Friday morning I was loading papers into my car at the Herald-Whig loading dock. My route boss approached me and said, “Larry, I hear that you’ve been forgetting to deliver in the Sunflower Box, out on North 244th St.”
A vague memory surfaced of my predecessor on the route showing me such a box. I had completely forgotten about it! I had been delivering into the customer’s regular mailbox.
I looked around while on that street Friday but didn’t see that particular box. Early Saturday morning I made another attempt. It was difficult, because many boxes don’t have the street address printed on them. It was also dark, which didn’t help. By a process of elimination I determined that one particular driveway must be the one.
The driveway looped around, and then the Sunflower Box was illuminated by my headlights. How could I have missed it! It was eight feet tall and featured a monstrous sunflower blossom at the top, along with several painted sheet-metal leaves.
During the decades following WWII there a was a flowering of rural metal folk art. Once rural electrification was complete, farmers and other rural people quickly acquired stick welding equipment, some of it fashioned from army surplus components. Scrap is always plentiful on a farm and a generation of farmers grew up welding, both to fix farm equipment and just for fun. This mailbox is a great example of such folk art. I can picture the scene in a farm kitchen. An adolescent boy is explaining his idea to his father:
“We need a new mailbox, Dad! The old post is falling over and using steel the new one will last forever!”
“I don’t know, son. A sunflower? Wouldn’t it be putting on airs to set such a box out by the road?”
“We could put it by the house, Dad! The mailman could just circle around to deliver to us. He’d like that — no more parking alongside the road, don’t ya think?”
“Well, okay… Knock yourself out, boy!”