I predicted some of the challenges of rural living — staying warm in the winter, fending off amorous moose — but some completely blindsided me. I never would have guessed that my great triumph 14 months after moving here would be finally installing a mailbox.
I checked in with the post office when I first arrived, and the list of conditions that my mailbox had to meet overwhelmed me. In addition to all the usual USPS size guidelines, my mailbox had to be across the street from my house (absolutely no mail delivery on my side; not sure why), just before the start of the S-curve, far enough off the road not to be destroyed by snowplows, yet near enough the the carrier could pull his car up to it. The particular spot I was instructed to put the mailbox was right on top of a large culvert, precluding the use of a post dug into the ground.
I felt paralyzed by all the constraints, and the mailbox slipped down my list of priorities as sheep arrived and I became a farmer. Every time I went to the post office to pick up my mail, the staff would ask if I’d have my box up soon, and I’d slink away in shame. Technically, I was supposed to pay for a PO box if I didn’t have my own mailbox. I finally got together with my friend Bob to design a free-standing mailbox support from scrap steel, and we put it up some time last January. Within days a snowplow decapitated my new mailbox assembly, but I was amazed to pick up the box from a snowbank and see that it was only a bit bent. I reinstalled it, and the snowplow took it out again a few weeks later. I reinstalled it again, and this time got through the winter with no more incidents; I figured I was done fighting this battle.
Then one day this summer I found my mailbox, steel base and all, tossed into the woods behind the road. A road crew from the state was redefining the drainage ditches along the road and decided that my mailbox was in the way. When I spoke with them, they assured me that they would be done with their work in a couple of days, at which point I could safely reinstall my mailbox. I’d like to claim prescience, but I should instead admit to productive procrastination: I didn’t put the mailbox back out a few days later, and before a couple of weeks had gone by, another crew came through with more roadside work. My procrastination/prescience lasted through four more rounds of road work, culminating in repaving in October, at which point the DOT guys swore that they were really done.
After another month of postal shaming, I think I’m finally there. Friends Michael and Louis were here over the weekend and helped me move a giant rock into place to serve as a base for my tower of mail, and today I brought out 400 feet of extension cords, my hammer drill, some threaded rod, and a tube of anchor epoxy, and got the thing set.
Now I just have to wait for the reviews to come in. I’m expecting my carrier to tell me that the box is
- too high
- too low
- too close to the road
- too far from the road
so I may not be done yet. Or he might be fine with it, and I can relax until the snowplows come again.
On a slightly less positive note, I took Luc to the vet tonight. He’s seemed uncomfortable for a few months, often walking with a little hunch in his back, and generally seeming less enthusiastic about life than usual. On Sunday, he developed a pronounced limp in his back right leg, and the hunch seemed worse than before. He also lashed out in pain two nights ago when I inadvertently leaned on his back. The good news is that Dr. Simon didn’t think Luc had any acute new injury. Less good news is that Luc is apparently starting to wear out. His hips are quite arthritic, and he probably has a herniated disk in his back, and both conditions will only progress. Luc has been a supremely agile and kinetic creature as long as we’ve been together, so it’s hard to conceive of a more constrained existence for him. I’m trying out some anti-inflammatory drugs to see if they give him any relief, and Simon suggested that his current difficulties will probably ebb in a few days or a week. Selfishly, I can’t stop thinking about losing Musti to a degenerative condition just over a year ago, and hoping not to be facing this again so soon. But then I remember that this is much more about Luc than me, that anticipatory mourning is a waste of time, and that I should take this flareup as a gentle warning not to take him for granted.