Solving the mystery of the twig-stuffed mailbox

I put on a robe over my pajamas and made my way out of the house in my slippers and down the driveway to get the mail and newspaper, feeling just like Tony Soprano.

I opened the black metal door to the mailbox and reached in as I yawned, without looking where I put my hand.

The box was bloated with weeds, dirt, tiny twigs, and a couple of envelopes.


As I started to clean out the box with my hand, I noticed a lot of that same stuff was on the ground at the base of the pole that held up our mailbox.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

All of a sudden it came to me: I had been cleaning the yard of debris left by the very high winds, and I had not completely done away with some piles of pine needles, weeds, and stuff like what was filling up our mailbox.

And some of it must have blown across the street into the yard of a neighbor who used to leave anonymous notes in our mailbox outlining my flaws as a homeowner.

If my debris got onto her property, she must have gone berserk.

So she thought she could tamper with an official receptacle of the US mail. I looked down at my shoes and began to timidly kick some of the stuff I had taken out of our mailbox in the direction of her residence.


I took the envelopes and the newspaper and went back inside, feeling the exhilaration of revenge as Tony must have when he shot someone who turned out to be a rat.

The next morning, I looked in the mailbox before I put my hand in, just in case.

The mailbox was completely stuffed with the same dreck as the day before, and the mailman had left a note stating that if I wanted my mail, I would have to go to the Post Office.

I dug into our mailbox and got those weeds and twigs out of there pronto, like a dog digging for a really tasty bone he had hidden for emergencies. I once read a book about someone doing a stretch in Leavenworth, and I visualized my neighbor in an orange jumpsuit with her number on her chest.

I decided to call my neighbor and only fake threaten her if she kept up this insanity.


I was ready to dial when the doorbell rang. It was our mailman.

“You gotta see this!’’

I put on a sweater and followed him down the driveway to the mailbox.

I did not see anything unusual, but was going to tell him about my insane neighbor when a sparrow, with its beak filled with twigs and weeds and dirt, swooped down from a tree branch and pushed its way into my mailbox, even though its door was closed.

As we stood there, the bird flew out of the mailbox somehow and went searching for more stuff to make a nest.

I went down to the front of the mailbox and saw that just above the pull-down cover, there was a small rectangular opening through which the bird was entering and feathering its nest.

The mailman and I almost simultaneously said, “I have never seen anything like this.’’

He had no suggestions but told me I was responsible for taking care of the situation.

At that moment I had what Hayley Mills in “The Trouble With Angels’’ called “a scathingly brilliant idea.’’

I went in the house and got the international news section of the newspaper and took several depressing pages. I folded them up into just enough of a rectangle to stuff into that opening the bird was using.

When the bird flew back, beak full, it could not get in, try as it might. Finally, it dropped its mouthful, flew up to a wire, and looked as if it were complaining to another bird.

No, dear reader, I did not feel like a villain. Even though I did make a suggestion the bird could not refuse.

George Weinstein lives in Burlington. He can be reached at