By Bruce Stambaugh
There are some definite benefits to living the rural life. The perks will make your life rich, but you won’t necessarily become wealthy.
I recently had a week’s worth of devotions published in a church periodical, Rejoice!. I received an honorarium for my efforts, but that wasn’t the real motivator. I just enjoyed sharing personal and pertinent stories.
What happened after the devotions published became the real reward. A few folks who know me expressed their appreciation for my daily commentaries. An elderly man from Bern, Indiana even sent a nice handwritten note.
He thanked me for my writing and then spent the rest of the letter telling me about his car dealership, now in its fifth generation. That was fun. But it was amazing I received the letter at all.
The kind man simply mailed the envelope with only my full name and Millersburg, Ohio written on the front. No street address. No zip code. And I got it.
The truth is, I wasn’t surprised at all that the letter arrived in our mailbox. It’s not that I’m famous. The fact that my wife and I happen to be the only Stambaughs in the county had to help. However, this was the United States Postal Service, a federal government institution that has had its share of lumps and negative publicity.
That reputation of bigness doesn’t necessarily hold true in Holmes County, Ohio. This isn’t the first time we’ve received a skimpily addressed letter.
Once we had a card from a friend with our name, town and zip on the envelope accompanied by a note scribbled on the envelope that said, “The same road as the restaurant.” When you don’t know the road number, improvise. It worked.
It gets better. Years ago when we lived in the southwest section of the county my ornery older brother sent a letter addressed with only the first names of my wife and me and 44637. That’s the zip code for Killbuck, Ohio. Once again, we got it. My brother couldn’t believe it.
It was a perk of personally knowing the postmaster. A lot of people in the area could say that. In fact, when we moved east to our current location our mail was forwarded far beyond the required time. It stopped the day Bob House retired as Killbuck postmaster.
Bob went above and beyond the call of duty. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to do so. He exemplified the personal consideration and dedication of many folks we have met over our lifetime in this marvelous rural county.
Folks welcomed us into the Amish culture, too, when we relocated to the eastern end of the county. Neighbors invited us to picnics and Amish weddings.
We especially appreciated the invitations to Amish church services. Though we didn’t understand most of what was said, we got the message in the spirit of being treated with kindness and respect.
As educators in the local public schools, my wife and I were shown the highest regard of reverence for our responsibilities with the children of Amish and English alike. Families invited us for meals and visits. We felt more than welcome in both East Holmes and West Holmes.
It’s not always easy living in a county with a population that is less than that of a small city. But as you can see, there are distinct advantages to residing in a locale where everybody knows your name, including the mail carrier.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016
6 thoughts on “Where everybody knows your name”
Love this “still life” of the rural life. You have some amazing stories here. I will share them later today on Third Way website.
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Thanks so much, Melodie. I’ll watch for the link.
Fred and I have had the same experience with “skimpy addresses” – it always gives me a good feeling when we actually receive them. I always remind myself that it most likely would NOT happen that way in the city where most apartment dwellers don’t even know their neighbors. How sad.
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Thanks, Bonnie. It’s good to know that the mail goes through for others, too.
I often wonder how future historians will deal with the fact that hand-written letters have largely vanished as a form of communication (save for examples like this one). There’s something unforgettable and unique about reading a tangible piece of paper that I don’t think combing through email files will ever replace. BTW, the only Stambaughs in Holmes County? No wonder you never miss a letter!
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I agree, Jarret. However, given my chicken scratching historians would take the emails over anything I hand wrote every time.
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