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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Mail carrier battles a blizzard
Early mail carrier We all know what dedicated people mail carriers are. Through rain or sleet or snow or hail they come delivering the mail. But, mail carriers today can take comfort in knowing it is a cush job compared to what mail carriers went through in the old days. Just read this story.

From our files Aileen Sanborn tells of her father Fred A. Sanborn who was an early rural mail carrier. She said, "My father, in his early days as rural mail carrier north of Paynesville, had five horses in order to deliver the mail during winter months." He had one team that were broncos.

These were the wildest horses yet, but they were an excellent team on the mail route. They could keep going through heavy snow for eight hours. These were snorting, bucking wild horses and what an ordeal Fred Sanborn had to go through each morning to hitch them up to the rig. He went through a daily ritual which was not for the faint of heart. First he and his wife had to drive the team of horses to a big forked willow tree near the house. Then his wife would have to hold the reins through the fork of the tree while Fred would hitch the broncos to a specially built covered rig on runners. When he had the broncos hitched up he had to have the door of the rig standing open and be ready for his wife to throw him the reins. He would then have to run and jump into the big rig and off he'd fly.

Aileen Sanborn said, "It seemed to me I'd see those broncos return with just as much spirit and energy at the end of the eight hours out in the cold and snow as they had when they started that day."

Fred would take several heavy blankets and a hide robe to keep him warm while he was out on the mail route.

One day there was a raging blizzard. Fred had gotten out north to about the Heitke farm when his team of broncos broke and went off the road, tipping the rig completely over. The broncos broke loose from the rig and ran off into the storm. Fred covered the mail in the rig and got out and started walking through blinding snow. Through the gusts of snow he saw the corner of Heitke's farmhouse. He stayed at the Heitke home until the next day.

As it happened Mr. Heitke was in town and decided not to try to get home. He stayed with his parents, whose house was across the street from Fred Sanborn's. Heitke came over and cared for Fred's three horses and meanwhile Fred did the chores at the Heitke farm.

The blizzard abated late the next afternoon. Fred walked to Roscoe and then Paynesville.

Aileen Sanborn remembered, "I shall never forget our joy to see him as he walked into our home about 9 p.m. that night. He was very weary and his face and coat collar were covered with frost."

The next day he hired a man with a heavy team of horses and a bobsled and they drove out to get the mail from the rig.

They found the broncos behind a barn with about three inches of snow packed into their coats. The horses recovered physically, but their spirit was broken forever. They were never the same again. Fred had to have the broncos killed the next spring.

Later Fred began driving cars on the mail route. He traveled many roads that were little more than cow paths. He had so many dents in his fenders from banging against mail boxes that every spring he had to have his fenders "rolled out."

In another story, there was again a two-day blizzard. Close to Lake Koronis, Ben Kruger's covered sleigh was turned over. He unhitched his team of horses and went to the Forrest McKinley home for help. His fingers were frozen. They put his team inside the barn. Later McKinley went with Kruger to find the sled. The mail was brought to the house and spread out to dry. The next day, they staightened out the twisted sled. Then Forrest and his team and a heavy bobsled made a track that Kruger could follow back into town coming across Lake Koronis.