Lum: Home improvements |

Lum: Home improvements

For the first time in my life, I have my own mailbox in front of my house. In the past, it was post-office boxes or clusters of rural-route boxes in the middle of nowhere; most recently, like the past 45 years, I got the bulk of my mail at The Aspen Times office.

Now that The Aspen Times building stands empty and fading on Main Street, replaced by its polar opposite with everyone jammed into ultra-modern cubicles in the revamped Mother Lode building, it seemed time to take the big step of paying my bills online, keeping my post-office box for handy recycling of junk mail and getting home delivery in the event someone wrote me a letter.

This was not a simple transition. The postmaster wanted me to draw a picture showing the sidewalk and my fence, telling me he had to check it out with the mailman and that the box must be between 44 and 45 inches off the ground. I went online and found mailboxes listed for hundreds of dollars, with no idea what I really needed, so I did what I usually do when experiencing a dilemma: I turned the whole thing over to my friend Hilary Burgess.

Hilary found a cute mailbox, which opens from both front and back, for about $65 at Office Depot, met several times with the postmaster, met with Jack the postman and emailed me the specifications, and Mark, my handyman from Buckaroo Builders, came over to install it last week.

The installation included purchasing a post (not included), drilling a post-hole digger through bedrock and setting the post in cement. But Mark was not daunted, and the mailbox, designed to look like a little cottage, stood ready to receive my mail.

And I got mail! Hilary and her co-workers signed a card congratulating me on the acquisition of the mailbox; in the center of the card was a photo of a mailbox in the form of a life-size bicycle rider whose butt opened to receive mail.

While Mark was installing the mailbox, I left to go to physical therapy up at Aspen Valley Hospital. When I got back, the dachshunds, Nicky and Freddie, were sitting disconsolately in the yard.

During the mailbox negotiations, Hilary had found a winter dog door online to replace the flimsy one that had flapped in the wind for years. Mark — man of many talents — also had installed the new dog door, but the dogs themselves were having none of it.

Instead of one flap, this door had two, with a 3-inch space between them.

“What the hell did that man do to our door?” they demanded in unison. Dachshunds may not be able to speak in human voices, but they can make their opinions crystal clear. They did not like — nay, they despised — this horrible double door, and they were not going to set paw over its threshold ever, ever, so forget about it; close the book.

Hilary and I tried to tempt them, one on each side of the door, with their favorite dried strips of chicken breasts — no dice.

On the third day, Freddie went through the door by accident. I had asked if he’d like to go in the car, and in his excitement to run to the back gate, he flew through it. Nicky said he could do it if he cared to, but he didn’t care to right then. A few hours later, Freddie went through for a chicken strip, Nicky shrugged his shoulders and allowed as how he was ready, and now they zip into and out of the new door without any hesitation.

Su Lum is a longtime local who expects that the honey-baked-ham people will be the first to track her down. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at

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