Of Tank Traps And Mailboxes


I am no stranger to mailbox baseball. In my youth, I was renowned for my uncanny abilities at this art form in Sumter, South Carolina back in the sixties. A close cousin to this sport was cherry bombs as first class mail.

In the last several decades, this practice has abated, but a newer style has supplanted it. I speak, of course, of the uncivilized practice of mowing mailboxes down with 4WD vehicles. I moved to a new rural residence in a gated community in 1990 thinking I was living amongst civilized neighbors. I probably was , but failed to account for their rowdy offspring. Considering my own youth, I count that as a fatal assumption on my part.

My first loss was minor. My 4X4 post was clobbered, but the mailbox managed to survive the low-speed impact. I laughed and erected a new one with a 6X6 post that was infinitely more substantial. Everything was fine and no one felt tempted to test the mettle of such a gargantuan post-for a while. Wood decomposes and my ornate cedar post was not immune to nature.

1995 dawned and the mettle of the post was tested yet again. It survived the first assault, but succumbed later that year to termites and juveniles with driver’s licences. I also noticed that a criminal element was stealing my mail occasionally. The new improved vessel was staunchly anchored with a 4X6 of treated lumber immune to bugs and topped with a locking mailbox. The second locking mailbox installed a month later was secured with two (2) 3/8’X5″ lag bolts and fender washers. Why would anyone want to steal a locking mailbox if they don’t have the key? Mailboxes are incredibly cheap so I was somewhat bewildered at this theft because the box was empty and it happened at night.

All was fine for almost five more years. I found the post nudged over once and straightened it. I suspect the garbage truck bumped it inadvertently when backing out of a dead-end street across from our house.

The twenty-first century dawned without any calamities. My checking account was still there and my wife’s computer didn’t go NASDAQ. Not so the mailbox. In an attempt at New Year’s day humor, someone had mowed it down once again. Either that or they were incredibly drunk and were having difficulty navigating home. To be equitable I gave the individual the benefit of the doubt and dug a new hole and reset the post and mailbox. My wife is a stickler for tidiness so I was forced to replace the dented box and found a larger, locking version that was better suited to the job. It lasted one month.

It was obvious that the “drunken” person suffered from this malady frequently. I based this on the observation that I lost this one so soon. Stoically, I reset the post again and made a promise to myself that this was the last time. I was prepared to throw in the towel and get a P.O. box at the local post office. I couldn’t stand guard over the thing night and day. The cost of repair or replacement was negligible, but the futility was becoming evident.

Sure enough, several years later I came out at 0600 to get the paper and found it lying on top of the horizontal post and box. I went in to read the paper and made plans to stop at the P.O. for the box. All that day I had black thoughts about the little twerp who was making my life miserable and laughing in glee each time he mowed it down with Daddy’s Jeep. I decided on a new course of action predicated on what broke me of that baseball bat habit in South Carolina. Some enterprising welder had artfully constructed a Joe Blow mailbox identical in every respect to your standard curved top version approved by our U.S.P.S. The difference was this one was a) welded to it’s post and b) made out of 1/8″ plate steel. You could drive over this with an automobile without any noticeable deflection of the metal. To say that it defied a wooden baseball bat is axiomatic, and it left me with peripheral neuropathy of the upper extremities for several months.

Towards that end I began planning. As we get mail everyday, this meant an instant repair order. Thinking back to my days in the military and measures employed to impede traffic at military gates, I came up with what I felt was the viable alternative. The speed limit in our neighborhood was 20 m.p.h. so I wasn’t worried about a high speed crash and a lawsuit. I set about crafting what I considered as the perfect mailbox post.

Waiting until all the little reprobates had departed for school, I started with a nice 30 inch deep hole and my old 4X6 post so as not to arouse undue suspicion. Next I mixed  four(4)  sixty lb. bags of concrete and inserted a 60 inch (five feet) piece of 2 inch galvanized rigid steel conduit on the back side of the post invisible to oncoming traffic. I camouflaged it further with several large hose clamps to make it appear as if I had simply attached a broken post to a pipe. The pipe stuck up several feet and was spray painted a nice flat brown to accesorize with the post. I put orange cones around for a week to protect it until the concrete could set up hard.

The week after school let out I got my last customer. This was 2004. I had come home from work and headed to the rain locker for my evening cleanup before dinner. While dressing in the bedroom, I heard the incoming bass boom of a loud car radio with rap approaching. Suddenly the vehicle accelerated audibly and then there was a horrendous crash and the protracted sound of what could best be described as tortured metal.

I honestly thought there had been an automobile accident. I promptly jumped into bedroom slippers and ran downstairs and out the front door. Nothing. No vehicles. My neighbor across the street came over laughing and pointed to my mailbox. A closer examination revealed it was broken-sort of. The post was lying on the ground and the box was destroyed once again. The steel pipe, however, was tipped at a 45 degree angle and very shiny where the paint had been scraped off. Several feet away was a residual trail of brake fluid leading off down the street. Ten yards further was the purple telltale stream of transmission fluid mixed with what appeared at first glance to be the green of antifreeze.

I ran back inside, armored up with my trusty .44 S&W, grabbed my wallet and car keys and was off in a flash. The trail led approximately 500 yards down and around the corner past the 9th green. There was a small pool in the road and then it circled around a cul-de-sac and headed back out towards my hacienda. The return fluid trail ended for the most part about 60 yards from the mailbox. An occasional blob appeared every 10 yards all the way to the gate. I went back to the house and the neighbor, Russ, informed me that a Ford Expedition with some major engine noise had passed while I was inside grabbing my keys, etc. I decided this was too good to be true and raced down to the local gas station/desperation delicatessen. The Korean proprietor informed me a young man in obvious distress had arrived with friends and just purchased all his transmission fluid and filled his radiator up with water from the hose. In fact, I had just missed him.

I used a logging chain tied off to my ball hitch on my one ton to pull the steel pipe up straight again. Several new hose clamps and a new mailbox and I was back in business for the next customer. Word travels fast, apparently. I moved out several years later to my brand new empty nester abode, but never got another customer. After building such a successful mailbox protector, I have used it as a model for the current one.  I guess my mailbox prowess precedes me. I have yet to get my first victim here.

Here’s a picture of the old tank trap. The new owners moved the box over to the right of it because there’s so much concrete below the steel post. I must not have gotten it back to perfectly vertical in 04. It still has a slight tilt to the left in the direction the Expedition was traveling.

About asknod

VA claims blogger
This entry was posted in Humor, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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