For What It’s Worth

Late, but delivered

The term Snail Mail may have taken on a new meaning for 79-year-old Bob Rodgers, now a resident of Niles, MI.

Almost 60 years ago, Bob was an Army Private in basic training at Fort Campbell, KY, where on June 13, 1953, he sat down and wrote a letter home to his wife, Jean, in New Carslisle, IN. Because a storm had knocked out power at Fort Campbell, he wrote the letter in the dark. The letter, which described some of what Bob was doing in boot camp, came to light when it arrived almost 60 years later in New Carlisle.

That’s right, on March 7, 2013, the letter, bearing a June 15, 1953, postmark and two 3-cent stamps (apparently an effort to assure delivery), arrived in New Carslisle, where Postmaster Connie Tomaszewski, to her credit, tracked down Bob Rodgers that day and hand-delivered the letter to him. Needless to say, he was surprised.

I love his response upon receiving the letter. Smiling, he told a reporter, “I asked if they had found the remains of the horse and rider and got the letter out of the saddle bag.” According to Bob, the postmaster just smiled at his remark. So did I.

Asked why there was such a delay in delivering the letter, Postmaster Tomaszewski said, “There are a million possibilities…It could have sat at Fort Campbell. The important part of it is it did get delivered.”

Except for responding that the letter likely had been lost somewhere in the system until now, Tomaszewski’s answer was about as acceptable an answer as one might expect. You don’t really want to hear what the spokeswoman for the Greater Indiana District of the U.S. Postal Service told a reporter. Oh, you do? Okay.

The spokeswoman disputed that the letter had been lost. A more likely scenario, she said, was that Mrs. Rodgers received it shortly after her husband had mailed it and the letter somehow ended up at a flea market or antique store where a collector latched onto it. (Yes, according to a news story, she actually said that.) In such cases, she said, people sometimes put letters back in the mail for reasons unknown or perhaps so addressees can retain them as keepsakes.

I smiled at Bob’s Pony Express remark, but my response to the spokeswoman’s comments went beyond a smile.

Bob said that as far as he knows his wife, who died of cancer eight years ago, never received the letter.

Asked what he thought her reaction would have been had she received it almost 60 years late, he said she would have been thrilled, just as he was. “She’d have got a kick out of that,” he said.

Getting a kick out of a Pony Express delivery would seem to be appropriate.

I wonder—are we sometimes like this situation? We deliver on a commitment or a promise, but we do so long after we should have. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe that promise we made just got lost somewhere. If so, when we “found” it, did we do like the postmaster and immediately deliver even though we might be embarrassed or ashamed? Or, were we like the spokesman and offered some hard-to-believe excuse in an effort to erase our failure?

 

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