Vic Barkdoll carries mail on appointed rounds for 39 years

Vic Barkdoll enjoyed nearly 40 years as a rural mail carrier with the United States Postal Service. He will miss his customers and co-workers, but not inclement weather.

If any snow is yet in the forecast, let it fall, because as of Dec. 30, 2011, Vic Barkdoll doesn't care. That's the day he retired from over 39 years with the United States Postal Service. And on his last day as a rural mail carrier, the weather was a far cry from his first, on Feb. 19, 1972, when 19 inches of snow hit Greencastle. As he sorted the mail the novice part-time employee thought, "What did I get myself into?"

However, postmaster John Wine called in a regular, and the two hit the road. They delivered mail to about 20 boxes in the Upton area, barely able to see their way. A snow plow driver told them it was hopeless, and to turn around.

Barkdoll stuck with the job, working as a sub for eight years until a fulltime spot opened up on Dec. 12, 1980. He was hired because he had already taken the Civil Service exam, hoping for such an opportunity.

And since then, only once did the post office call before he left his house to cancel delivery. That was during the storm of 1996. A few other times he reported for work, and was sent home shortly.

Career plans

Barkdoll, 58, graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 1971, and considered college, but didn't have the money. The son of Whitey and Vera Barkdoll, he went to work in the family store, Barkdoll's Market. By early the next year, postmaster Sonny Rowe needed another subsitute carrier for a rural route. An employee spoke to Barkdoll and Whitey. The elder thought it would be a good idea to try it. Thus began a fullfilling career, and further education plans disappeared. Barkdoll also briefly considered an offer to work at Citizen's Bank, but preferred outdoor settings.

The day typically began at 7 a.m. Barkdoll cased his route pieces on shelves, organized by family.

"This was the hardest part of the job," he said. "When you just start, you are lost at first."

Packages were also put into order. He also picked up the "accountables", any mail that needed a signature. By 9:30 the tubs were loaded into his personal vehicle, and off he went.

His final route was 42 miles long, with 572 mailboxes.  He estimated he handled 3,000 pieces of mail daily, and picked up over 200 to bring back to the post office for processing. He was back at the base by 3:30, perhaps did a little sorting for the next day, and was done.

Barkdoll went through six vehicles, and his last is 13 years old with 180,000 route miles on it.


Barkdoll remembers fondly his customers and co-workers. "I met a lot of great people."

While the job duties were routine, he never knew what to expect as he drove the roads of Antrim Township. Once on Gearhart Road, he crested a hill in winter and saw a lady lying on the road. He feared the snowplow had hit her, but that turned out not to be the case. She had slipped.

"I'm thankful I saw her in the snow."

He and the neighbors brought out pillows and blankets and called 911. The woman had hurt her back but recovered.

"That was scary," said Barkdoll. "I'll never forget it."

On Hades Church Road he saw a vehicle approaching too fast, and sure enough, the driver couldn't make the curve. He hit the bank, spun and landed in a field, barely missing Barkdoll's vehicle. Another motorist stopped to help the banged-up young man, and Barkdoll called the ambulance from the next house.

One woman on Stull Road would put hot coffee in the mailbox just before he arrived on a cold or rainy day, and cold soda on hot days.

"That's a great feeling," he said, "that people think about you."

A farmer on Barr Road helped him with a flat tire. Others came to the rescue when he broke down. After a snow, many folks shoveled the path to the mailbox before they did their driveways. At Christmas people gave him presents and food.

"I'll miss that next year," he laughed.

He enjoyed watching kids grow up, go off for a while, come back married and then their kids would grow up.

The future

Barkdoll plans to pick up where he left off with fishing and golf. He wants to travel, with a cruise and the west coast at the top of his list. He likes the ocean, and knows there are many great places in the United States to visit. He'll adjust to driving again with the right foot on the brake and accelerator.

"It was a good career," he mused. "But I won't miss snow days."