There are many things the government does poorly, but there are also some things that it does quite well. One of the best things the government has ever done was to institute rural free delivery.     
    When I was a kid, the United States Postal Service formed a critical connection between our little dairy farm and the outside world. It was similar to the internet, only slower and in printed form.
    The USPS taught me many valuable lessons over the years. The virtue of patience would be a prime example.     
    I remember being about 6 years old and poring over pages of a J.C. Penney catalogue and longing for a particular pair of black cowboy boots. This was not because I was a fashion maven. It was mostly because it is impossible to pull off a convincing Lone Ranger impersonation while wearing a pair of worn-out red Keds.     
    After a judicious amount of begging, Mom’s defenses were worn down, and she filled out the order form in the catalogue. I went with her to our mailbox and watched her deposit the envelope and raise the little flag. She told me the mailman would pick up our letter and would later bring my new boots.
    The trouble was I thought she meant later that day.     
    Every morning from then on, I watched for the mailman’s arrival. It got so that I knew when to expect his daily visits. I would become worried about him if he was even a few minutes late.     
    Time passed, and I began to wonder if the folks at Penney had forgotten about my boots. I began to suspect, that upon receiving my order, they had gone out and skinned a cow and were just beginning the process of tanning the leather that would eventually become my new footwear.     
    It was actually somewhat of an anticlimax when the box containing my new boots finally arrived. So it was that the Postal Service taught me one of life’s most fundamental truths: The having often isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the wanting.     
    Another practical lesson the USPS delivered to our house concerned values. Specifically, the value of junk.    
    George McGovern was our United States Senator when my youngest sister, Kathy, was a toddler. From time to time, our daily mail would bring a mimeographed newsletter from George. Most folks would have tossed such a thing aside as so much junk, but not Dad.     
    Dad began to give the newsletters to Kathy, telling her they were from her friend, George. She would always be overjoyed at this news. Kathy was delighted to have a pen pal even though she had not yet learned to read or write.     
    Sometimes Dad would surreptitiously open George’s missive and tape a nickel to the letter. He would then re-seal the envelope and present it to Kathy.    
    Kathy would be thrilled to receive this unexpected windfall and would scurry off to Dad to share the glad tidings. Dad would hold Kathy on his lap and read the letter aloud, saying that her pal, George, had sent her this nickel with strict orders that she use the cash to buy herself a candy bar. Kathy was too young to understand it back then, but she was already learning how politics works.
    And so, the USPS taught us yet another lesson: Junk is not necessarily junk if you can find a good use for it.     
    How things have changed since that innocent, bygone era. These days, we demand instant everything and live in a disposable world. Patience is for chumps. We are using our car horns more and our brakes less as we scurry through our man-made maze of urgent projects and piles of fast food plastic.
    Perhaps the low point of our consumeristic, same-day delivery society was hit a few years ago when a young man in the Twin Cities married a young woman he had not even met. The event took place at a major shopping center, of course.     
    This instant, choose-a-mate-by-committee wedding was about as romantic as selecting a set of cookware: no courtship, no wooing, just a few mouse clicks and thank you Mall of America.     
    I do not know. Maybe that wedding was a form of poetic justice. Anyone who is willing to marry a complete stranger at a shopping mall is probably getting exactly what he or she deserves. I hope they both saved their receipts.     
    And yet, I cannot help but wonder: Wouldn’t the whole thing have been much more alluring if the groom had been forced to wait for the mailman to deliver a bride that had been ordered from a catalogue?
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. 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.