There are sur­prises around ev­ery turn as a ru­ral mail car­rier.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY MELINDA HAGER Martin, Ken­tucky

There’s al­ways some­thing new in store for a ru­ral mail car­rier.

Ihave de­liv­ered mail in eastern Ken­tucky for the past 33 years. I started straight out of high school, and I think it’s a won­der­ful job. Each day is mem­o­rable.

I look for­ward to see­ing friendly faces along my route. There’s a myth that dogs and mail car­ri­ers don’t get along, but the dog­gies on my route love me. One dog, named Ban­dit, meets me at the gate with his toy al­most ev­ery day. I take a few mo­ments out of my busy sched­ule to play fetch with him.

If a dog is miss­ing, I keep a look­out. I’ve even taken a few back to their own­ers. The best res­cue has to be Woo­gie. I’m not sure how he got lost, but he rec­og­nized my car, so I held my door open and told him to get in if he wanted to go home. With no hes­i­ta­tion, Woo­gie, a Chi­huahua, jumped into my car and onto my hus­band’s lap, and off we went. When pulling into the drive­way, his owner’s grand­kids yelled, “Hey, look! Woo­gie is in the mail car!”

De­liv­er­ing mail in the coun­try has chal­lenges, too. Weather can be a big fac­tor, es­pe­cially in the win­ter, but the an­i­mals are where the real dif­fi­cul­ties come from, like hav­ing to watch out for chick­ens run­ning loose ev­ery­where.

In one holler, I have to fight with the horses to reach the mail­boxes. They can be very stub­born, so I try to inch for­ward with my car and gen­tly en­cour­age them to move out of the way.

Back when I first started the job, my un­cle Otis would wait for me at his mail­box. He’d ask me to help herd cat­tle from one side of the road to the other. So I’d park my car as a bar­rier and we would walk them across to the other pas­ture.

One morn­ing, I spotted a mother duck and her ba­bies try­ing to cross. I flashed my lights and slowed the other driv­ers down so they could safely make it across.

Dur­ing sum­mer, I get veg­eta­bles straight out of the gar­den. Dur­ing Christ­mas, I get candy, pump­kin rolls and nut breads. One cus­tomer leaves me a lit­tle some­thing when he takes a no­tion to bake. I truly love these small sur­prises.

The peo­ple on my route are some of the best in the world. When some­one is out in their yard, I greet them with a smile and a hello. They are more like fam­ily than cus­tomers, and I’m proud to do my part to help the com­mu­nity.

Melinda looks for­ward to see­ing friendly faces, like Woo­gie (be­low), on her mail route.

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