Along Center Road on Old Mission Peninsula, between the towering mounds of snow that rise in some places taller than the traffic rushing by, they stand like wounded soldiers after a losing battle.
A few are gruesomely decapitated, only their lower trunks upright, stubbornly refusing to yield that last shred of dignity. Some whose heads remain attached display dents and gashes. Others, still intact, lean heavily to one side as if being pushed in that direction by a strong wind. Several stand with the aid of various contrivances of duct tape and wire holding their fractured lower bodies together or lashing them to a comrade who has survived the combat in better shape. One or two, having given up the struggle, lie prone beneath the falling snow
These are the mailboxes and posts to which they are attached, buffeted and sometimes tossed about by the snow plows whose powerful energy overwhelms the best, most ingeniously contrived structures that, perforce, must be placed perilously close to the edge of the roads within a whisker of the onrushing blades.
They are collateral damage, innocent bystanders in a conflict that does not directly involve them, victims of simply being in the way of the large motions of this seasonal war against the snow that clogs our roads.
But collateral damage is often personal, as it was for me when, coming home from lunch, I looked back across the road toward my mailbox where I saw only its post.
It had been decapitated.
I trudged over ice and through drifts to the other side of the road, and there saw to the left of the post some 5 or 6 feet away, starkly black against the white snow, my mailbox, still attached to the crossbar that had been secured by six substantial lag bolts to the post.
What to do?
I could wait until spring and in the meantime have my mail forwarded to the Old Mission Post Office where we still maintain the box we secured when we moved here 18 years ago. Because we then learned that certain items would only be delivered to a street address, we installed a molded plastic post and box. It succumbed over time to beatings that rendered its hard-plastic exterior beyond the repair of the best duct tape I could find. Hoping for longevity I replaced it with a wooden version. I can imagine the plows smirking at that thought.
I decided, if possible, to avoid the delay and inconvenience of the forwarding option. The next day I reattached the crossbar. There seemed to be enough wood to bite into at the end of the existing holes if I really tightened the lug bolts down hard enough. The repair was to be temporary. It felt like it might hold until I could secure longer bolts for a better fix.
Unexpectedly, I got digital notice of a Sunday delivery of a small package into the mail box. I retrieved the package but saw that the wound had opened, and the crossbar and box were about to come down again.
Fortunately, my friend Marty from down the road was available and, equipped with a variety of fasteners he brought, we secured the bar again. Now, as I drive around this area, I survey other wounded, or worse, victims of the snowplows, which in turn are themselves the response to our geography and weather for which the only cure is spring when the wounded can be patched up, or replaced, and the dead given a decent burial.
And across the road, my mailbox sits slightly awry on its bar as though offering a Gallic shrug to say, after taking a deep drag on a cigarette, “Mais oui, of course I am still here.”
Postscript: I am informed Marty’s mailbox is down.
Or casual indifference?
Stephen Lewis,originally from Brooklyn, New York is a retired college English professor and writer whose novels include two mysteries set in northern Michigan.