DIETRICH, Idaho Three generations of the Perron family have driven blind through snowstorms, suffered repeated attacks by bees, run unarmed money wagons with $17,000 bagged in the backseat and have even been chased down by a rapist. But the mail always got delivered.
The Perrons, a name that after nearly 60 years rings synonymous with mail to anyone in the communities east of Shoshone, are calling it quits. On April 30, Marc Perron made the final rounds of mail drops, which began like so many others when he picked up a shipment of mail early in the morning in Shoshone, drove east along the tracks, then circled back home empty handed.
"It never occurred to us that we chose it," said Carolyn Perron, Marc's mother, referring to the family-run mail delivery system. "It just kind of dropped into our laps."
This trade has been the family's lot since the nastiest of winters blanketed these rural communities in 1948 under a deep coat of snow, calling Grandpa Perron to sudden action.
Black lung drove Vernon "Bus" Perron in the 1940s to leave the mines and settle in Richfield, near his family's homestead. Perron, who by then was in his 40s, partnered with his brother-in-law to run a butcher shop in the tiny town.
For a little extra cash, every morning before work he met a train at the town's depot, carried incoming mail about five blocks to the post office, then returned to the train with outgoing mail, said Wayne Perron, his son. In his free time, Bus piloted a J-3 Piper Cub, a small plane, for recreation.
The winter of 1948 ushered in a nasty snowstorm that went one month straight and buried every house in the area. Some residents were sick and in desperate need of medicine but incapable of traveling to town. Bus volunteered to fly his plane overhead and drop packages of medicines from the Richfield pharmacy and mail that floated down on jury-rigged parachutes.
"I had to run the meat market while he was doing that," Wayne Perron recalls. "He just did it as a favor."
Just a few years later, when the train stopped delivering to Dietrich, Bus bit off a much larger chunk of the mail route and won the contract to deliver mail everywhere from Shoshone to Dietrich to Sun Valley.
In the 1970s, Bus' son, Wayne, and Wayne's wife, Carolyn, took over. Again, they did it for the money to buy and convert an old defunct Catholic church into their new home.
"I told her, 'It's up to you because if we buy it we'll have to take over the mail route,"' Wayne recalls telling his wife.
In 1975, Carolyn took all eastern routes throughout the school year while Wayne, a school superintendent, drove it in summers. Bus' brother helped out hauling loads some of the years.
By 1990, Carolyn quit to become a full-time grandmother the couple now has 21 grandchildren and Wayne retired from his school position to do it full time until 2000 when his own children took it over.
His son Marc Perron, who spends part of the year as a professional fisherman in Alaska, split the work with his siblings. But two months a year, no family member was available to drive the route, and the family decided to end their contract with the post office.
As the family business shutters, Wayne and Carolyn reflect: It was always about the money, wasn't it?
Maybe there was more, Carolyn is first to suggest: "I think the Perron name had a lot to do with it."
Wayne, now 75, recalls all of his nervous roadside breakdowns. Carolyn gets hysterical as she remembers banging a cage that contained a squawking chicken, yelling "shut up" and getting attacked by bees that escaped a package.