In rural Montana, carrying the mail comes with special challenges

It took Merlene Cherrey a while to figure out the tires.

“When I first started, I would have flats all the time and I would get tired of changing them,” said Cherrey, a rural mail carrier who works outside this small northeastern Montana town of 840.

“Then I figured out you get 10-ply.”

There are two rural routes outside Fairview. One runs 82 miles with 157 deliveries and Cherrey’s is 100 miles with 212 stops. A big chunk of the longer route goes through North Dakota, delivering to addresses across the border that still have a 59221 zip code. Eighty percent of the routes are on all-weather roads, the rest on pavement.

“Up in the hills, trees don’t grow out there,” Cherrey said. “But there is one tree. It stands out.”

One tree for a hundred miles on rough roads sounds like something that wouldn’t endear a job to a person. But for Cherrey and Robin Trudell, the other rural carrier, it’s as good as work can get. “I wish I would have started earlier,” Trudell said. “I’ll retire doing this.”

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