OREGON COUNTY -- Many residents in rural Oregon County woke up Jan. 5 to find their mailboxes vandalized or gone.
The Oregon County Sheriff's Department is investigating the vandalism of dozens of mailboxes in the county.
Sheriff Tim Ward said his office received at least 20 reports of vandalized mailboxes that morning. "I believe the number of boxes affected reaches much higher than that, maybe as high as 60 or more," the sheriff said.
He said several areas of the county were hit, but the most severely hit was Highway 19 between Thayer and Alton. The vandalism started about 3 or 4 miles out of town and ended just past Ledgerwood Farm, just over halfway between Thayer and Alton.
Sheriff Ward said the culprit or culprits probably struck sometime between 11 p.m. Jan 4 and 5 a.m. Jan 5. The sheriff and his family were not spared in the destruction. He said he was up at 6 a.m. that day repairing his mailbox and putting it back on its pole.
Other communities hit with mailbox vandalism were Bonds, Norman Church Road, Old Myrtle Road, Rose Hill and some mailboxes on H Highway.
Thayer Postmaster Paula Kirby said when something like this happens her office is most concerned with the contents in the mailboxes.
"I do know of one instance where the person had not picked up their mail in two or three days and there was some mail scattered on the ground," Kirby said. The postmaster said when a mail box is damaged the post office will hold a patron's mail until he can get to town to get it.
Highway 19 resident Pat Lindburg said, "I was taking my trash to the road to be picked up when, lo and behold, I discovered the damage to our mailbox. We purchased this new Rubbermaid mailbox May 30 of this year at Cover's and paid just over $53 for it." she said.
Her husband, Barney, is disabled so she had to hire someone to install it and that cost her another $35 and an additional $10 for the letters and numbers that have to go on both sides of the mailbox.
"I don't get around like I used to and we made the decision to buy that type of box so I could get into it from the backside of the box instead of the side facing the road," Lindburg said.
She said there are still good people in the world. "Some good Samaritan, I don't have any idea who, straightened out our box as good as they could and put it back on the pole. It's not like it was, but we can get our mail. I was so pleased," she said.
"I feel sorry for the parents of the lads and lassies who messed up a nice country area. Maybe they should be doing some type of community service," Lindburg said.
Her neighbor, Mary Vaughn, who lives about a quarter to a half-mile north was also a victim of the mailbox bandit. "I live about 5 miles out of Thayer and six or seven mailboxes down from the Lindburg's. I left early that morning to attend my exercise class at Thayer and it was foggy. I didn't notice the damage done to my mailbox until I returned home around 8:30 a.m. that morning. I thought, 'Oh my goodness!' when I saw my box had been knocked down into the ditch. Of course I couldn't get down there and get it out. My neighbor got it out of the ditch and put it back on the pole," Vaughn said. She said the pole had been bent but was still usable.
Ward said this is not the first time mailboxes have been damaged in the county. He said several years ago the vandals began at Grand Gulf and randomly damaged mailboxes all the way to Thayer, about 20 in all. "I just never seen this many damaged at one time," the sheriff said.