Special deliveries

JOEL BUYCK last week delivered his last pieces of mail after 25 years of service for the Tracy Post Office. Photo / Per Peterson

Joel Buyck has spent the last 25 years delivering mail and building relationships in the process

By Per Peterson

The U.S. Postal Service has taken its hits over the years and will continue to do so, but it’s people like Joel Buyck who remind us that it’s not all that bad.

“First time I started, I didn’t get done until 7:30 that night,” said Buyck, who last week worked his last shift for the Tracy Post Office after 25 years of service — 12 years as a sub and 13 as a full-time rural mail carrier. “They sent me out south of Garvin … I got lost my first day of work. I came back in and thought, ‘I’m done.’ Like any other carrier, your first day you’re ready to quit.”

Buyck obviously did not quit, since he has never given up on a job, no matter the circumstances.

“It was something I said I would do and I was gonna do it,” he said.

Buyck said it’s not uncommon for mail carriers to look elsewhere for employment after a short time on the job. However, he said, if a person can survive for four or five years, they become lifers.

“If you’re having a tough time after the first two weeks, you’re done,” he said.

Buyck lasted so long in the job, not because he was born to be a mail carrier, but because of the relationships he developed over the years. Delivering mail to the same homes, the same families, year after year, he said made him appreciate what he did. And he knows that his customers appreciated him as well.

“I can’t tell you how many jars of jam I’ve got over the years, how many cookies I have got, homemade loaves of banana bread,” he said. “And it’s the kids. The Swenhaugen kids … they used to park their bikes in the driveway all the time, and I yelled at them one time — ‘You’ve gotta move your bikes.’ They never did, so finally I took their bicycles and hung them way up in a tree, so only their dad could get ‘em down. They learned not to leave their bikes in the yard.”

To this day, Buyck said, the Swenhaugen kids remember that, which brings a smile to Buyck’s face.

“If it’s just a job, you’re not gonna do it,” Buyck said.

Buyck said he has delivered everything from cremated remains to divorce decrees. With that, he has never looked at his responsibilities as just another job. He always tried to add a personal touch to what otherwise could be considered a mundane and thankless process. And working in a rural area made that easy.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.