Mail has always been a Big Thing on the Plains. We can be as independent as all get-out and we still love to get mail from the outside world. I get mail delivered right to the place three days a week, although that can be considerably reduced in the winter. So far I think the longest I have gone without mail is almost two weeks.
Where I live the folks used to have to go to the little settlement about five miles south of here and pick it up at the post office there. Some of the old folks tell about the "trip to town"— although it was never much a town at all: a little store with the tiny post office cubicle in the back was all there was. Well, that and quite a few trees. Usually they'd go on horseback, or send one of the kids on Old Joe along with a nickel for a bottle of soda. That place became a ghost-town fifty years ago, but a few of the buildings still stand. I pass it on the "new road" every time I go out for supplies.
An outing, that trip to the post office. And of course the anticipation that there might be something really good in the mail. I think it's that anticipation that makes going to the mail box and hunting distant cousins.
We call it "hunting" instead of "finding" because one is not always successful— if you define success in hunting as bringing home something for the larder. But the anticipation is a big part of the allure. The suspense of it. The patience it requires. And the dedication if the weather isn't cooperating. Anyone who has sat on a deer stand on a frosty 10° morning knows what I mean.
There's always that sense of "just around the corner"— or over the next rise, across the next piece of woods, in the next ravine, or… whatever and wherever you happen to be hunting. That anticipatory thrill seems built into the human species, intertwined with our genes in some complex and indivisible way. And I guess since we are descended from hunter-gatherers it would also apply to finding a truffle under that next big oak root.
I always get a pretty big bundle of mail. (I save the rubber bands and send them back to the post office when they get to be too much for the possibles drawer in the kitchen.) A lot of what I get is the usual dreck from the Lords of Commerce reaching out to me to seduce me into sending them money for something I don't need. O, the trees!
But usually, in every packet I retrieve from my mailbox (an old nail keg with a home-crafted lid) there will be something worth walking out there to get. It might be a catalog I was vaguely hoping for, a magazine I enjoy and look forward to, a package maybe, or sometimes a note or card from a friend. Email hasn't replaced all forms of communication! Not yet at least.
It's Saturday. Yesterday was a holiday, so I will get my mail today. Maybe. Maybe not. We've had some more snow. He should make it. But there's a long way on poor roads between me and the post office. Will he, or won't he?