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Homeowners share personality, stories through mailboxes

By Gabe Semenza
Feb. 24, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 23, 2011 at 8:24 p.m.

Robert Puckett's mailbox - which is enveloped by an oversized, fiberglass bass - boasts a sentimental-yet-quirky back story. Puckett's mailbox, located on Hotz Road in Thomaston, is just one example among the hundreds of unique mailboxes in the Crossroads.

MAILBOX HISTORYU.S. citizens didn't always express creativity via their mailbox.

U.S. postal carriers began delivering directly to front doors about 1863, according to the National Postal Museum.

Those carriers wasted about 1.5 hours each day, however, waiting for patrons to answer the knock.

So, mail slots and eventually curbside mailboxes were installed nationwide to make mail delivery more efficient.

The U.S. Post Office designed the tunnel-shaped mailbox, complete with a door and signal flag, in 1915.

For many people, this classic design - simple, subtle and traditional - proves useful still today.

Then there's Robert Puckett, Eyvon Magnia and the hundreds of other Crossroads residents like them.

These mail recipients prove that while conventional mailboxes remain the norm, examples of silly, strange and even elaborate counterparts exist aplenty. In turn, these contraptions speak volumes about the personalities of those who installed them.

"I wanted something unique, kind of crazy-looking," said Puckett, a gregarious 51-year-old Thomaston farm and ranch real estate salesman. His mailbox - a $50 fiberglass, bug-eyed, large-mouthed bass - garners quite the attention. "I've had a lot of people laugh their heads off. Everyone knows whose mailbox it is. They don't get my mail mixed up."

Puckett has a yacht stored at Lake Travis and another boat to fish the Guadalupe River. He mostly pursues catfish and white freshwater drums.

His father, however, was renowned for his ability to catch bass. Jim Puckett was a top-ranked Texas bass fisherman about a decade ago. With a bass for a mailbox, his son honored him in a sentimental-yet-quirky way.

"What's it say about people who have odd mailboxes?" Robert Puckett said. "We're easy-going, kind of crazy. Hell, I don't know. Fun and different."

Ken Epley, the Victoria postmaster, said that while quirky mailboxes appear most places, most are located in rural areas.

"Our people have seen some in the shape of fish, John Deere tractors and barns," Epley said. "We see them painted to look like bluebonnets and Texas flags. One family has a homemade orange box with a buzzard on top. I think sometimes it's to reflect their personality, hobbies, what they enjoy in life."

Eyvon Magnia, 62, installed a mailbox to replicate the look of her Westpark Avenue country home.

"We'd just built our house in 1995 and wanted to put something unique out front. Everybody else had the same old thing," Magnia said.

So, the Magnias installed a box that featured their home's paint color and roof. A friend's father built it custom just for them.

When a careless motorist destroyed the box last year, the family fretted. The man who built the original mailbox had died. So, Magnia scoured the Internet and stumbled into a Maine-based Amish company, which built her a new box.

There existed a problem, however: The Maine-built version feature a wood roof, and not a metal one like the Magnia's original box.

"After receiving the new mailbox, we took it to a company to make the metal roof. We were able to restore our blue mailbox almost to its original design," Magnia said. "When you see a unique mailbox, you know someone took the time to put an extra statement on the house. It says you take pride in your home."

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