Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Weather was great at Slaton's 5th Friday in May

Slaton's 5th Friday doesn't happen every month. Fortunately, the last few days in May were sunny, providing the perfect opportunity to get out and about. There was music...there was food. There was art to view and sidewalk vendor's to visit. (I was one of them)

July 31st will be the next 5th Friday event in Slaton. Don't miss it!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Was it a cruel gag gift or did she order it herself?

Tune in to read about the adventures of Buck Buchanan, fictional country mailman, delivering mail out of Starz, Texas. He takes his job seriously and knows that customers count on him to deliver every piece of mail entitled to them. He is all about customer service. With a willing ear and a helping hand, Buck Buchanan goes the extra mile.
*  *  *

When I entered the Post Office, I smelled it immediately. The mail truck arrives about six in the morning so I knew whatever was dead had only been in the building for an hour. The gurney sat in the corner of the back room so I wheeled it outside and left the door open, surprised that the truck driver had not separated the offending package from the rest.
Gus arrived right behind me and the postmaster immediately wrinkled his nose and raised his eyebrow as he passed by the gurney. We both tackled the job right away, hoping the parcel emitting the foul odor was close to the top. Gus found it and quickly tossed it out onto the grass, leaving it until we could determine the contents. I’ve delivered smelly cheese. I’ve delivered packages where perfume bottles broke and the cardboard reeked. I’ve delivered dirty laundry that smells of body odor. The box out on the lawn tops them all. I can’t remember smelling anything like it, not even the dead mouse that got caught under the refrigerator and wasn’t discovered for a month.
Gus and I both sorted our mail for the next hour, but all I could think about was the contents in that box outside. He must have been thinking the same because I watched him go outside and look at the box, turning it on all four sides. He came back inside, sat at the computer, and began mumbling to himself.
“You will never believe what is in that box,” he finally said.
“Something dead.”
He nodded slowly. “Sort of. From the address on that box, I found the website. This company ships…..elephant dung. It’s a gag gift company.”
   I groaned and hung my head briefly, wondering about the sanity of some people. Then I shrugged…and the ingenuity of others. “Did you happen to notice the recipient?”
“Ellen Shapiro.”
After staring into space, I recollected the woman. She moved to Starz three years ago to teach in the high school. That explained everything. Teenage boys have no boundaries when it comes to tormenting teachers. Ms. Shapiro wasn’t attractive. She wore old lady clothes and drove a Smart Car. I heard she was a tough teacher.
“It’s your choice, Buck. You don’t have to deliver it. According to the guidelines, anything foul can be refused. I’ll back you up on this one.”
Gus thought he was doing me a favor, but he wasn’t. I always thought the Post Master made decisions like that, but he merely put it in my lap. It would have been easy for him to drop that box into the dumpster, but there it lay outside in the grass for me to make the choice. There was no choice. I wasn’t about to put that rank-smelling box in my car, much less put it in Ellen Shapiro’s mailbox. But the U.S. Postal Service is not discretionary when it comes to delivering mail. Our job is to get the piece to the person whose address is on the package. I knew I'd put a pink slip in Ellen Shapiro's mailbox. Even if I suspected the entire senior high school class of tricking the teacher, my job is not to judge, only deliver.
I did leave the box where it lay in the grass outside the back door and I did fill out the slip before slipping it in the circular addressed to Ellen Shapiro. Then I went out to do my job.
The Ennis' weren't home. After three hearty raps at the front door, I put the certified letter back in the pouch and filled out a pink slip letting them know they could pick up the piece of mail at the Post Office after three o'clock. The letter was from the oncologist. Mr. and Mrs. Ennis were regular visitors to the Cancer Center every week, had been for the last seven months and were expecting news that the cancer was beat. Mr. Ennis didn't mention the alternative, at least not to me. He just let me know the letter was coming. His wife, Cleo, had breast cancer and religiously, Mr. Ennis bundled her into the car every Tuesday morning for the treatment in Lubbock and brought her home to rest at her sister's house until he picked her up after work.
There's a sadness when the word, cancer, is mentioned. In this case, the emotion goes even deeper. Kent and Cleo Ennis are newlyweds and were looking forward to starting a family when the doctor discovered the mass. The letter I had in my possession would change lives, but it was just as important to deliver as the circular from the local grocery store. That's what I do and even when I don't particularly care to have that responsibility, my feelings don't alter the fact. My job is to deliver mail.
I stuffed the large parcel in Kyla Ballister's mailbox, making sure it fit before I did. She wasn't happy with me for shoving a previous package into the metal container - said I smashed the edges. The contents were not damaged, but she likes to keep the boxes and reuse them. I didn't roll my eyes when Gus relayed the message from the phone call she placed to "my supervisor." I wonder if Kyla Ballister was confronted with breast cancer if she would be so concerned about the edges of mailed boxes.
When I strolled through the back door after finishing the route, Gus didn’t look up from his standard position at the desk. I deposited the incoming mail in the appropriate sack, recased the undeliverable mail from the route, placed the pink slips in the slot and put the matching parcels in the tub. I then reached for the red book and went to a spare desk where I could clearly see the counter.
“I’m going to update the line of travel.” Gus only responded with a grunt but I knew he would be grateful. Changes made to the Red Book were painful.
When the door opened in the foyer, I waited in anticipation. School was out and I expected Ellen Shapiro at any moment. But it was only Mrs. Anton getting mail from her box. Moments later, when the door opened again, Cody Black strolled through both doors and I nodded.
“My mom sent me to get her package.” When he held up the pink slip I had put in the Black’s mailbox earlier during the day, I went back to the Red Book while Gus dug in the tub for the appropriate parcel.
At four fifteen, I gave up. I put the Red Book on Gus’ desk for him to send to Ft. Worth with the changes and picked up the pen to sign out. The door opened in the foyer and then the door to the office, but I signed my name, not expecting Ms. Shapiro.
“I came to get my package.”
Gus and I both looked at the small woman standing at the counter, both wondering if she was ready for the trick someone played on her.
I held up my hand. “I’ll be right there with it.”
I retrieved her property from the lawn where it had been ripening all day in the sun and held the offending box at arm's length, trying not to inhale deeply. When I put it on the counter, she stepped backwards.
“Oh, heavens! Now I know why you didn’t put it in my mailbox.” She looked at me with a half smile, took it and held it loosely, struggling with a grimace of distaste. “Thank you.”
When the door closed and the Post Office was silent, I knew without turning around, that Gus had questions in his eyes. I also knew he wouldn’t voice them. He was that kind of man, not wanting to know any more information than necessary. Ms. Shapiro's reaction did not answer the question I had been thinking all day - was the box a gag gift or did she order it herself? Some questions aren't answered in the Post Office and that's just as well.
I don't need to know if the gag gift was truly a gag or if the Ennis' certified letter from the clinic was good news or bad. Somewhere along the line, I'll find out. News gets around in a small town and Starz, Texas is definitely a community of folks who keep up-to-date on neighbors. I make it my business to keep quiet about my customers, though. I don't even tell my wife that the packages Kyla Ballister receives every month are from sex toy manufacturers. Nor do I report to anyone whose cars I see parked in her driveway during the day. That's Kyla's business, not mine. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

8 hairy legs and 2 swaying udders

Tune in to read about the adventures of Buck Buchanan, fictional country mailman, delivering mail out of Starz, Texas. He takes his job seriously and knows that customers count on him to deliver every piece of mail entitled to them. He is all about customer service. With a willing ear and a helping hand, Buck Buchanan goes the extra mile.
*  *  *

A March mid-morning in West Texas can be cold, but today the sun warmed me through the window and I began to feel drowsy - not a good sensation for a mailman with a carload of parcels and envelopes to deliver. I lowered the window to get a blast of fresh air and felt a bit livelier. The bright color caught my eye and I saw something at the edge of the dirt road. After slowing down a bit, I realized instantly what it was and shook my head. I was not going to pick those up. I even held up my hand to cover the sight and pressed the accelerator, determined not to feel responsible for every lost item on my route. The pair of dentures could sit there and rot for all I care. I wasn’t even going to ponder the reason why white teeth and pink gums were sitting innocently on top of a blue calico handkerchief out in the middle of Texas. The thought flitted through my head and I braked to a stop and backed up until I was even with the oddity. I wouldn’t pick them up, but I could take a picture. Two minutes later I was on my way, proud that I didn’t look in the rear view mirror to see if the teeth started chattering.
I knocked on Nina's front door and waited for her to answer. She was home, but having one foot in a cast and using crutches, the lady took longer than most.
"Mornin' Buck."
"Where would you like these boxes, Nina?"
 I stepped past the open door, mindful of the injured foot, and paused in the hallway for directions. I saw she pointed toward the kitchen. When I entered the massive room, I put the parcels on the closest counter and waited for Nina to catch up. She crutched along until she, too, was standing in the kitchen.
"Just leave them right there. I've got something for you to taste."
With an expectant look on her face, she handed me a small slice of cheese from a plate and watched while I ate it. I rolled the curd on my tongue and thought for a moment before swallowing. "Orange."
Nina's face burst into a smile. "Yes!" She reached for a slice from another plate and handed it to me.
I followed the same pattern as before and contemplated the flavor. "Cinnamon."
"Yes! Yes!" Nina nearly screamed with excitement, then suddenly she was serious. "Too sweet?"
I shook my head. "No. I didn't taste any sweetness."
She slumped on her crutches, the smile returning. "You just made my day. I've been working on these for a month. I'm adding them to the cheese line. That will make six flavored and the plain. What's your favorite so far, Buck?"
She nodded. "Mine, too, but people like different."
I surveyed the room and saw gleaming stainless steel counter tops. The room is more than a place to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nina's kitchen is a factory for goat cheese. Her husband raises the animals and milks them. Nina makes it into curds, then presses the cheese, ages it and sells it to all kinds of places.
Nina had already processed the morning milk. The curd and whey mixture sat in the deep heating container. Another mixture looked as if it was resting in the temperature-controlled vat. Against the wall, a mechanical rod that resembled a pie-cutter was slicing through curd that had already been separated from the whey. Later she would season it, put it in molds and store it until somebody tasted it and told her it was good. For a lady who has been making cheese for ten years, she liked to have opinions from a lot of people.
I waved, turned and left the room like I had done for the past three weeks. Nina Fields gets some sort of parcel nearly every day but since she broke her foot, I normally carry the boxes into the kitchen. Three weeks earlier, she tripped over two goats and fell off the porch. It took two screws and day surgery to put her back together. Another week on crutches and she’d be back to her bustling self with only a cast to slow her down.
As I stepped out the front door, I saw them and yelled. "Nina!"
When I heard the crutching stop behind me, I also heard her chuckle. "Just give them a ride to the cattle guard, Buck. You know they like you."
I muttered under my breath and walked to the car. The goats didn't move. I knew Nina and Jaime treated the goats like pets, but some things are outrageous. The black nanny stood on the top of my car next to the circling yellow light as if she belonged. Two others stood on my hood, looking like ornaments. I started the car and hoped they would hop off, but after looking at Nina's face, I knew they weren't going to move. The goat lady gazed at her brood as proudly as any mother whose children were performing. Driving slowly, I pointed the car toward the gate, peering through eight hairy legs and two swaying udders. When I stopped, they promptly scampered from the car and trotted back toward Nina. Goats are a mystery to me, but they must not be to the lady who stood on the porch, scratching the neck of that black nanny.
Before I left the gate, my phone rang and I listened to Jake, the sheriff, as he gave me the brief message. I had to chuckle as I gave him the directions to find the dentures. Cell phones are great for sending pictures and I guess Jake remembered the image I sent to him earlier in the day.
 Mrs. Smith got sick of Mr. Smith clacking his teeth together, bundled them up in a handkerchief and hid them until he promised to use the teeth cement. But she forgot where she hid them. How they got from her house, three miles south, to County Road 3258 was a mystery, but she did remember using a blue calico handkerchief. Jake only knew this because he had lunch with his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and his father couldn’t eat for lack of his teeth.
Some mysteries are never solved and it looks as if this one might fall into that category. I’d keep my eyes peeled, though, for a clue as to how Jake’s father’s teeth ended up on the side of the road. You never know what you will find out here on these caliche roads.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A limb went missing....

Tune in to read about the adventures of Buck Buchanan, fictional country mailman, delivering mail out of Starz, Texas. He takes his job seriously and knows that customers count on him to deliver every piece of mail entitled to them. He is all about customer service. With a willing ear and a helping hand, Buck Buchanan goes the extra mile.
*  *  *

Anna Ortiz needed stamps. I took the money from the envelope and replaced it with her requested Valentine booklet that had an assortment of heart postage. As I closed her mailbox door, I noticed an object in the ditch that didn’t look like a rock or something I’d seen before. Probably a tool that gleamed in the sunlight. Lots of tools bounced off of pickups on these rough dirt roads. It was about a hundred yards up, so I drove slowly to see if it was usable. As I got close, I blinked and looked harder, thinking my eyes were tired since the route was nearly finished. I was on a country road, surrounded by pasture and cotton fields. What I saw had no business being in a ditch.
I put the gear in park and sat, staring at the prosthetic leg. A sneaker was attached to the bottom, but from my distance, I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman’s shoe. The sole wasn’t worn much, nor was the upper part of the apparatus torn or dirty. Do I leave it or take it …..where?
I couldn’t think of an appropriate place to store a lost prosthetic limb. Why would someone discard the piece on the side of the road? That object had a story behind it, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, remove it from the ditch. A person would be more likely to come back to it here, than anywhere else.
Still, I felt guilty as I abandoned the limb that clearly belonged on a person’s body. I drove away from it, but glanced in the mirror several times as if waiting for it to hop up and yell, “Take me, take me!”
Three miles later, I deposited Mr. Mann’s two envelopes, two circulars and postcard from New Zealand into his mailbox. I recognized the photo of the glowworm cave at Waitomo from the one my son sent me several years ago. There isn’t another sight like it and the destination is on my list of places to see.
 I always breathe a sigh of relief when finishing the mail route. I did it now, only the sigh sounded deeper than normal. I knew why. Melanie Anzt was getting more provocative every day. This morning she met me at the mailbox wearing the most see-through negligee I had ever seen. For a woman to wear practically nothing in the middle of February meant something. I’m definitely flattered but all kinds of things are wrong with the situation, the least being, I can’t play on US Postal Service time. Clearly she’s a lonely woman and not happy, since just arriving in the area. Having a husband who works in the oilfield and gone all week doesn’t help. That marriage is doomed to failure if something didn’t change, and quick, because one of these days, a man will come by who doesn’t mind playing on company time.
Jobs were scarce around these parts, but that lady needed to be around folks so she could flirt a little, without causing a disaster. The flash came to me. Brilliant! Edna at the café had been complaining of working too hard. Her protégée, Brenda Yager, left for the university in the fall, and the replacement was not successful. Melanie could flirt all she wanted as long as she knew how to pour coffee and take orders. I called Edna and made the suggestion, telling her where to find Melanie. She seemed receptive.
The drive back to the Post Office was short and I had a smile on my face when I walked through the door. Then I saw Gus’ scowl. The postmaster’s wrinkles were deeper than normal.
“What’s wrong?” I waited before signing out, just in case the problem was Post Office related.
“Did you leave two boxes at the Angles this morning?”
I thought for a moment before the picture of the long boxes was clear. “Yes, about as long as … fluorescent light bulbs.”
“That’s exactly what was in them and Mrs. Angles says they are smashed to bits.”
“When I handed them to the boys, I didn’t hear any moving glass and they seemed well cushioned.”
I nodded. “The twins must have been home sick.”
“She didn’t mention boys. Said when she found the boxes on the front porch, they looked as if they’d been run over by a truck.”
I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. 
He nodded. “I’ll call her. Those boys must not have been too sick.”
The smile was still in my head when I left the Post Office, but the more I thought about that leg lying in the ditch, the more I tapped on the steering wheel. No sense in staying up tonight worrying about it. Another day in that ditch and a wild animal or rain would ruin it.
Thirty minutes later, a sneaker attached to a metal contraption sat beside me on the front seat. It looked to fit a woman. When I gripped the metal firmly to take it into the sheriff’s office, I had a strange feeling that I was handling a body part that I had no business touching. It was an odd sensation.
Six eyes stared at me as I walked through the doors. Mandy Watkins, the dispatcher and secretary blinked repeatedly, but I knew she was staring at the leg in my hand. Jake, the sheriff, stood up from his desk and walked toward me, a slight smile appearing on his face. A stranger sitting in a chair beside Mandy merely looked at me as if he’d look at anyone walking through the door.
“Where did you find it!” Jake asked me as if the entire county had been looking for the object I held in my hand.
“In a ditch on Farm Road 3260, close to the Ortiz’s.”
He snapped his finger. “I knew it! Mandy, call the Highway Patrol and tell them Jason Dean is at his parent’s house.”
Jake slapped me on the shoulder, took the prosthesis and dropped it on his desk. “Good work, Buck.”
For the second time today, I felt my eyebrow rise in question. He laughed. “Jason Dean stole a car in Lubbock last night after assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. The car happened to belong to a young lady who wasn’t wearing her…” He eyed the metal object on his desk. “…jogging leg. I knew he’d go see his momma. He always does when he’s in trouble, but we had no cause to search the place.” Jake eyed his desk again. “Now we do. It’s just lucky for us, that he tossed the leg out on the same road where his parents live.”
“I delivered a package to Mr. Dean today. Jason was sitting at the kitchen table. I saw him through the window.” I wondered how violent Jason Dean could be.
Jake’s face grew serious. “What time?”
I tapped my finger against my leg, thinking. With a slight shake of my head, I hesitated. “Ten thirty, maybe eleven.”
“We’ve been watching the house since noon. No one has left. The car is probably in the barn.” He slapped me on the back again. “Thanks again, Buck. The officer Jason hit died this afternoon.”
I felt my eyes widen. “What did he hit him with?”
“A brick.”
I exhaled slowly. “What about Mr. and Mrs. Dean?”
“The daughter’s on her way now. We’re hoping she can talk her brother into giving himself up. Jason doesn’t know he killed the man.”
After leaving the office, I scratched my head. Some days aren’t worth getting out of bed for – I felt my face match Gus’ normal scowl. Rescuing the leg did not turn out to be what I had hoped. Some stories don’t have happy endings.