Saturday, January 6, 2018

Remembering a Different Time

Me about this time of this story
The weather this week reminds me of a winter some 35 years ago. It was one of those cold, cold, cold spells and I was carrying mail as a substitute for a regular carrier who had retired. This was a rural route that traveled through no towns, only a few unincorporated communities. Most of the route was on one-lane roads, some of them narrow ridge roads with miles between mailboxes.

I loved carrying mail. I didn't mind the sorting and bundling or the long hours on the road alone. I liked the time to think, the rhythm of the driving, and I got really good at gliding my 4WD truck standard-transmission truck into the boxes at just the right place. I was pretty small back then, and it was a full-size pickup, so getting over to the window on the passenger side to put mail in the boxes was almost a contortionist's job. I had a system: I would pop the transmission into neutral and move my left foot to the brake. That allowed me to scoot over on the seat since I didn't need to hold down the clutch. Thankfully the truck (Michael J. Truck, his name was, a silver 1980 Chevy long-bed) had a bench seat. I left the window down most of the time so I didn't have to keep cranking it up and down. This was before power windows were so prevalent, and this truck had no bells and whistles like that. So in winter it was cold, in rain I had to be careful to keep the mail dry, and in dry weather I ate a lot of dust on the dirt and gravel parts of the route--about half of it, actually.

Route 3 was an interesting route. The former carrier trained me on its particulars, like the one lady whose mail he always carried to her door even though that was against regulation--and once a week she'd make hot rolls and have them ready when he came. Or the guy who lived about a half-mile from his mailbox--he'd turn the box sideways on a swivel mount, and when I put mail in it I'd turn it back frontwards. He'd look with binoculars from his house and if the box was straight he knew to come get his mail. This was also the place where I saw my very first cross-dresser, a middle-aged farmer who would dress up just beautifully with pearls, hose and lipstick sometimes and come out to greet me. I had never even known such people existed before. He was a nice man, although I thought the five-o'clock shadow under the makeup looked odd.

One winter morning really sticks in my mind. I was driving through town on my way to work and looked at the bank thermometer. It was -18 degrees, and here I was, going out to drive around for hours in the snow and ice with my windows rolled down. But I was warm, I have to say. I dressed for it. My clothes had to be warm enough, yet flexible enough for all that scooting and stretching on the route.

So I wore panty hose under long johns and jeans over that, 2 pairs of socks--one of them wool--in side boots with felt liners. I wore a long johns top with a flannel shirt, wool sweater and down vest. A toboggan on my head, but no gloves except driving to work because I needed my hands free.

Another thing I remember is putting chains on the truck. Even though it was 4 wheel drive, pulling off on the sloping road shoulder in ice and snow was tricky. So I would put chains on the right side only for parts of the route, and some days chains all around. I never had an accident and never slid into a mailbox although I did a lot of praying and white-knuckle driving sometimes.
Me and my boys and my truck. So young!

I carried mail as a sub for almost five years, often working long stretches full time, and I was sorry to have to let it go. But I was working full-time as a security guard by then and expecting my fifth son, and it was time to let it go. Had it ever been possible to get the job full-time, I am sure I'd have stayed til I retired. But then I would not have gone to college, not have become a storyteller, and probably never have started this blog. 

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

You are a brave and intrepid soul. Driving for 2 years in Colorado convinced me that I didn't want to live anywhere it snowed on a regular basis.
Glad you finished college and became a story teller.

Granny Sue said...

Or just young and dumb :) I was in my early thirties then, strong as a horse and healthy as one too.

Granny Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

Funnny how life works itself out.

Tipper said...

Loved this post! You already know you're one of my heroes but wow I'd love to have known you back then too : ) And through this post I feel like I sort of did. Just wonderful writing.

Nance said...

We didn't know any different (any better?) back then - I know I was young and naive. It is interesting to look back and see the twist and turns of our lives. I'm glad you ended up a Story Teller and blogger!

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Thank you Sue for sharing your younger self and family. Hugs.

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