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Not for the faint-hearted

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Hay River (Nov 27/06) - "You sure picked the right day to do this," laughed Daniel Oteiza, as he waded through a knee-deep snow drift, hands full of letters.

A blizzard with a minus 38C wind chill? Definitely makes for a good story when exploring the perils of being a Northern mail carrier.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Daniel Oteiza, one of Hay River's three mail carriers, plows through a snow drift to bring the RCMP their mail. - Erika Sherk/NNSL photo

It's the worst day Oteiza has ever seen, in nearly two years of delivering mail.

He has been out in it for fifteen minutes and has about four hours to go.

It doesn't faze him much, he said. He's not about to let the weather stop him.

"Only thing that will make me shut it down is if visibility is really bad - if drivers can't see me," he said,

Otherwise Hay Riverites can rest easy knowing their letters and parcels are on the way. Hay River mail carriers are a tough bunch, according to Oteiza.

"We do it in the most extreme conditions in Canada," he said. "Us and Yellowknife."

Most other communities don't deliver their mail door to door, he said.

Oteiza's regular run is the downtown core as well as to the hospital and back.

He delivers around 200 to 300 lbs of mail every day.

The volume is starting to increase with Christmas getting ever closer, he said.

"It's really starting to take off," he said. "I like it when parcels start arriving."

Hay Riverites have strong ties down South, added Oteiza, "so most of us get goodies in the mail."

Another part of the job Oteiza enjoys is sorting the mail before he takes it out.

"Right now it's my favourite part," he smiled, "because I'm inside the building so I'm nice and warm."

His least favourite part? Enduring days like today.

"When the wind chill goes right through you and you're just wishing you were somewhere else. That's the worst part of it."

A mail carrier stereotype is daily attacks by unfriendly dogs but Oteiza said he has never had a problem.

"I've never been scared of animals," he said.

"Some will come up to me and I just look at them like 'try me'. And none have."

He did have a run-in with a critter once.

He was on Riverview Drive in the summertime and had his car door open so he could hear the stereo as he stuffed mailboxes.

"I saw a cute little kitty bouncing around, and then forgot about it," he said.

"Once I got into the truck and was driving away it jumped up from the back going 'meow'," he laughed.

"I said, 'where did you come from?'"

Though he said he grumbles about his job from time to time, Oteiza said that he is just glad to be alive and free, even when it means being outside with icy snow blowing into his eyes.