s lives!
Today we live in an age of the email, text message, and social media. We can all share news instantaneously with people we hardly know. There are websites where a form can be filled out, to be read later by a virtual Santa. We truly have advanced as a species; at least in technological prowess. As I think of the old pale blue mailbox; I have to wonder if we have taken a step back in our humanity!