Mail by Mule

JuancitoAmericans love to complain about the United States Postal Service (USPS), which we more commonly call the “post office.” They are blamed for lost or late mail, even for the amount of junk mail (unwanted mail, including advertisements) we receive. But if we step back and look at the extraordinary lengths (efforts) the USPS goes to to deliver mail, we might appreciate the post office a little more.

The Grand Canyon (see English Cafe 245) is the 277 mile (440 km) long and 6,000 foot (1,800 meter) deep gorge (low area between two mountains) in Arizona. It’s a place of wonder (causing awe and admiration) and natural beauty.

At the bottom of the Canyon, but outside of the national park the Canyon is located in, lives a Native American tribe called the Havasupai. They live on the Havasupai Reservation, land officially set aside by the U.S. government for their use.

Most of the Havasupai live in the village of Supai. Both the reservation and the village are in a remote (difficult to get to) place, but it is very beautiful, with four blue-green waterfalls. There are no roads. To get there, you will need to walk, ride a horse or other animal, row a boat, or travel by helicopter.

Even so, the people on the reservation get their mail six days a week. How does it get there? It arrives by mule (see photo).

The U.S. Postal Service uses contractors (people who are hired for a service by agreement) for this service. A contractor picks up the mail from the nearby town of Peach Springs, Arizona, and travels by car for about an hour to the top of the canyon. From there, the owner of the mule team (group of animals working together) who has done this job for over 25 years, loads up the mail onto the mules, each mule carrying up to 200 pounds. The mule team then travel the eight miles down into the canyon, usually taking three hours down and five hours back up.

Most of the “mail” that makes this trip isn’t mail at all — it’s supplies (necessary things for one to live or work). So without mail service, the village could not survive. The mail service delivers basic items, such as soap and medicine, but also modern amenities (useful and desirable things), such as packaged food (food in bags, boxes, or containers), small appliances (machines used in the home), and even orders from Amazon.com!

If spending time in this remote place sounds good to you, then you can visit the village of Supai. In addition to hiking, horseback riding, or picnicking (eating a meal outdoors) in this beautiful place, you can visit the village store and cafe, and there is even a museum for tourists. If you’d like to stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can rent a room at Phantom Ranch. Interestingly, if someone sends you mail while you’re staying there, your letter or package will have a stamp (official mark in ink) on it that reads, “Mailed by Mule.” In fact, Supai is the last official mail-by-mule route in the United States.

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: From Wikipedia

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2 Responses to Mail by Mule

  1. Geng Xin says:

    I very appreciate Dr. Lucy’s lesson and speaking, and I know some the United States’ culture.

  2. emiliano says:

    It is a nice interesting story, I like it very much even more when this animal “mule” is so useful there to carry the mail and other necessary things.
    Many years before here in my country mules and donkeys where essential animals
    in the life of people that care and use them nearly for everything.

    Now these animals that have been so useful to humans have not a place in the new civilization and it is really very sad.
    Donkeys have practically disappeared the same with “mules” and it is really a drama that these animals are now out of our civilization.

    Thank you Lucy and have a nice 2017 year. emiliano

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