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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Getting Postal

March 1, 1991

Mail service has always been pretty good here at Johnson's Crossing.  Oh, we don't have a post office, as such, but we are a designated mail drop, with pick-up and delivery three times a week, and we are permitted to sell postage and applications for money orders.  Directives from the postal authorities come addressed to me as "Person in Charge of Mail," and I personally field all such generic correspondence as letters addressed to Mayor/Police Chief/City Planner of Johnson's Crossing or Principal, Brook's Brook School (closed for lo! these 25 years.) 

Mail is sorted on our kitchen table and inserted into the compartments of an old Pan American Airlines brochure rack for pickup by the six or eight householders who find it, though not as fully-serviced, certainly more convenient than driving to Teslin or Whitehorse.  It's not a bad arrangement and has been working, more or less, for more than forty years. 

There are a few irritations, of course.  Some of our mail comes via Whitehorse and some of it through Dawson Creek and years ago, somebody with a terminal case of Wherethehellisit-itis decided that we should have a BC postal code.  No amount of pleading could get us a Yukon designation and for a long time our mail came to us routed through Kaslo and Herrick Creek and Hinton.  Eventually, without so much as a by-your-leave, we pirated a south-Whitehorse code, which works a lot better than the BC one.  Of course, occasionally it stymies the Whitehorse mailsorters who have no idea where Johnson's Crossing could be so they return to sender, address unknown, no such number, no such zone (Oh sing it, Elvis!)   But we don't have a lot of complaints and, indeed, often yodel rousing madrigals of praise to Canada Post for their intuition and imagination. 

Fancy actually receiving a letter addressed to Postmaster at Johnson's Crossing, Somewhere east of Whitehorse, Alaska.  (Coincidentally, the gist of it was someone wanting to know if we'd been named for Andrew Johnson who was the President of these United States at the time of the Alaska Purchase?  For those who are still with me on this history lesson, Lincoln was the president at the time, and it was Secretary of State, William Seward, who arranged the purchase from Russia for the grand sum of $7,200,000 or two cents per acre.  There never was a president named Andrew Johnson.  And Johnson's Crossing is named for Col. F. M. S. Johnson, C.O. of the 93 Corp of the US Army Engineers, who built the bridge over the Teslin River.)  Or finding an envelope addressed to me but in such poor handwriting that it had been missent to Yokahama, Japan and took four months to work it's way to me.  Absolutely amazing.

But last Saturday, I got the best letter of all.  It was a brown paper parcel containing a brief note and a couple of pictures from a young fellow from Germany who had eaten some of my "dainty cakes" before making a canoe trip down the Teslin last summer.  The good quality photos were taken in my kitchen and showed me in all my glory: up to my armpits in flour and meatpie mix, looking like the last rose of summer but still smiling bravely.  By the dark circles under my eyes, I judge the time to have been late September.  But the photos and letter were not the best part.  The best part was the parcel itself, addressed as it was, to "House of the Homemade-Cakes Campsite, Johnson's Crossing, Canada" and with a Xerox of my picture underneath. It took five days to come from Altena, Germany to JC, Canada.

Makes me wonder why my parcel from Sears, containing urgently needed new undergarments, was returned by Canada Post as undeliver- able. I'm guessing it was the picture, worth a thousand words and all that.....

It sure is a good thing that there's something in the works once in a while, to bring a bit of humour into our lives because I sure am getting sick of winter.  Oh, I know that spring has sprung, they said so on the radio and the seed catalogues are already outdated and all and I know that this current discontent is only a manifestation of the March blahs.  But damn, how the little things born of all this per- petual togetherness is beginning to get to me!

Like the wood box in the front room.  Now, it's a good-sized receptacle and filled to the brim twice daily - or even once a day now that it's a little milder of an evening - it would serve our old barrel stove more than adequately.  But in his single-minded absorp- tion with keeping the wolves of winter at bay, Phil doesn't just fill the woodbox.  He FILLS it!  Halfway up the wall, he fills it, and overflowing with woodchips sawdust, he piles it between the fridge and the stove, heaven forbid we run a little low! 

And what's more, he won't let me use it.  I open the door to feed the fire and he leaps to his feet, shouting, "Don't use that, I'll get you some," and goes rushing out for an armload.  And then another for the empty spot between the table and the counter.

The other day, someone mentioned that our woodpiles were going down at an alarming rate.  Well, I guess they are.  And why shouldn't they be?  After all, there's roughly a dozen cords of it piled around the perimeter of the front room!

I'm sure getting sick of winter........

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