The cat and the mailbox

MUG Steve Coker 2During the summer, my mother would always send my brother and me up the gravel road each day to wait for the mail. So we rode our bikes up to the gaggle of mailboxes and waited for old Mr. Jones.

The problem occurred when Mr. Jones got to the mail box.
He would not give the mail to my brother who stood by the box with his hand out.
“Gotta put it in the box,” he always would growl, slamming the lid on the box and disappearing in a cloud of dust.
This went on for several days and boy did it make my brother mad. One day, as we were leaving the house to fetch the mail, my brother picked up Mom’s old grizzled Tom cat and carried him to the mail box with us. Sure enough, he put the cat in the mailbox. As he saw Mr. Jones’ old mail truck coming over the hill, we both picked up sticks and commenced to beat on the mail box like a drum set.
It sounded terrible. As Mr. Jones’ truck rolled up, our sticks had disappeared into the weeds and my brother stepped up to Mr. Jones’ mail truck. Stifling a smile, but holding out his hand, he said, “I know, you gotta put it in the mailbox.”
“Yeah,” was all he said.
Reaching through the window of his old truck to place the mail in the box, he opened the lid. When he did, one mad cat came sailing out of the box and into the window with claws and teeth flailing. We jumped on our bikes and high-tailed it to the woods with my brother screaming to Mr. Jones, “You’re supposed to put the mail in the box, remember!”
Letters and bills were floating through the air amid the confusion.
That evening when Dad got home, he was grim. Mr. Jones had driven straight to our house and told Mom. Dad snatched us both up and took us to apologize. We were standing on Mr. Jones’ front porch at just about dark with Dad between us. When Mr. Jones came to the door, we could see his hands, arms and face were badly scratched and several band-aids were on his face which was splattered with red mercurochrome. We opened our mouths to apologize but instead busted out laughing so hard we fell down on the porch in a pile.
The next thing I knew, my Daddy’s leather belt was whippin’ the tar out of us all the way back to the truck. After we got down the road a piece, he pulled over and commenced to whip us again. That was the worst “attitude adjustment” we ever had, but we deserved it.
Why did I tell you that story?
Well, that’s kinda how the last few days of school are before we’re out for the summer. The sap has risen in trees and the students. Young students are excited about getting out for the summer activities, middle level students are trying to be “cool” and show off for the girls and older students are all in love with each other and themselves and are plotting their exploits.
Keeping the lid on schools the last couple of days each year is a lot like keeping the lid shut on the mad cat in the mailbox. Well, really, we have great kids and staff; it’s just the idea that all that summer energy is shut up!
Now, the kids are off to the ball park and the pool, teachers have sighed a great relief that another year is behind them.
And parents, well, they are your little darlings right now.
You might want to keep them away from the mailbox, though!

Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston Separate School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.

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