Friday, May 29, 2009

Indian Trail Trees

In the past year or so, we've learned about the strangely bent trees that the Native Americans used to mark their trails. The trees called attention to sources for drinking water, encampments, and other things. They were, in a way, like signs on the interstates of today. Sometimes, when the tree was bent, the "elbow" was split in places and filled with moss in order to give the tree a definitive meaning.

I had heard that the majority of these trees could be found East of the Mississippi river. Lately, there have been a number of sightings in Missouri, especially in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Locally, we discovered a few over near Flippin Arkansas last winter, and were amazed to see them in person. The trees still stand as sentinels, looking over the lands the Native Americans used to roam.

Recently, we took some friends down to Blanchard Caverns in the nearby town of 56, Arkansas. While waiting for the tour to begin, we perused the gift shop, and found a small paperback book about the trees. There were several ways the trees could be bent, but all pointed the way for foot traffic on the trails.

Later, as the Native Americans began to use horses for transportation, the low lying trees couldn't be seen from horseback. The bends were made higher up on the trunk of the saplings, and the resulting marker is called a "Rider Tree" today.
Oddly enough, we stumbled across one in plain sight here in our back yard! It seems to be pointing to the old military road that ran East to West along the front of our property. Later that same road became the Southern route of "The Trail of Tears". I don't know how long ago our tree was altered, but I'm sure proud to have it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mailman!

This goes back to my previous post. Over my many years at the Post Office, I've always heard the same general comment: "You guys just come to work, pick up a bag, and walk around!"
Nothing could be further from the truth! A letter carrier's day is as structured, and in some instances micro-managed, as any other high-stress job.
Let's have a look at a typical mailman's day!

Upon clocking in, the carrier is expected to go directly to their "case", a large unit with rows of shelves with dividers about an inch apart, where the mail is sorted for that individual route. Each carrier has his own case, and must sort the mail there in delivery order. The office standard is 18 letters, and 8 "flats" (magazines, and large envelopes) per minute. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Imagine staring at row after row of dividers with addresses marked below them, and trying to get a letter in the right place.It's not as easy as it looks!

All the while, the delivery supervisor watches them, and makes sure they are sorting to standard. Prior to the carriers arrival, the supervisor has inventoried each route's mail, and, through a software program, determined the exact time the carrier should be on the street, and when they should return. The carrier is then told this information, and expected to comply. There is no room for debate! If there's 5 feet of fresh snow outside, and the wind chill is -45 degrees, it shouldn't take any longer to make the rounds than on a pleasant spring day.
After sorting the mail, routing the SPRS (small packages) and parcels, the carrier "skins the case", or ties down the mail in delivery order, and bundles it into relays. Each relay is a loop of a block or more, that the carrier delivers. After that loop is completed, the carrier moves on the the next one, until the route is completed. All the while, the supervisor is out on the street doing what is called "Street Supervision", checking the carrier's position on each route to where the software said they should be. Usually, any variation over 5 minutes will result in a "job discussion" (getting chewed out) when the carrier returns! Petty, isn't it?

Worse yet, when a carrier breaks for lunch, they may only take that lunch in an approved location. If a new burger joint opens up in town, and you're caught there, it could end up in discipline!
At the end of the tour, the carrier must return to the Post Office to return their equipment, keys, and any accountable items. Sometimes, the supervisor is waiting for them in order to go over problems with the carrier's performance. Sound's simple, doesn't it??

Now imagine doing this 5 days a week, day in and day out. When lightning is flashing overhead, and you're walking under trees in order to keep on time. Or when the cold is brutal, and the wind just makes it worse, and you have to finish that route. That's the life of a Letter Carrier!
I'm sure glad it's over!!

Before anything.....

Tomorrow, the Postal Service is going to charge an extra 2 cents to mail a letter. Now before everyone starts carping on just how awful it is that they need more money, I figured I ought to come to their defense. I spent nearly 40 years in the service, and despite their bumbling, incompetent, and uncaring demeanor, the Postal Service does do a good job. I started there when it was a department of the U. S. Government, just like the Defense Department, or any any of the other multitude of branches. Employees took pride in their government service, and most people thought of them as special for having a good government job.

Fast forward to the present, and you'll find a Quasi-Governmental entity, with a declining revenue stream, but the proud employees still get the job done. The job itself, is to provide universal service from one end of this country to the other, and that includes it's territories. Distance doesn't matter, the cost always remains the same. While on-line shopping and E-Mailing have cut into the revenue stream, the Post Office still provides a safe, and secure way to communicate and pay bills. The chances for identity theft are far greater on the Internet, than through the mail.

Now, that universal service requires a lot of manpower, and transportation costs. When gas was near $5\gallon last summer, there was no break for the Post Office; they paid what everyone else did. That really cut into the operating budget, as did utility costs for the multitude of buildings, offices, and repair facilities. Add to that, the cost of wages and benefits for the employees, and it's easy to see why the cost of postage will have to go up.
While many will question the need for "snail mail" in this day and age, remember the millions of people that don't use, don't want, and are afraid of the Internet. The mail provides a daily contact with friends, and family via a uniformed member of the U. S.Government!

Next: The Mailman

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Well, let's give this blogging thing a try. I've decided that since I've got a lot to say, perhaps I ought to say it! There's so much I want to share with the readers, especially some of the area's history. With the Southern route of "The Trail of Tears" literally in the front yard, the Buffalo National River just a few miles to the South of us, and A large lake on either side of us, there's a lot to talk about.

It's springtime here in the Ozarks, and it's just beautiful here. We're just weeks away from the start of tourist season, and the area is still suffering the effects of January's ice storm. Slowly, things are getting back to normal here, and I'm itching to get out on the water!

I'll try to post often, starting with the story of how we got here in the first place.

Until then, thanks for stopping by!