Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mailbox games.

Mailbox Games!!!

Some days, I want to scream;

Parents, it’s after midnight, where are your kids?

Do you even know? Do you even care?

Not wishing to appear huffy in any sense while typing up this blog, I will admit to some frustration with local young hoodlums, repeat offender vandals, who are out for a thrill walking along our long rural road late at night.

During the month of July, we heard a few high spirited older kids walking by the front of the house on the road to wherever they were headed to. We hadn’t heard anyone out there that late before, perhaps summer just brought out late night walkers, but I half listened just in case it not something innocent, and not wanting to wake up my mother in law down the hall from her deep slumber. After rising early the following morning, rubbing the cobwebs from our eyes, we wondered if they were playing tricks on us when noticing our road side mailbox had completely vanished and the base post was lonesome standing in the center of nowhere. The sight was strange for sure.

Ah… those silly days of youthful pranks and stupidity had hit our block, not at all reserved for a specific area of the country either. I remember in my own youth, when my father had to reset our own mailbox at the end of our long driveway, the day after a young bunch foolish folly filled characters drove around the neighborhood playing a new game we hadn't heard of before, having recently moved to that more rural area from the city. It was called "mailbox baseball", where someone drove along in a vehicle, while another hung out the passenger or back seat window, grasping a baseball bat and swinging mightily in the hopes of knocking off rural mailboxes from their posts, tallying their scores by the end of the selected time limits.

In truth, I never knew it was officially called "mailbox baseball" until years later, though it existed in most rural areas. But, at the very least, this type of silly game, afforded the owner’s mailbox flying not too far away from its normal location and easily retrievable by its owner.

As a parent, I would hope my kids are never so idle or influenced by their peers to false facts of this type of behavior being tremendously pleasurable nor gratifying, as there are consequences to this type of prank. For instance; back on that early summer morning, our mailbox was indeed missing. After a short walk at 7am around the roadside, I found it lying in the longer grassy portion inside of my neighbor's ditch. I grabbed onto it, hauled it out, then headed for home. At least we found it were my early morning thoughts. Later on, hubby set to work banging out the dents a bit more and corrected the lid closure when it wouldn't meet the box to keep closed any longer. Also, there was the matter of replacing it onto the post at the road.

The endeavor was time consuming, and admittedly we had a chuckle or two when we realized the kids weren't just innocently walking by our house afterall the evening before. Other mailboxes down the road were missing as well, neighbors out in sequence doing their diligent repair works the next afternoon so their mail could be delivered into them. One neighbor chuckled a bit when he found out about our mailbox sport play and asked why no one told us to have a spare in the garage at all times, ready to replace a broken or stolen one? Huh? Duh? I guess folks around here are used to this...and we're the newbie to rural living not having experienced this first hand before. He also said the postal office will issue one warning note when the box isn’t safe enough for mail delivery, holding back all future mail until such a time as it becomes repaired properly, and then we’d be forced to take the time and drive the distance to the postal office to reapply for our postal delivery service to resume, though only upon an inspection approval by the postal service first. What a hassle!

Okay, Okay, so it was fixed now, they had had their fun, and the incident was in the past.

Two weeks later, another rampage hit our street with our mailbox missing again, along with several neighbors down the road (same mailbox hits!). We also found out several other streets were targeted, and two garages were broken into with beer stolen from their bar fridges in them. Obviously it became known the youth vandals had to be locals living somewhere around our locations, or summertime visitors with nothing better to do. The end result though this time wasn't just a bit of frolicking vandalism, as our mailbox was never found! I paced up and down the street, browsing in ditches, long grasses, fields of corn and soya beans to no avail. We rode our bikes beyond our street thinking they must've just hid it well this time, but no, never recovered. And it's not that is was the very best mailbox show piece ever either, that wasn' the point.

Perhaps I have a zero tolerance towards this sort of behavior, perhaps my patience had just run thin, perhaps I was wondering where in the world the parents of these kids were and why they didn't know the very late hour near or after midnight this behavior was occurring around local streets because it wasn't just vandalism anymore, oh no, it went beyond that; now it was theft! How dare they come around and continue this same behavior to the same folks time and time again? Was it just summertime idleness? Who knows, but hubby said to look on the bright side. At least no one was toilet papering our house and trees like others we knew did when we were in high school...laugh. Now THAT was messy! (No it was not us who participated in those types of things! Honest!)

So, the end result was our decision not to replace the mail box back out on the post for almost three months now. Lucky for us now, we have our mail delivered to a postal outlet and only a daily newspaper is placed inside the mail box, and in the event of mailbox nightly romps, the newspaper deliverer neatly packages our paper into plastic bags and throws them up onto our driveway instead for us, so there is no interruption to us.

We viewed a neat movie the other night called "The Lake House" starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. The movie featured a couple writing to one another and using a mailbox in front of a lake house to deliver their letters into, raising the red flag on its side when something was placed in to alert the other.

Ahhhh, mailboxes!

A conversation ensued, where we figured we should replace ours sometime soon after realizing it was overdue to do so. If for anything, the newspaper carrier will prefer having it up again to ensure papers don't get buried under the snow to come.

We noted mailboxes were on sale at a local farming supply store when out yesterday running errands; winking at one another they are likely on sale now after the summer as most folks must have to replace their stolen or vandaled ones we figured, or stock up in the garage for a secondary source when necessary. All laughs aside, we purchased a black one again, and it included the little red flag on its side, the very same mailbox we had before now in the summer when it still sat high and mighty at the end of our driveway.

Hubby cut out a piece of plywood thick enough to fit the underside of the mailbox just right as a base to install all onto the post in the ground. Our older son assisted him and was quite shocked to find hubby hammering nine inch (!) spike nails through the piece of plywood mounted onto the base post. Yep, hubby figured four or five of those huge suckers would hold the mailbox base just fine now. Then he situated the black tin mailbox on the top of the installed base, screwing in a total of ten three inches screws all around the outer perimeter of the mailbox to keep it sturdy and "mailbox baseball" safe.

Replaced and secured, at least for a while now...

Likely the end result is, it won't be moving anytime soon, though it may get banged up, dented good, and the lid may not shut right someday, but we're hoping it sends a message to these misguided, idle, late night street vandals.

This has been a good lesson to teach the younger ones about as they've seen first hand the trouble folks in the neighborhood have had to put up with and the time consumed to continue replacing mailboxes. One neighbor’s box is large and plastic, but its weakness is the mailbox portion slides off the base easily. We've counted seven times now the mailbox has gone missing. What a shame youths today can't place this energy and channel it into something great and wonderful, as they have countless gifts to enhance and grow into responsible citizens, only if they wish to that is. Perhaps with some maturity they will someday turn from their ways and make some reparations assisting others, rather than creating senseless chaos instead. Better yet, may they someday move into a rural home with a mailbox at the end of their driveway, and have to deal with it first hand to see how they have affected others from their wild and crazy youthful days. *grin* I guarantee they’ll see mailboxes with fresh eyes now. *laugh*

So, parents, here it is, it’s after midnight!

Do you know where your children are?