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Father's mail carrier career influences daughter
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Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent@qconline.com
Rod Jackson and his daughter, Tara Jackson Gripp, get ready for their mail routes in Geneseo.
GENESEO — The inscription on a New York City Post Office reads, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their rounds."

Rod Jackson, of Mineral, and his daughter, Tara Jackson Gripp, of Annawan, both Geneseo mail carriers, abide by that slogan but said if they could change anything about their jobs, it would be the weather.

In his 30 years as a mail carrier, Mr. Jackson has learned how to dress to stay warm and keep cool but said the worst day for a mail carrier "is when it's 32 degrees and pouring rain. That happens about once every year when your hands get wet and your gloves are soaked."

Ms. Gripp, hired at the Geneseo Post Office in 2012, said she loves her job, but weather and time off are issues she'd change if she could.

"We don't have the personnel to get the job done, so we often don't get days off," she said. "I was to be off a weekend and planned to travel to St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis to visit my niece who has leukemia. My schedule changed, and I had to work that weekend."

Mr. Jackson, who became a Geneseo mail carrier in 1982 and plans to retire early this year, took the Civil Service exam in January 1982.

"I told my wife we would move south if I was going to carry mail, so I took the test in Mississippi, had an interview in Aberdeen, Miss., the day before taking the test for an opening in Geneseo. I drove all night and got home from Mississippi at 4 a.m., slept three hours and took the test in Cambridge for the Geneseo job."

Out of 150 people testing for the same job, he won the spot and began work on May 1, 1982.

He started out splitting his time between the office and carrying mail before he got his own route six months later, walking 12 miles every day. For the last 12 years, he has had a different route every day and delivers mail two days per week in Cambridge, where there is no longer a postmaster.

"I like being outside, I like being around people, and I like being my own boss," Mr. Jackson said.

Another hazard of the job is dogs, he said.

"If a mail carrier has carried mail for 30 years and says he has never been bitten, he's lying. I have been bitten by dogs about three times but never bad bites."

Special memories are friends he's made and the white squirrels in Geneseo.

"I see white squirrels every day," Mr. Jackson said. "I have made so many great friends. One lady on my route I won't forget is Sue McLaughlin (now deceased). Every day I carried mail to her house, she came out and gave me a cookie. What a special lady, always a smile on her face."

He said being a "mail carrier has been a blessing. I have no regrets. I've worked hard and only called in sick three days out of my 30 years. I am proud that I worked for the postal service for 30 years."

Mr. Jackson was a big influence on his daughter's decision to become a mail carrier.

"He provided well for our family and always was in a good mood when he came home from work," she said.

After graduating from Annawan High School, Ms. Gripp enrolled at Black Hawk College but didn't have a chosen career.

She began clerk work at the Mineral Post Office in 2003 and, after taking the postal exam, was hired as a clerk at the Atkinson Post Office in 2005, a job that didn't guarantee a 40-hour week.

Ms. Gripp was hired in Geneseo in 2012 and soon had "my own route, paid holidays and 40 hours a week.

"I love dealing with people, and I like the exercise, but I extremely dislike it when it's about 30 degrees and pouring rain with wind," she said. "Those days are hard on you, and in the Midwest, you have to put on your big girl pants and get the job done."

There also can be some unexpected encounters on the route, she said, telling how she nearly stepped on a possum one recent Saturday.

"I was looking at my mail and started walking up the porch steps, and there he was, on the bottom step. He was breathing, but playing possum."

Mrs. Gripp also has been bitten by dogs but doesn't blame the dogs.

"They were not serious bites, and dogs are territorial, and we are on their territory. There is never a dull moment with this job."

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