April 24th, 2012

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#560 – Dick Bernard: The Chicks

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Saturday morning a few of us were waiting in line at the Woodbury Post Office. A woman was waiting at the counter, and the clerk had disappeared. An educated guess was that the woman was picking up held mail.

Of course, the few of us were feeling impatient – places to go, things to do….

Presently the clerk came out with a box from which sounds came: “Peep”, “Peep”, “Peep”…. It was a delivery of live chicks.

Immediately the sourness in line changed perceptibly.

There was no grousing when the clerk opened the box so that the woman could inspect the precious freight. They were all okay, being as little chicks are wont to be.

This started a little conversation in line, remembering when people raised chickens. Somebody said that an ordinance had been passed in Woodbury allowing such activities. NO ROOSTERS, however!

I got to thinking back to days of old when we lived in tiny towns in North Dakota. In fact, I had done a blog post about the post office in one of those towns a few months ago.

Someone I knew from that town wrote a comment. Her Dad had been a rural postal delivery driver for years, and she said this, in part: “In the spring, he often had live baby chicks making lots of noise in the back of the vehicle. That meant going up to the houses to deliver them. There were also times when the post office was alive with the sounds of live animals.

In the same comment she added what we of a certain age and circumstance all know about the post office in small towns: “The post office was definitely a social gathering place when many people waited for the mail to be sorted to the various boxes. There was no delivery in small towns – perhaps there never has been. You often read that people fight to keep their post office as it is a distinction to have ones own address and a time/place to find out how your neighbors were doing.

Early 1900s postcard from rural Wisconsin to rural North Dakota

I don’t think I was the only one in the line on Saturday who noticed that when those chicks appeared, the tone of conversation of those of us in the line perceptibly changed.

For just a moment we again became neighbors, not quite so much in a hurry.

I’ll remember the care with which the woman and the clerk handled their precious cargo.

Woodbury MN Post Office April 21, 2012

UPDATE April 24: Here’s a little known but crucial piece of information about the contemporary “problems” of the U.S. Postal Service.