Rural letter carrier has been making home deliveries for 40 years
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
When you have to live up to one of the world’s most famous job descriptions, it is difficult to slack off.
That has never been a concern for Bob Wiskerchen, who last week marked 40 years as a rural-route mail carrier with the Fredonia Post Office.
The 62-year-old Wiskerchen said he has the kind of job most people dream about.
“I have never had a day where I dreaded going to work, and if you can say that after 40 years, I guess you are doing all right,” he said.
“I’ve liked the postmasters I’ve worked with and the people at the Post Office, and I always enjoy the people I deliver mail to.”
Wiskerchen grew up on a farm on Jay Road just west of Random Lake, and says he never regrets giving up the life of a farmer for that of a U.S. Postal Service employee.
“I learned pretty young that I didn’t want to be a farmer, especially when it is really cold or really hot. There is not a day I regret leaving the farm,” Wiskerchen said.
The life of a rural route carrier starts early, too, but not as early as before the days of automation. Now, the time mail goes out is largely determined by when delivery trucks arrive from Milwaukee.
“I go in every morning at 7:30 and sort the trays for my route,” Wiskerchen said, noting that very little was presorted when he started as a carrier.
“By 10:30 or 11 a.m., I am on the road, and I guess that is what I like best about the job. You get to spend part of the day in the office with the people you know, and the rest of the day on the road seeing what is going on out in the country.
“I get to interact with a lot of the people along the route, especially the older folks who are waiting on the day Social Security checks are in the mail.”
People along the route watch the delivery schedule pretty closely, and if mail arrives more than a few minutes late Wiskerchen always hears about it.
“When we added a few routes and mail came a bit later, I had customers say, ‘I thought it was a sub who was running late. I can’t believe it’s you,’” he said of what could be interpreted as a backhanded compliment.
He said he has a close bond with many of his customers, a connection that is especially apparent around the holidays.
“Customers treat you pretty well. I still get plenty of cookies and candies around Christmas, although not as many as I used to get. Just the other day, I delivered a package to a woman who said she had been holding something for me since Christmas. She came back to the door
with four porterhouse steaks and a venison sausage. That was pretty good,” Wiskerchen said.
The job of rural mail carrier does have its challenges, especially while maneuvering his Ford S10 pickup truck on slick winter roads.
“I’ve slid off the road and into a few ditches and skidded into a number of mailboxes,” he admitted.
With four decades under his belt, Wiskerchen said he is not quite ready to call it quits.
“I thought about retiring last June, but our youngest son is just starting college so I thought I better hang around for at least another year to see how things work out financially,” he said.
Wiskerchen said retirement might not be an unwelcome change of life.
“With all the changes the Postal Service is going through, I am glad I am near the end of my career instead of just starting out,” he said.
One of the cost-cutting moves the federal government is considering is the elimination of Saturday mail delivery.
“That wouldn’t bother me, because I have off on Saturdays,” he said.
Wiskerchen acknowledged few people start a job thinking it will be a part of their life for the next 40 years.
“I guess I never thought about taking another job,” he said.
“As long as you like working on your own, it’s a great job.”
FEW PEOPLE KNOW the back roads of the Fredonia area as well as mail carrier Bob Wiskerchen, who has been a rural mail carrier for 40 years. Photos by Sam Arendt