Two thoughts startled me awake this morning. One was Lyndon Baines Johnson. And the other was this ever growing idea in our nation today that life is not fair. I couldn’t possibly think there could be a connection.
At least six people in the last week have shared their burden with me on the unfairness of life as they see it. Some was political, naturally. The government was either doing too little for them…..or regulating too much. Some was family infringement. Some was work related. You’ve heard the same stories.
I never met Lyndon Johnson of course. But I know for dead certain positive he was President in the summer of 1965. That’s when Mr. Graden Featherstone, the postmaster of our little town, called Mom and told her to send me down to his office. I was mystified beyond words but I knew I was going to blame whatever it was on John Ingram or Bobby Brewer…….
“Young Mr. Colbert,” Mr. Featherstone was always formal, straight forward and to the point, “I have a letter before me that states you have received a Presidential Appointment to work with us at the post office this summer. It specifically spells out that you must be enrolling in a college in the fall to be eligible.”
Well, I couldn’t think of nothing to say, formal or otherwise. The President didn’t know me from Adam’s housecat and I’d never been appoint—
“Bailey Moore Wrinkle is listed as the local sponsor.” Mr. Featherstone continued to read down through the fine print.
Mr. Wrinkle was high up amongst the Democrats in Carroll County and he really liked my Dad. I don’t think he could have picked me out of a line-up. I had a job at Tommie Hill’s DX Station. And I didn’t know diddly-squat about the mail business.
“It says here that you are to be paid two dollars and fifty-six cents an hour.”
“I will take it!”
Minimum wage in 1965 was whatever Mr. Hill said it was. And he was paying me five dollars a day. And I was out in the hot sun except for when I was fixing a rear flat tire on Mr. Ellis’ big John Deere in the service bay. Before that I’d worked years at the swimming pool for fifty cents an hour. I didn’t know the government had this kind of money. And I don’t know exactly where they were getting it. And I didn’t care!
There wasn’t any decision here. Besides, I bet Buffalo Bill wasn’t a mail aficionado his first trip with the Pony Express.
They put me to work unloading the mail truck. It arrived around 2:30 a.m. I didn’t know there was time before chicken crowing. And you would not believe what “the mail brought in” that summer. I unloaded washers and dryers. Oriental rugs. Lots of lawnmowers. And one swing set. Now you tell me, who orders a swing set through the mail!
But mostly I unloaded heavy number 3 mail sacks full of letters, cards and magazines. I never got to “work the window” up front or “put up” the mail, either in the p. o. boxes or the rural route delivery trays. That was left to Oscar Owen, Porter Dunlap and “Hot Shot” Lewis.
I was intimidated as all get out around these older gentlemen…..for about five seconds. That’s how long it took for them to make me feel welcome. I never got a “what’s this kid doing here” look. They never fussed, harangued, gave me an order or played some prank on me.
They helped me in every way possible. They asked about my life, baseball, college plans and my girlfriend. When I mentioned her daddy was a doctor, they all agreed I needed to keep her. When they found out about the bank, the hardware store, the farm and all the bottomland her family owned, they each tried to adopt me!
After a late baseball game, I’d slip into Mr. Featherstone’s office and sleep on a stack of empty number 3 mail pouches. One of the men would wake me when the truck pulled in.
You talk about a wonderful summer. Oscar, Porter and Hot Shot took time for me, encouraged me, taught me……cared about me. The money was great and it did help me with college, but the lessons I learned were priceless.
For years after that, if I got a letter that had gone through the hometown post office, it would have Porter or Oscar or Hot scribbled across the envelope somewhere. They didn’t forget me. Nor me them.
I would have worked with those guys for nothing!
Sometimes life is not fair…..IN YOUR FAVOR.