Originally created 01/26/99

Off the Wall: Decorative mailboxes don't stand a chance

When man lands on the moon, he plants a flag. When a city slicker lands in the country, he plants a mailbox.

"Mighty fancy mailbox," our neighbor said, leaning on his walking stick. "You anchor it in concrete?"

Sweetie scanned the county postal service's instructions for mailbox installation. "It doesn't say anything about concrete."

"Uh-huh," Mr. Greenjeans nodded, then continued on his way. The next morning we found our bullet-riddled mailbox perched on a fencepost a mile down the road.

"Who could have done such a thing?" Sweetie asked, choking as he tried to straighten its little flag. Leaning on his walking stick, Mr. Greenjeans watched Sweetie sling dirt like a gopher.

"Puttin' in a swimmin' pool?"

"Mailbox," I said.

"Uh-huh," Mr. Greenjeans said.

"Sweetie," I yelled over the beeping as the concrete truck backed up to the excavated pit, "do you really think rebar is necessary?"

"The wise man built his mailbox upon reinforced concrete!" Sweetie shouted, signaling the driver to start dumping.

Two days later our little mailbox was still firmly planted, but the steel support post was twisted like a corkscrew and the door was facing backward.

"We're dealing with demon spirits," I said, clutching a crumpled brass number.

"You take the first shift," Sweetie growled.

If the gong of the baseball bat hitting our 20-gauge steel mailbox at 30 mph didn't wake the dead, the roar of Sweetie spinning all the gravel out of the driveway when he took off in hot pursuit definitely did. The car chase lasted to the county line, where Sweetie, unfamiliar with the terrain and not sure he had the power to make a citizen's arrest, lost the mailbox murderers when they circled through McDonald's.

He did, however, get the color, make and model of the car. "And ...," Sweetie smirked as the officer studied his schematic of the suspect's getaway route, "the license plate number."

We were more than a little shocked when Deputy Sheriff Bubba didn't immediately get on his police radio and set up a roadblock.

"Boys will be boys," he shrugged, rolling the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other.

"He's on the take," I scowled as the patrol car backed out of our driveway.

"You could smell the McDonald's fries on his breath," Sweetie fumed, eyes narrowed.

We were in the process of installing the alligator-filled moat around our mailbox when our postwoman informed us she drew the line at lowering drawbridges to deliver Victoria's Secret catalogs. That was about 10 years ago.

Today, our mailbox teeters in a patch of milkweed. The door dangles on one rusty hinge and is held closed with a twisted piece of chicken wire. Our address is scrawled across the bullet holes with a black Magic Marker, and I keep a huge rock at the base to pound it back into the ground after it rains.

"Nice mailbox," Sweetie says as we walk past our new neighbor's drive. "Cedar?"

"Redwood," Mr. Carman says proudly as he buffs his mailbox with a chamois.

"Love the barn motif," I say, giving the little wrought iron rooster weathervane a twirl. Bending down, Sweetie stares at his reflection in the address. "Are these ..."

"Gold plate," Mr. Carman nods modestly.

Pulling open the door, Mr. Carman placidly conducts the tinkling music box rendition of James Taylor's Country Road that floats out of the mailbox.

"Oooh," Sweetie and I swoon simultaneously.

Smiling, Sweetie and I wave over our shoulders as we continue on our walk down our country road.

"Two weeks and it's kindling," Sweetie says out of the side of his mouth.

"He'll never know what hit him," I gloat.

Write P.S. Wall c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111.


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