By Mel Carriere
I just returned from a family reunion outside a very small town in rural New Mexico. I am relieved to report that there is no truth to the rumor about romantic relationships being initiated at such events. My countless multitude of cousins and I remain on a non-kissing basis, except perhaps for a few innocent, non-committal pecks on the cheek.
As I made the long drive to the reunion from my Mom's home in Colorado, my Mother briefed me from the back seat on all of the current family dirty laundry, which was quite an impressive pile of soiled clothing, the family being so big that I can't keep track of them without a scorecard. Mom had a lot of sweet things to say about many people, but the litany of past sins and slights on the part of a few select genetically connected villains was enough to make me want to turn the car around and wonder "Why do we go to these things if there is such an explosive undercurrent of hostility at them?" Truth was, I hadn't seen most of these people for at least thirty years and they were effectively strangers to me, which once again prompted the question - "Why do we torture ourselves?"
Despite my misgivings, the outcome was wonderful. I was reacquainted with a lot of great people, many of whom I have already connected with on Facebook. I was also exposed to some of the realities of small town life, both of a positive and negative nature.
On the positive side, in a small town you become aware of the existence of the broader Universe surrounding our planet without having to read about it in an astronomy book. My son and I left the motel room the first night to walk down to the gas station - the "filling" station as they call it there, and were amazed and somewhat intimidated by the depth of darkness existing in a town that has no street lights. When we looked up at the sky, we were absolutely awestruck at the number of stars in the sky. We beheld the fuzzy band of the Milky Way for the first time in a long time, and it was absolutely beautiful.
On the negative side of things, there ain't no beer in that town. It's not exactly a community of prim and proper morals, there just isn't enough commerce in the place to justify the expense of getting a liquor license. I had to drive to the next town over, 24 miles away, to satisfy my craving for some cold suds.
Another negative facet of small town life these days, in this particular New Mexico burgh and rural America in general, is that reliable mail service is an increasingly iffy proposition.
One morning my Mother and I parked beside the Post Office, which you see in the photo above, to buy some cinnamon rolls at a little bakery that sits next to it. Of course I had to stop and take a picture of the place, and after I put my phone back in my pocket I remarked to my Mother that they were lucky their little Post Office hasn't been shut down yet, which seems to be a growing trend across the length and breadth of our land.
Immediately a lady sitting in a parked car in front of the building shouted out "We'll never let them close our Post Office!"
"Good for you!" I said, giving her a little fist pump. "Fight the good fight!"
People in rural America are passionate about their Post Offices. Hmmm...let me guess why. If you have to drive 24 miles to get your beer, can you imagine driving 24 miles to get your mail? Except for a few hard core alcoholics most of us can skip beer if we have to, but how many of us can skip our mail? How would you like to drive nearly 50 miles there and back to retrieve your pills from your PO box and buy some stamps to mail your letters?
I just read an article on Postal News about a little town called Cranfills Gap, Texas that recently had their Post Office closed, the building supposedly being condemned for "health and safety" reasons. Now the good people of Cranfills Gap have to drive 20.3 miles to Clifton. More than one hundred people got locked out of their PO boxes, and they are "tired" of the commute.
Besides the usual pursuit of amorous connections, family reunions in small town America can be useful in a lot of other ways. One of these ways is to remind those of us who live in cities not to take the mail for granted. It's already happening out in the sticks, and when these rural POs start falling like dominoes its only a matter of time before those of us that live in more populated areas are going to be shaken out of our urbanized smugness too.
"Never!" is what the lady in the small town post office parking lot yelled at me, and "Never!" should be the rallying cry of every postal customer, everywhere.
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