Outside the box

Creative mailboxes make getting snail mail even more special

Inside saleswoman Leanne Ingwersen fetches the mail at Pacific Steel & Recycling, 2365 River Road, from the company’s unusual mailbox. The office ladies at Pacific Steel call the company’s mailbox Iron Man or, according to Ingwersen, Metal Man, created by artist Lyle Nichols of Palisade.

A Broncos-themed mailbox sits atop a post at a home on Orchard Mesa.

The other mailboxes along C Road on Orchard Mesa seem bland next to a mailbox in the form of a mule in its harness. The old mule mailbox with the bent door and a hole in its box only receives winged airmail packages now; its inside is filled with straw from a bird’s nest instead of letters.

Mailboxes may be an endangered species, but one on Webster Road appears to have had a run-in with a mass extinction.

A Wild West sheriff on his stick horse has ridden onto Red Tail Court east of Whitewater to make sure that the mail gets delivered. He’s armed with a six-shooter, so we hope he doesn’t go postal.

A large tractor mailbox adds a touch of country flavor to a home on B Road on Orchard Mesa.

Ever since the advent of digital communication, the situation for what came to be known as “snail mail” has grown increasingly bleak.

Between 2006 and 2015, the total pieces of mail sent annually via the U.S. Postal Service dropped from 213.1 billion to 154.2 billion (find more dire news at about.usps.com). If that means less junk mail, maybe it’s not such a bad thing, but it also means fewer letters — the things that get saved, reread and wrapped in ribbon.

That mail is special, as are things such as checks and college acceptance letters and, yes, the latest issue of Cosmo. Bill McAllister, the Washington correspondent for Linn’s Stamp News, told National Public Radio that there’s such a thing as a “mail moment,” the eager anticipation that accompanies walking out to the mailbox, knowing the mail has arrived, wondering what could be in store.

Maybe that explains, at least in part, the fancy mailboxes.

Sure, there are the traditional ones, with the arched tops and little red flags, but then there are the fancy ones — seahorses and cowboys and dinosaur skulls greeting the postal carrier, accepting the mail, giving the whole thing a little extra zing.

Bill Bowen, owner of Precision Sharpening on Orchard Mesa, has an iron dinosaur skull consuming his mailbox, a piece fabricated by his son, Roby, one of many custom mailboxes they’ve made over the years.

The dinosaur skull took about a week to make, Bill said, and Roby crafted it without a pattern, “more just make it up as you go,” he said.

As for why, well, it’s something creative and interesting to have curb-side, in place for the same reason people have yard ornaments.

The bigger-than-life-size steel worker supporting the mailbox outside Pacific Steel & Recycling in Grand Junction was a legacy from the business’ previous owner, Emmett Bonner, and created by Palisade artist Lyle Nichols.

“I think Emmett Bonner had allowed him to come in and look through the scrap piles and use what he wanted, and in return he made this mailbox as a gift,” said Brian Musich, Pacific Steel & Recycling manager. “It’s pretty cool. There’s always people stopping by and they always comment on it.”

He has seen people back their Harleys up to it to take a picture with it, and it also has been used as a geocaching landmark.

Whether it’s artistic expression or a little pizzazz for the yard or business, the fancy, fanciful mailboxes that can be spotted around the area perhaps make getting mail seem that much more special, that much more exciting.

For information about U.S. Postal Service mailbox guidelines, go to usps.com/manage/mailboxes.htm.


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