Larry Inselman had just finished scooping the blanket of slippery snow that fell on Lincoln on Saturday and was peeling off his coat and boots when the doorbell rang.
Larry is 83. He married Pat nearly 60 years ago and the two of them are telling the story at the kitchen table of their Belmont home, the story Pat wrote down and gave a title: “The mail must get through!”
Pat has lovely white hair and Larry does, too.
Pat was the one who answered the bell Saturday afternoon to find their mailman on the other side. “A tall, handsome man,” she says.
A stuck-in-the-snow man searching for a shovel.
His mail truck had slid sideways down the street, the mail carrier explained, and he needed to dig out.
Larry handed over the shovel, then he bundled up again.
Off went the mailman. Off went Larry.
A few pushes — and Pat calling her daughter and son-in-law next door for help! — and the mail began to move.
Larry had it handled, no help needed.
The whole thing reminded Pat of another mail story. She sat down at her computer and began to peck out the 70-year-old tale.
A story that involved her husband, horses with mailbags and an old letter sitting in the middle of their kitchen table.
“It is just precious,” Pat says. “Read it, Larry.”
Larry takes the letter out of its envelope and explains the story behind it.
He was 13, a farm boy near Columbus living with his parents and three brothers. They had horses. When the family heard that a re-enactment of the Pony Express was in the works, two of the boys signed up to ride.
Riders and horses set off from Iowa on June 18, 1949, with the goal of completing the mail relay to Gothenburg the next day. Each rider would carry a saddle bag of mail a mile and then pass it off to the next rider, with all of the letters ending up at one of the original stations in the Dawson County town.
Residents along the route could stick letters in the mail for the riders to deliver to Gothenburg, where they would get a special postmark and then be delivered out to the world.
Larry rode his spotted pony Target. He rode an extra mile because the next rider wasn’t there to relieve him.
Then he went home.
A few weeks later, a letter arrived with a 3-cent stamp and a 90th anniversary Pony Express postmark. It was addressed to Larry.
Inside, on the heavy, cream paper, his family had written short messages to the young mailman on horseback.
One from the older brother, who had roused Larry out of bed for the ride: In later years you will consider yourself lucky to have the privilege to be on that statewide celebration.
And from his mom: Well, I wonder in how many years you’ll be telling your kids (I suppose they’ll be all girls) about riding in the Pony Express.
And last from his dad: Larry, When you get to be along about 60 or 70 and you run across this old letter, that I hope you’ll save, you can look back and remember the good times you had when you were young, like that Sunday, June 19, 1949 ...
Larry did keep the letter in a box of mementos, sharing the story with his daughters. (Larry’s mom with her four boys always wanted a daughter, Pat explains. She and Larry had a trio of girls, no boys.)
On Tuesday, Larry says he’d only taken the letter out of the box twice over the years.
And then the mailman rang the doorbell.
And he rang it again the next day.
The tall, handsome mailman wasn’t in uniform and he wasn’t stuck Sunday.
He was driving his own car and he had a bottle of wine in his hand.
A thank you gift, said Sid Teko, who has filled the Inselmans’ mailbox for four years.
“I’d not met them face-to-face until Saturday,” the mail carrier said. “When I looked at him, ‘I thought, this guy’s about 70.’ I couldn’t believe he really helped me.”
After the successful rescue, a young-looking 83-year-old unearthed that old letter from his day in the Pony Express and his proud wife sat down to write a story: Rain, sleet or snow ...
“That deal with the mailman must have triggered something in her,” Larry says. “The mail must go through.”