I think we can agree there are many undertakings wherein the government often drops the ball. But we must also admit the government does not always create messes that resemble a bucketful of squid.
     For example, the government is really good at printing stuff and not only money. Drop in at any government office and you will see sheaves of printed circulars, bulletins and flyers. If there is ever a paper shortage, we will know who to blame. But do not complain about it to the government, or it will churn out reams of leaflets addressing the problem.
     In my opinion, one of the government’s best ideas was rural free delivery.     
     All jokes aside – especially those about the USPS using a roulette wheel to determine which mailbox gets any particular letter – the men and the women of the postal service do a jim-dandy job of delivering the mail. In fact, the post office has taught me many valuable lessons over the years. Patience, for instance.     
     When I was 6, I wanted a particular pair of cowboy boots I had discovered in the Penney’s catalogue. This was not because I was a fashion maven, but mainly because it is extremely difficult to pull off a credible Lone Ranger impression while wearing a pair of worn-out Keds.     
     Being a skilled beggar, I swiftly wore down Mom’s resistance. She filled out the order form from the Penney’s catalogue, and I walked with her out to our farm’s mailbox and watched her deposit the letter. She explained the mailman would pick up the letter and would return later with my boots. The trouble is, I assumed later meant in an hour or so.
     I began to keep a vigil at the living room window, watching for the mailman’s daily visits. I soon learned when to expect his arrival and became worried if he was even a few minutes late.     
     After waiting for an eternity and a half, I started to wonder if the folks at Penney’s had forgotten about my boots. Perhaps, upon receiving my order, they had gone out and skinned a cow and were in the process of tanning the leather that would eventually become my new footwear.     
     It was actually somewhat of an anticlimax when the mailman finally brought the box that contained my cowboy boots. So, it was that the postal service taught me one of life’s most fundamental truths: the having is not nearly as enjoyable as the anticipating.     
     Another practical lesson the postal service delivered to our house concerned values. Specifically, the value of junk.     
     George McGovern was our U.S. senator when my youngest sister, Kathy, was a toddler. Our mail would occasionally come with a mimeographed newsletter from McGovern. Most people would have tossed this aside as so much junk mail, but not Dad.     
     Dad began to give McGovern’s newsletters to Kathy, telling her that they were from her buddy George. She was delighted to have a pen pal, even though she was not yet old enough to read or write.     
     Sometimes, Dad would surreptitiously open the envelope and tape a nickel to the letter. He would then re-seal the packet and give it to Kathy.    
     Kathy would be thrilled by this windfall and would joyously share the good news with Dad. He would hold Kathy on his lap and pretend to read the letter aloud, saying George had sent her the nickel along with strict orders the funds be used for candy bar procurement. Kathy was too young to understand it, but she was already being schooled on the basic workings of our nation’s political system.     
     And so, the postal service taught us a valuable lesson: junk is not junk if you can find a good use for it.     
     How things have changed since that innocent era. We now live in a world that is dominated by Amazon and are peeved by anything that takes more than a few seconds. Patience is for chumps; we use our car’s horns much more their brakes.     
     A low point of our instant-gratification society was reached some years ago when a young man married a young woman he had not even met in a ceremony that took place at the Mall of America. The whole idea seemed about as charming as purchasing a new set of tires.
     Maybe it was poetic justice. Anyone who is willing to marry a complete stranger at a major shopping center is probably getting what he or she deserves. I hope they saved their receipts.     
     And, I cannot help but think would not it have been much more romantic if the groom had been obliged to wait for a mail-order bride?
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.