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I Was a Mailman

A story by David T. Daniels

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In 1905 my Dad, age 18, passed a civil service exam to become a mailman. My town had 3 rural routes. Dad’s route #1 was 95% in Polk County, North Carolina. He first started riding a horse on his route, and then proceeding to mule and buggy. In 1912 he got his first automobile. Forty years later in November, 1945 I appeared at home. Dad was still delivering the mail when I was discharged from the army, which was an early discharge because my infantry division was rushed from Europe to fight another war in the Pacific. Due to the atomic bomb, thank God, this for me, did not happen. Mr. Jackson, who had Route 2, had become ill and a substitute was needed. But there were just no men around, probably all still in the service. Having several weeks before heading back to college I agreed to be the substitute. With Mr. Jackson’s Model A Ford, I appeared at the Post Office in the early morning. I was given a rough map of the route and was aided in sorting several days’ worth of mail. Now, I am on my own. Sitting in the car, I began to realize what this adventure could be. I was going into the darkest of Dark Corners where I had never been. Ten to twelve years before 3 Scot families feuded over everything including liquor distilling rights. Lawmen were afraid to enter the area. I hoped this was all over with. In sorting the mail I recognized all three names were on the route. Mr. Jackson gave me chains to place on the tires, to be done at a garage. The raining season was near, and these red muddy roads would be a grind. The first couple of days were exploratory ones which was largely determining what roads to follow, etc. I saw two or three men working along the road. I circled a small mountain with several knolls. In most cases old mail boxes would be in groups, meaning houses were in the woods with a common path to the road. Few houses were visible. After a few days girls of all ages began to show up at the boxes, and just stare at me as if I was on display. They probably hadn’t seen a young man in some time. The showing up became pronounced with 15 to 20 girls probably aged 16 to 25. It appeared that 2 or 3 were married. All these little girls had dirty faces, dirty teeth and hassled hair, but they were so cute in many ways. There wasn’t a smidgen of cosmetics and for the most part they wore homemade clothing. I assumed their schooling, if any, was limited. The mail order catalogs were Sears, Monky Ward and Siegel, all located in Chicago. Soon I had to help in ordering, which was mostly clothing. A cute thing would point to a dress she desired. I had to be very discreet in helping to determine size. I would write a C.O.D/order and get 3 cents for a stamp. I became the friend of Dark Corner. We became a happy family. When a package arrived and the greenbacks paid, we would watch the opening and all would rejoice. On two occasions at these little parties I was given a pint size mason jar of clear liquor, which was of course, moonshine corn. I could not bring this to my home because my mother was undoubtedly an honorary member of the Temperance Union. The Postmaster was very happy to receive both jars. By the way, he wondered why I was always so late returning from my route. I explained that I was building business for the U.S. Post Office. As expected the roads were barely passable. Chains were installed; chains broke and had to be repaired. At one really bad mud hole I broke an axle and had to be towed. As I was nearing the end of this journey I was remorseful because my dirty face girls would miss me. Mr. Jackson was a scrooge. He wouldn’t give them the time of day. Let’s move 50 years forward and find that I am now visiting the same area in which I carried mail on Route 2. At my Florida golf course clubhouse I saw a magazine cover picturing a new prize winning course named Glassy Mt. Inside were pictures of greens on shaved off knolls and houses that adorned the mountainside. In the write-up the developer said he bought the mountain from an old lady by the name of Plumley. Oh my! That’s the name of one of the feuding families. In payment she only wanted a new house with an inside toilet. In further reading I was able to definitely determine that this was my mail carrying mountain. In 1995 on our way north we visited this fantastic beautiful gated community. In leaving I looked to both sides of the road and wondered what happened to my cute dirty face girls.

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 catalog,family feud,mail order,mail route,Montgomery Ward,moonshine,Sears,Siegel,soldier,World War II
  Dark Corner, Polk County, North Carolina
Jun 15 2024

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