June 22, 2018
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Inventive Aroostook County residents find creative ways to protect mailboxes

By Kathryn Olmstead, Special to the BDN

Anyone who travels the roads of Aroostook County has to appreciate the lengths to which people go to protect their mailboxes from the snowplow and other threats. I have not had a mailbox for years. Between Halloween pranksters and winter snowplows, I just can’t keep one standing.

So I have great admiration for the ingenuity of Aroostook County residents who have succeeded where I have failed. I continue to marvel at the variety of strategies they devise to protect their mailboxes from whatever might take them down.

Back when the snowbanks rose high overhead, I was traveling south on Route 1 when I came upon a man who had just crossed the highway to retrieve his mailbox from the snowbank. He had attached the box to a long board which he thrust into the snow beside the road until the mail arrived. Then he carried the whole contraption back to his house.

He is not alone. Since then I have observed other examples of portable mailboxes.

Some people just place the box on top of the snow — no board. Others save on lifting by attaching the mailbox post to an old lawnmower that can be wheeled to the roadside and rolled back to safety after the mail comes.

But people who are not home when the mail arrives need more permanent protection. My favorite is a sort of cantilever: a mailbox attached to one end of long metal rail with a weight at the opposite end that lifts the box high into the air. Pull on the cord dangling beneath the box and there’s your mail.

Then there is the mailbox hung from a pair of chains attached to the arm of a solid wood structure anchored a safe distance from the road and designed to suspend the box above the snowbank so the plow can pass under it.

The craftsmanship in wood and metal of one such hanging mailbox near St. Agatha is matched only by the masonry that fortifies a mailbox beside the road in St. John between Fort Kent and Allagash. Encased in an armor of native stone, this mailbox sends a clear message: Don’t mess with me.

The black box struggling to hold on beside the road near Long Lake in St. Agatha has a different message. I can identify with its owners, determined to keep their mailbox through the winter no matter how much duct tape it requires. If they fail, they may end up with a post office box, like me.

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