What's in Your Mailbox - Mailbox Infestations and More, Part 3 Cold and Clammy
What's the Mailman to do when the Yard Art Moves?
Yard Art - Who doesn't love Yard Art? Bearded, pointy-hat gnomes guarding flower pots, Saint Francis cradling the dove of peace gently in his arms, philosophical fairies seated beneath trees on stone benches contemplating their pointed feet, and mischievous winged cherubim peeing into a fountain. I'll agree that some of it is a little tacky but for the most part yard art is just fun and playful stuff.
Where it becomes problematic for the rank and file letter carrier, however, is when the yard art is not yard art at all but turns out to be the real thing. For instance, I have come across hundreds of dog statues adorning American doorsteps. Some of these are so realistic that I have actually seen the tell-tale burnt orange stains of postal-issued dog spray splattered across a few, something that was probably done as a precautionary measure by some jittery mailman. But every now and then the yard art growls, springs up from the statue like pose from where it was lying in ambush, and begins chasing the letter carrier out of the yard. Yes, yard art is fun and playful but it can become a danger to life and limb.
Not too long ago I had my own experience with mobile yard art. Above this paragraph you see what appears to be a statue of a turtle, carved out in intricate, stunning detail. I happened across this superbly crafted work as I was on my way to drop mail for the home where it stood, and I almost fell backward in my haste to get away when the yard art's legs started moving and it began to slowly ambulate across the grass toward me. Not once in my postal career had I ever come across a guard turtle, and to compound my shock and terror a second later its companion Chihuahua bodyguard came yapping out of the house to investigate what was disturbing its sluggish, cold blooded companion.
The purpose of introducing this article with the terrible tale of this turtle of terror is to alert the American public to the existence of certain cold-blooded horrors that lurk within their mail boxes. I am speaking of those slimy, scaly, creeping and crawling things that give letter carriers nightmares and make them wake up screaming in horror, bathed in sweat equally as cold as the blood of the mailbox monsters that beleaguer them.
I am not trying to suggest that I have ever come across a turtle in a mailbox, nor has anybody else I have met to date. That's not to say it won't happen, though, and the public should be made aware that any moment now some enterprising terrapin might find its way into your letter receptacle. I, for one, would not want to have to deal with trying to pull my letters out from beneath the scaly, muddy feet of some angry snapping turtle, so stay alert!
This article is part three of a four part series that began when I posted the following query on a letter carrier Facebook group page:
I have divided the responses from my letter carrier kith and kin into four categories, so that as of this writing the series will consist of four segments. These are:
1. Creepy Crawlies - Part one dealt with beasts having six, eight legs or more
2. Warm and Fuzzies - Part two focused on warm-blooded, mostly furry mammalian creatures that take refuge in or around your mail receptacle
3. Cold and Clammy - This current installment is about our cold-blooded friends, meaning reptiles or amphibians either alive or dead that have been found hunkering down on top of your bank statements and magazines
4. Homo sapien horrors - Saving the best for last. Part 4 will concern anything generated by a human being - either created by human hands or coming out of the human body.
Frogs - A Mailbox Plague of Biblical Proportions
Letter Carriers across America can barely get through a day without being exposed to some postal customer croaking about late or inaccurate mail delivery, but imagine what happens when the croaking is not coming from Mr. Smith complaining about his Social Security check being delivered to Mrs. Watson next door, but instead is issuing forth from the mailbox itself! This could get weird and creepy really fast, and is exactly what happened to Victor in Orlando Florida, who found the frogs you see above resting atop the letters in a mailbox. The little peepers had apparently confused them for lily pads.
Although frog mailbox infestations are not generally a problem in most of the country, the damp depths of Dixieland seem to suffer in particular from amphibious invasions, to an extreme that nearly rivals the second biblical plague of Egypt, when the river was made to "...bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. (Exodus 8:3 NKJV)." Moses does not mention mailboxes in this paragraph, but I'm sure the Pharoah's electric bill was stained by slimy frog feet.
Letter Carriers across the swampy south give the frog plague mixed reviews. Victor from the paragraph above states quite plainly, "I hate frogs," whereas Sherrie in Shaw, Mississippi says "Those are those cute little green frogs. I love them." One man's pestilence is another man's pet.
Besides frogs, the trans Mason-Dixon region is home to other slimy cold-blooded creatures. Fortunately for our postal friends, the legendary gators that slither and swish their scaly tails across the swampy southern landscape will not fit into most mailboxes, but I have heard tales of letter carriers stumbling across them on the way to a mailbox. There are, however, plenty of miniature gators that are problematic enough for Dixie mailmen. On this subject of lizards, Cynthia in Mobile, Alabama very eloquently states:
"They are very common here. I see at least one a day if not more. They always startle me as I startle them and we both panic. I can't tell you how many of them have lost their tail due to me slamming the door shut as I vacate the premises. The creepiest thing is seeing their tails wiggling all over the curbside..."
Don't worry animal lovers. Mailbox-dwelling lizards are now able to order new snap-on tails from Amazon and receive them even on Sundays via seven day delivery.
These days scientists tell us that birds come from lizards and I think Mike in Pflugerville Texas will attest to this. During the course of his delivery rounds the leaping lizards on Mike's route often try to get airborne and jump into his delivery truck. Mike says: "I have a ton of little lizards in my boxes sometime they jump out of box into LLV."
Whether on land, water or air lizards and other cold-blooded critters do their best to keep the American letter carrier from the swift completion of his or her appointed rounds.
Snakes - Wanted Dead or Alive
Other than letters and cats, snakes are by far the most numerous item to be found inside the friendly blue collection boxes that used to be on every street corner but now have almost gone the way of the dinosaurs that sired our cold-blooded mailbox creeps. I don't think the postal service has conducted any density tests on this, but I would be willing to bet that most carriers who regularly pick up collection boxes have found at least one snake, either alive or dead, inside a collection box during the course of their careers.
Snakes seem to illicit impassioned use of the English language among mailmen. A strong reaction to reptiles sometimes even draws out harsh, almost unprintable four letter words. For example, when Debbie from Raytown, Missouri heard about a snake being found in a collection box her reaction was "...ewww," which I think sums up the gravity of the situation better than I could with a bunch of pretty words. Mail-lady Cassandra from an undisclosed location exclaimed "Ughh," when she found multiple snakes in a mailbox.
Apparently collection boxes across America are sometimes mistaken either for trash receptacles or deposit boxes, which is an understandable error. I suppose if the nearly foot high Eagle logo framed with the bold words UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE are somehow missed then the chute on the top could be taken for the flap on a garbage pail or maybe a bank's overnight drop box, even though as far as I know no lucky letter carrier has found significant amounts of money inside one yet. Anyhow, disposable items are constantly being encountered in collection boxes, and this includes disposable reptiles, like dead boa constrictors. Scott in Worcester, Massachusetts speaks of a "dead, six foot boa constrictor" being found in a collection box in front of a pet shop. Is it possible that some pet shop patron, frustrated with the immobile snake's lack of ability to do neat tricks like swallow a water buffalo whole mistook the collection box for the store's overnight merchandise return box?
Indeed, mailboxes seem to be the place where nine out of ten reptiles surveyed prefer to go when they die. Karen in Loveland, Colorado found a dead snake in a mailbox. GJ right here in my town of San Diego upped the ante a bit by finding a dead rattlesnake inside of one. Worse yet, Steven in Anacortes, Washington stumbled across a live 13 inch Diamondback Rattlesnake inside of a mailbox. Top that one, if you dare!
Cold and Clammy Horrors - You Decide
Which cold-blooded mailbox invader freaks you out the most?
Conclusion - Basking on my Philosopher's Stone
So now I sit here safe in my backyard, basking reptile-like in the sun atop my Philosopher's Stone, trying to warm up the cold blood in my own sluggish brain as I attempt to think of a tidy moral to sum up this story. Over there on the retaining wall some fence lizards are doing push ups. They don't bother me because they don't hiss, croak, or rattle, they don't take flying leaps in my direction and they don't crawl into my mailbox. But sitting on the patio is my wife's stone-cold blooded yard art turtle, and although it may only be the heat getting to my head I swear that its hind leg just moved...