By John Toth
It was way overdue. The house needed a new mailbox, but I was hesitant.
The old mailbox has been there for several decades. I bought it and screwed it into the ground. It is made of metal, and although the door tended to open by itself, it still stayed put if I pushed on it hard enough.
The mail carriers must have been taking bets on when it would fall down. Recently, I did begin to notice that each time I put mail in it, the metal stand would bend some.
I bought a new mailbox kit a few days earlier, just in case. It’s made of plastic. I’m not a fan of that, but I was going to store it until it was absolutely necessary to replace the old mailbox. It made no sense to make the change when the old one still had some life in it, perhaps even a few more weeks.
Then came the big day. When I stuck letters inside one morning, I noticed that the mailbox started leaning. I pushed it back to make it straight, and it leaned the other way. I straightened it out and ended up holding the mailbox and the stand in my hands.
The rusty metal stand snapped in half. The day had come for me to spring into action and install the new box - or I wasn’t getting any mail for a while.
I got my hole digger out from the shed, some hand tools and gloves. It was time to twist the rest of the stand out of the ground. Luckily, it just screwed in, and with a fair amount of effort, it screwed right out.
I started digging the hole. It had to go down deep enough so that I could fit most of my arm in it. That’s when I encountered a problem.
I felt something like a rock. I started clearing the sand from around it with my hand and shined a flashlight into the hole. That was no rock. It was a sewage pipe.
The sewage from my house empties into that pipe as it is carried away to the city’s treatment plant. It’s a good thing that I didn’t just try to break through this “rock.”
Then it occurred to me. Right after we moved into this house in 1989, we were having sewage problems. The city came out a couple of times after the sewage caved in the ground near the mailbox. It made sense now. The previous mailbox installed by the contractor or the previous owners must have damaged the pipe.
When I installed this screw-in mailbox stand, I was just lucky enough not to hit the pipe. Had I screwed it a few inches to the right, it would have gone right through it.
I chose another place to dig and came across another pipe. This was metal, so it had to be the water pipe, which is under pressure. That was not a good location for a mailbox.
I tried my luck in the other direction - a few feet away from the last two locations - and did most of the digging with hand tools and my hand. I didn’t want to press my luck any more than I already had.
Success. The spot was clear of all pipes. I installed the new, plastic mailbox and packed the sand back into the hole. I didn’t pour any quick-set concrete in it, though, because I didn’t know how long this shiny plastic mailbox will last. This way, I can just stick another one in the same hole and be done with it.
I even put the house number on both sides, so that the mail carrier would not have to guess which house this is. I know she appreciated that because a couple of days later, I found a thank-you note from her in the mailbox.