Good Samaritan on rural Underwood mail route helps carrier get mail delivered to farms

The story of a rural mail carrier, a retired teacher and how one stepped up to help the other so letters and packages got to the farm families near Underwood, Minnesota.

Brenda Christopherson, rural mail carrier in Underwood, Minn. prepares for her route.
Kevin Wallevand / WDAY News
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UNDERWOOD, Minn. — When it comes to Minnesota nice, it will be hard to beat a story out of Otter Tail County.

With the county fair done, and the grain harvest about to begin, Main Street in Underwood was quiet on the summer morning, Monday, Aug. 1.

Inside the Post Office, Brenda Christopherson was getting all her mail sorted and bundled for the long day ahead. It's a daunting task, filling her Buick full of letters and packages for farm families across her route in Otter Tail County.

"It's like putting a puzzle together," Christopherson said.

Her 102-mile route of gravel roads adds up to a lot of windshield time, and winds its way all across lakes country. All those miles of snow, ice and summer heat can be hard on any vehicle.


As Christopherson approached Pheps Mill, her car decided not to cooperate.

"I got back to my car, and I was overheating," she said. "So I popped the hood, and I saw I had a blown water hose."

That's when retired school teacher Ozzie Tollefson, who lives on Christopherson's route, decided to help.

Not only did he offer to help, he drove, using his own car.

"So I said, 'well, you can borrow my car,'" Tollefson said. "And she said, 'where's the stick shift?' and I said, 'it's in the middle.'

Christopherson said a stick shift wouldn't work because she needs to be able to slide across the seat.

"Okay, we got to deliver that mail, so I'm going to drive you," Tollefson responded.

Tollefson was so eager to help, he hadn't even started his morning.


"I was actually in my pajama pants and T-shirt, and I hadn't had my vitamins and my bran flakes and my prune juice. I just said, 'let's go,'" he said. "And she has 455 mailboxes on her route."

"So it turned out to be a good day," Christopherson said.

"I found out it was six hours on the road. I was glad I didn't take my prune juice, if you know what I mean," Tollefson said.

Christopherson and everyone else around Underwood were not surprised by the act of kindness from a helpful neighbor. It's just what happens here.

"I learned a lot about him, and I'm sure he learned a lot about me," she said. "It was fun. It was a fun day. We laughed most of the day."

Christopherson got her car fixed, and Tollefson retired from his one-day mail carrier job, but he wouldn't trade that day for anything.

Maybe it's serendipity or the magic of Christmas, but two Fargo school teachers — one retired — have met each other through the local Meals on Wheels program. The chance meeting revealed one incredible shared teaching detail.

"It says a lot about the people around here, in this part of the country," Tollefson said.

"I think it's awesome, I mean, people help people out here. It's what they do," Christopherson said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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