GLENN STOVER - Stands beside his mud-caked car at the Poole postoffice
The motto of the postal service - neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night, etc., - may have been written with the rural carrier in mind. But if so, it doesn't begin to list the hazards which the rural carriers of the Kearney area have faced this winter. Where, for instance, is there a reference to mud so troublesome that it can lock the wheels of a car? And where does it say anything about digging caves in the snow to find mailboxes?
ROUGH, ALL RIGHT
"It's been a rough winter," Glenn Stover, rural mail carrier for the Poole postoffice, says. "My patrons tell me it's the toughest one they've ever seen. But it still isn't as hard to get around as it was when George Jochem had the route."
Mr. Jochem, who carried the Poole route for over 30 years, retired in 1958 after establishing a commendable record for service and punctuality. In the days when Mr. Jochem fought the roads on the route, Mr. Stover points out, the roads were not nearly so well maintained.
But modern road machinery and modern cars still have not solved the problem of hard, blowing snow and seas of mud. The pitfalls along Mr. Stover's 46- mile route have forced him several times to make an all-day project of delivering his route, which normally takes less than four hours.
"The trouble this year," Mr. Stover said, "is that the snows came from the North, South and East. The roads blew shut from every direction."
One mailbox alone Mr. Stover's route was completely buried in one of the recent snows. Mr. Stover had a general idea where the box should be. He lined it up with a power pole in a field beyond the road, marked the spot and started digging. He tunneled four feet into the snowbank before locating the box - under four feet of snow. (Crawling in and out of a tunnel to deliver mail is another obstacle not listed in the postal department's creed.)
AND NOW MUD
Last week, mud replaced snow as the hazard. Mired in a driveway, Mr. Stover found he could not get the car into reverse, due to mud caked under the car. Hopelessly stuck, he took off across a field to the nearest farmhouse - where there was nobody home. At the second farmhouse, there was no tractor. After walking two miles over the fields, he found a farmer with a tractor and chains.
They towed the car for 1 1/2 miles, with the car's front wheels sliding, before reaching ground dry enough to make a thorough inspection of the car. It was then that Mr. Stover found the wheels were locked tightly by the gumbo mud.
Despite the obstacles, Mr. Stover says there are compensations. His 70 patrons are always ready to help when they can, and are patient when the mail is late. And there is some consolation in knowing that he is only one of several rural carriers in the same area, including carriers on 12 rural and Star routes in Buffalo County, fighting the same problem.
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