Mountain Characters: Mailman Terry Trish steps down after 38 years on the Aspen beat
August 30, 2015
He's delivered mail in downtown Aspen during five different decades — the 1970s, '80s, '90s, 2000s and 2010s. By averaging more than 8 miles a day on foot during that time, he's racked up more than 60,000 miles. Two hip replacements and two golden retrievers later, Terry Trish, after 38 years on the downtown beat, is stepping down.
In October, Trish, who is 63, is leaving the Aspen post office after transferring here in 1977 from Downey, California.
"If I don't do it now, I'd be doing it another 20 years," Trish said.
The right move
“People come and go but there’s always been a good spirit to downtown. I can testify to that.”Terry TrishAspen postal carrier
Skiing's what brought Trish here, after seeing there was an opening at the Aspen post office. It was either Aspen or Lake Tahoe, California, he said, recalling that his time on the slopes in Mammoth, California, turned him on to the sport.
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"It was the best decision of my life, coming to work here," he said.
Before that, he took his first mailman's position, this one in California, on Jan. 5, 1971, He was 18, had graduated from high school and had two months of junior college under his belt. But he left college, quit his part-time job at a grocery store and ditched future plans to attend UCLA. Trish was young and married to his first wife, and they were starting a family. Mouths had to be fed, and Trish had to make money.
"It was strange," Trish recalled. "I was 18 and working with a lot of older people, people from World War II. And one of my first job assignments in 1971 was replacing two guys drafted to Vietnam. For my first three or four years, I was by far the youngest person."
An Aspen ambassador
Trish is one of the most ubiquitous people in Aspen — and unassuming — delivering mail five or six days a week to downtown restaurants, retailers and other businesses. Time permitting, he routinely mingles with locals, visitors and the occasional celebrity. He gives directions to tourists, and he'll tip them off about a good place to eat if they ask. But the gift of gab didn't come naturally to him.
"I wasn't very good at talking to people when I first came here," he said. "I've learned to be able to listen, and I encourage people to tell me about themselves."
He added, "Since I've done the downtown core, I've answered thousands of directional questions, opinion questions, where it's good to eat. I'll see people trying to figure out a map, and I'll help them out. Even on my worst days, I'll try to have a successful conversation with people. I've prided myself on that."
Trish came here a year after the Aspen post office started delivery service. Before that, locals picked up their mail themselves at the old Aspen post office located where the new Aspen Art Museum is.
If anyone's familiar with the changing landscape of Aspen, it's Trish. Having seen buildings and businesses come and go, he keeps an upbeat view about change.
"Change is good," said Trish, who is pictured with former Aspen Mayor Eve Homeyer among the nostalgic photos hanging on the dining-room walls of one of Aspen's last funky restaurants, Little Annie's Eating House. "People come and go, but there's always been a good spirit to downtown. I can testify to that. It's always evolving. Time keeps moving on, and you've got to go with the changes."
Trish has defied the stereotype about mail carriers' fragile relationship with dogs. The U.S. Postal Service said that in 2014, 5,581 of its employees were bitten by canines. Houston was the city that topped the list, with 63 instances of mail carriers snapped by dogs last year.
But rather than running from dogs on the beat, Trish brings one along with him. For about the past 16 years, a female golden retriever has accompanied him on his daily routes. His partners have made his job more enjoyable, and "people just ate it up. It turned into a real social scene," Trish said.
Sydney, who died in 2012, was his longtime companion, and the tandem even made national news in 2003. Trish's postmaster at the time saw a picture of him and the dog in one of the Aspen newspapers. Working on the job with a dog is against U.S. Postal Service policy, and Trish's superiors forced him to leave Sydney behind.
"Terry may be the best letter carrier in the world, and this dog may be the best dog in the world, but we can't take isolated cases and make exceptions," a spokesman for the Postal Service said at the time.
Residents of this dog-friendly town were livid, but Trish let the situation cool off. For a short while, he would leash Sydney behind the Elks Building when he was working, to avoid the attention. But he eventually brought Sydney back on the beat.
"Everybody knew what was going on," Trish said. "But I busted my ass for this company, so everybody looked the other way."
Now, Trish's sidekick is Ali.
"I don't have her on a leash; she'll just walk and sit," he said. "Female golden retrievers, they're just really good people dogs. In my opinion, it's by far the best dog to have."
Trish has had two hips replaced, the first one 25 years after he broke a femur in 1972 when he swerved a postal vehicle to avoid a small child who ran in front of him in California.
Trish's leg healed, but it was shorter than the other one, forcing him to have a hip replacement. His other hip was eventually replaced, as well.
But these days, he gets around just fine. Trish pitched for his championship recreational softball team this summer, and he still hits the slopes.
"I still ski — ski hard," he said.
But he'll be hanging up the skis, temporarily at least, this winter.
"We're (Trish and his wife Peggy) going to leave this winter and go to Baja," he said. "We have an RV, and we'll also be going to San Diego for a couple of months. I have a goal of 25 days surfing. I'm just going to take the winter off and see if I really miss skiing."
Trish, who built his home in the North 40 subdivision, also has three daughters — a lawyer, a psychologist and a businesswoman.
As for leaving his job, Trish is ready, but he'll miss the friends he's made along the way.
"I'm going to miss everybody downtown," he said. "I'd had so many good relationships through the years. People know I'm approachable. I never had a bad day on the job."