COBWEB CORNERS: Items found after sorting the mail

By Mel McFarland

       Every year or so I see a list of items the post office has found after sorting the mail. I regularly visit the Old Colorado City Branch, and watch dozens of packages go out. Clerks such as John always ask if there is anything liquid, fragile or hazardous, and I know Hawkeye makes sure they do ask! These days that is most important!
       This story, however, goes back to 1903. Many of these things were found because they were in packages that were incorrectly addressed; others were confiscated because they were "unmailable" by law. The items included many that are just curious and others just plain dangerous. Examples were false teeth, garters, padding for various places on the body, artificial eyes, imitation whiskers, and wigs. Animals of many varieties were also found in the mail.
       Now, some of you may have heard of live chicks traveling in the mail, but how about these - live alligators and snakes? One box back then contained 17 rattlesnakes, one of them eight feet long. In those days, tourists in Florida sent baby alligators home or on to friends regularly! From Arizona, they sent Gila monsters, horned toads, centipedes, tarantulas and other colorful creatures. One oddity was a jawbone of a cow, neatly addressed and with proper postage, which was refused at its destination. What would you do if someone sent you a brick, but not in any kind of wrapper? I once mailed a coconut from Hawaii like that. A young man sent a reply to a "dear John" letter on a wooden board 4 feet long.
       Drug items, firecrackers, kitchen knives, carpenters tools, musical instruments, pistols (including some still loaded!), were items that failed to make it to their destinations 102 years ago. There were also several letters from the Alaskan gold rush with real gold dust and/or nuggets that had incomplete addresses on them. What would you say to a package with a human ear, a skull, or even a scalp of an Indian? I have heard of some things like those I have listed here showing up in the mail even today!