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Another Day in the Country

Spitting in the Wind

© Another Day in the Country

Many small towns in Kansas are about to lose their postal service. Ramona, Durham, Burdick, Lost Springs, Roxbury — these are some of the towns in my neck of the woods that are endangered. Losing their post office is not the only thing that threatens them and their way of life, it’s just the latest blow.

To fight for the life of a town is such an amorphous thing. It feels futile, like spitting in the wind. We know change is inevitable with our shrinking demographic; but to lose our post office is the last nail in the coffin dooming this community to ghost town status.

The post office is and always has been such a vital link in our society. While computers with online services, Facebook and Twitter, offer a form of connection, some people in rural America do not have (or want) that particular new fangled and unfamiliar idea. What regular folk want is their post office, delivering mail and a Presence in their life come rain or shine. The post office is something they have always been able to count on — it seemed like a given, a fact of life, and that it would always be there. NOT!

In a small town, like Ramona, for years the post office has been the gathering place. It’s where you get your mail. It’s where you find out the latest news. The Post Master may be one of the few, if not the only person, you talk to during the day.

If you don’t have a bank account, you pay your vital bills at the post office with a money order. Sometimes Gramps may get something in the mail he can’t read (because of the small print) or doesn’t understand and the lady at the counter helps him out. Our Post Master explains things, has even been known to help an old-timer write out his check to pay the bill to Atmos every month — the minute the bill came in!

In bigger towns you always have more services, more opportunities to get the help you need; but in a small town our resources are limited. In Ramona, the person at the post office has sometimes been the link between life and death, between a loved one and their families, between connection and isolation.

Even if you were a stranger in town, the post office could give you information. They took the place of the rural telephone operator who could tell you, in an emergency, whether someone had driven out of town or not.

When we got news in Ramona that our post office was in danger, we felt the death knell of our little town. In Salina or Wichita, if one post office closes, you can just drive a little further in town and find another one. Not in Ramona! If Ramona’s post office goes down, it will be a 30 mile round trip for the folks in Tampa to get to a post office window.

Ramona no longer has a restaurant where you meet friends, a drug store where you can get your medications, a clothing store, a coffee shop where you can see a friendly smiling face, a bank, an office supply store where you can get tax forms, a newsstand. Our post office has been all of the above and now we are fighting, every way we know how, to keep that post office in town. It’s all we’ve got!

It feels like spitting in the wind. What chance do we have against a huge corporation that is losing money — even though the head honcho makes twice as much money as the President of the United States. He could take a cut in salary, let’s say to a quarter of a million dollars a year (which seems still like an unbelievable salary to rural America) and keep all the little post offices in rural Kansas open and then some. “Mr. Post Master General, the U.S. Mail began with the idea of SERVICE. We still need it! Please!”

The U.S. Postal Service is holding “hearings” in rural Kansas. Ours is Oct. 20 in Ramona. We hope they are coming to hear our side of the story, to listen to our concerns. We hope this meeting makes a difference! But, hey, even if it’s like spittin’ in the wind, we’ve got to try, we’ve got to fight, we’ve got to stand up for our little communities and each other. If we don’t speak out, who will? We live in a democracy and if we want to exercise that privilege whether it’s at the Parish Hall or the voting booth, we must make the effort to write letters, clear our throats, gather our courage and spit it out! It’s another day in the country and it continues to be vital that people stand up and speak up. OK, I said it and I’ll be at the meeting — come hell or high water, rain or shine, through sleet and snow…

Last modified Oct. 12, 2011

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