SHERIDAN — Painted is fun, and flowers are nice, but a 250-pound antique railroad switch stand is better. A 6-foot wood carving of “Hep Cat,” a military tank and a green wooden tractor will also do.
For some residents of Sheridan County, a regular old mailbox just isn’t enough. They prefer to wear their personality on their curb.
“It’s the first thing anybody else looks at when they drive down the street,” Dan Sears said. “That gives them an idea of what you’re like.”
In an age when a majority of new housing developments are opting for a cluster box system for mail delivery, those unique mailboxes are becoming a nod to nostalgia, as well.
Postmaster of Sheridan Jacob Weeder said the cluster system improves the efficiency and security of delivery, allowing carriers to lock away mail and serve several customers with one stop. Ultimately carriers care that boxes are big enough and operable enough to efficiently deposit mail, but they do get a chuckle out of those that are out of the ordinary and over the top.
Below, find the stories and personalities behind five of Sheridan County’s unique mailboxes.
Antique railroad switch stand
Ed and Jaynee Gourley
North Heights Circle
Ten years ago, a couple kids in a go-cart knocked over Ed and Jaynee Gourley’s mailbox.
They offered to replace the damaged property, but Ed Gourley told them there was no need. He had just the thing.
Jaynee Gourley had given him a 250-pound solid cast iron railroad switch stand she found in an antique store downtown. Gourley is a model railroad enthusiast and thought the gift would make an ideal — and indestructible — mail receptacle.
He got permission from the post office, dug a hole, poured concrete and bolted it in place. It has stood ever since, a testament to his love for trains — and his love for his wife.
Hep Cat leaning on a lamppost
Cynde Georgen and Steve Baskin
Big Horn Avenue
The 6-foot-tall carved “Hep Cat” leaning against a lamppost on Big Horn Avenue was a birthday gift. Cynde Georgen asked for a mailbox and believed she was getting a mountain lion for the existing brick base, but her husband Steve Baskin had other plans.
He commissioned wood carver David Peterson who opted for a more fun cat for Georgen’s fancy.
Peterson carved the 1942 jazz-inspired cartoon character from a tree removed from the old Coffeen Elementary school. Georgen was in the first graduating class from that school and is thankful to keep a piece of her past on her curb.
“I didn’t want just a regular mailbox,” Georgen said. “When it turned out to be Hep Cat, it was pretty entertaining. I love it.”
Antique drill press
Big Horn Avenue
The antique drill press his father salvaged from a barn in northern California rusted in a field for over 30 years until Brian Cleghorn asked if he was ever going to use it.
“He decided he wasn’t — finally — and asked me if I wanted it,” Cleghorn said. “It was one of the things I loaded up and brought back here to Wyoming.”
Cleghorn is a welder-machinist who has always loved old rusty machinery. When he bought his house four years ago, the current mailbox was falling over.
“I thought, ‘Perfect.’ I can finally use this for what I intended,” Cleghorn said of the drill press. “I can give it new life, give it another purpose.”
Big Horn Avenue
The military tank Jack Eccles has stationed on Big Horn Avenue is his passion placed street-side.
“I like military stuff,” Eccles said. “I have a 1942 military jeep so why not have a tank? I can’t have a full-size tank to get mail in, so why not that one? That’s about it.”
Eccles sells himself short. His passion has roots in his family’s military service; his dad, mom and sister all served in America’s armed forces, and his mailbox is a nod to that service.
Plus, it’s fun. He is notably excited about the mailbox that is “something different, something cool.”
“You can get a basic mailbox anywhere, but that’s a tank!”
Green wooden tractor
East Loucks Street
His property may be in city limits, but Dan Sears calls it his little farm.
Perched above the town, his “farm” overlooks the Bighorns and produces an abundance of grass and flowers that moisten the air with sweet aromas.
“I have to putter,” Sears said. “It’s my full-time job now to take care of this.”
While Sears’ farm isn’t big enough for full-sized farm equipment, his mailbox gives a good idea of how he spends his time.
His brother made him the green wooden tractor 20 years ago. It is scuffed and worn now, and while he jokes that he simply didn’t want to buy something else, it is obvious his farm wouldn’t be the same without it.