Waiting For The Mail
Throughout the fifties, on the farm, while I was just a kid
Ten miles from town, it seemed the world, from us, was safely hid.
There was a phone, a hundred yards, down where my grandma dwelled,
And television! black and white, with all the charm it held.
But that was it, the only cords connecting rest of man
Outside the farm, except the road we’d only drive by plan.
And so there was a ritual we practiced ev’ry day
In summertime, when we were starved for world so far away.
We’d hop into the car or truck and fill it like a pail,
And drive two miles down dusty road and wait there for the mail.
The dirt road met the highway there, like arteries that cross,
Though highway had the largest flow – a stop showed it was boss.
A pause to honor silent sign; a left, and we would park
Along the highway’s shoulder since we all had time to mark.
For though we knew the carrier would come a certain time,
There was occas’nal variance away from center’s prime.
On Mondays, with some extra mail, he’d be a little late;
And when the magazines were out, he carried extra weight.
Or sometimes he was simply slow, and sometimes he would ail.
There was a bit of chance and fate when waiting for the mail.
By road, upon their posts and boards, the shiny boxes sat
Like loaves of bread baked in the sun and dipped in silver vat.
The end slice was a handled hatch, hinged, opened from the top,
Which then revealed receptacle when pulled and let to flop.
One driving by who saw the cars and did not know the scene
Would think that we were worshippers who for our gods convene.
But center of attention was not shells that had no prize.
Our glance kept going up the road to crest that held our eyes,
That we might be the first to spot the speck, the Holy Grail,
For even those mailboxes were just waiting for the mail.
Anticipation was so keen, that we were rarely late.
We nearly always beat the man and had to sit and wait.
But if we were the first ones there, we’d check the box in case
The mailman had been rapid and had set a record pace.
If Herman Stokes was sitting there in his old beat-up truck,
Or Uncle Robert, then we’d ask, “Mail come yet? Any luck?”
And then the answer, that we knew, would come back like a shot,
That country drawl of farm and ranch, “Well, no, I reckon not.”
And after we had cracked the joke that service was a snail,
We’d sit a while and shoot the bull, just waiting for the mail.
And as we talked, like swinging gate, our gaze went to and fro,
From hill to speaker then to hill, and hill, and hill – our beau.
There were the times our hearts, in talk of drought or crops or things,
Near skipped a beat, picked up their pace, as hearts do when hope springs.
For eyes would catch a sudden glimpse atop the distant hill –
A dot, a glint, a sudden move, too far to tell with skill.
Then, someone with the keenest eye, would, disappointed, say,
“It’s just a truck” or “Color’s wrong” (the mailman’s car was gray).
And it would near and then would pass, like convict out of jail
For no one else was welcome when we waited for the mail.
But ev’ry day, he fin’lly came, except on holidays.
(And once or twice we sat on them, dismayed and in a daze.)
He’d top the crest and all would look. “It could be him,” we said.
All talk would end when we confirmed the box would soon have bread.
He’d slow, so slow, and start to pull off of the road and aim
His right tire left of silver row, first box in window’s frame.
He’d give a little nod or wave and quickly go to work;
He’d reach out to the handle, giving it a little jerk.
He wasn’t talkative as some who’re windy as a gale.
He knew that we were gathered ‘round, just waiting for the mail.
Some silver boxes raised their flags – some mail was outward bound.
He’d reach inside and pull it out, look down, and rummage ‘round
Until he’d grabbed the mail that went in that specific box.
He’d stuff it in and close the hatch – no scratch on car, or knocks.
Then he’d edge forth a foot or two like ship about to dock,
So slow, it seemed, that he must be a man who milked the clock.
For one was waiting at the first for him to reach the last
‘Cause then the car had moved so far that he was safely past.
And first would grab the treasure like last item in a sale,
While rest were all impatiently still waiting for the mail.
And then the precious moment came, like labor, then a birth,
Like Christmas morning with its gifts, its joy, and its mirth.
A check might come from cows or grain, or bale of cotton sold,
A letter from a distant kin with stories that were told.
The pictures in “Life” magazine brought world before our eyes;
And “Reader’s Digest” articles, with jokes an extra prize –
Just maybe a new Rockwell on the cover of the “Post”!
And I collected postage stamps; each letter was a host.
Since not a piece of paper in the box, for me, could fail,
None was more anxious than I was, when waiting for the mail.
The photo is mine of the mailboxes and the place where we
waited on the mail.
© Dennis Lange and thebardonthehill.wordpress.com, 2013.
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