TEXT BY VIRGINIA M. WRIGHT
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TRISTAN SPINSKI & MICHAEL D. WILSON
Aroostook County’s big snows inspire some wacky inventions.
With an average 94 inches of snow per year, Aroostook County should be a graveyard for mailboxes taken down by plows. Instead, it’s fertile ground for simple yet ingenious devices constructed to foil a fast-moving blade.
The most common are souped-up variations of the cantilever post. The mount — an extra-tall wood or metal post or, occasionally, something more formidable, like an old oil tank — is set well back from the road. From it, a long metal arm extends the mailbox over snowbanks. The arm may be weighted on the opposite end to lift the box all the higher; a pull cord allows the mail carrier to lower the box. Others are designed like Confucius’s green reed — they swing, rather than break, with the passing plow.
My favorites are the portable mailbox mounts, which homeowners carry, push, or roll away from the roadside in advance of a storm. Judging from my travels in the County, the device of choice appears to be a post mounted to a tire rim: Just tip and roll it out of the plow’s path. A close second in ubiquity are the lawnmower mounts that are easily wheeled to safety. Some mailboxes are fixed to wooden horses — stable enough to withstand most winds, yet light enough to lift and move. There are even mailbox sleds, usually a heavy planter box mounted on skis and outfitted with a pull rope.
Sometimes, though, even the most inventive Aroostookians can’t beat the plow. When that happens, they tunnel their dismounted box into a snowbank so only the door is exposed, pack snow around it like mortar, and figure out what to replace it with come spring.