WORLAND, Wyo. — The lines were long at the Worland Post Office on Tuesday morning.
Many people dropped in and headed directly to Postmaster Tom Outland's office for one last chance to wish him well in his retirement.
"There's no coming back," he said with a laugh.
After 36 years as a postal employee, Outland has seen plenty of changes. Now 60, he began his career in Thermopolis, where he was raised, in May 1976. He went to Lander before moving to Worland in 1990.
During his 22 years in Worland, he began as a supervisor before moving to the top post. Starting out as a carrier, he recalls the small Willys-type Jeeps that were once used. The mode of delivery has transitioned into the LLVs (long-life vehicle) used today by the carriers around Worland.
The job has changed from working the mail manually to sorting it by machine. When he first arrived in Worland, the department didn't have computers. Now the mail is fully automated, he said.
Back then, he "knew in a way," he wanted to make a career out of working for the postal service. He realized it would give him the security to raise a family.
"My dad taught us the work ethics if you start something, you finish it," he said. "Hopefully I have done that."
For the most part, those who begin working for the post office stick with it until they retire, he said. On his last day on the job, he presented an employee with her 25-year certification award, he said. At least three people in the office have 30 years on the job, he said.
"I can't believe it's finally at an end," he said. "These young whippersnappers need to take over."
He threw a lot of time and effort into the post office. The results have been good to him as well as enjoyable, he said.
The soft-spoken postmaster enjoys interacting with people, teasing them and giving them a hard time. Tuesday, he was on the receiving end as he reminisced with visitors who all had their own experiences with Outland.
Gary Sutherland expressed relief the family is not moving out of Worland so he can avail himself again of Outland's scaffolding for his painting business sideline. He reminded Outland when a person retires, he still needs something to do.
"This is the best post office in the state," she said after one last hug.
Ed Grooms commended Outland on his good sense of humor, "although you pick on people," which Outland gleefully acknowledged.
Outland made the decision to change his work address to his garage where he and his wife, Cheri, are starting a new livelihood. They headed to Cody on Wednesday to buy a manufacturing business.
He describes it as going from one fire to the next. The new venture isn't duplicating anything in Worland or the country, he said. Instead, it's unique and one-of-a-kind, mostly involving mail orders.
"I get to be on the other side (of the post office counter) and harassing them," he said with a laugh.
Their new endeavor involves manufacturing brass cartridges for black powder guns, merchandise that isn't available just any place. The plans fell into place through an association of a few years. Outland needed work done on his guns, the owner mentioned he wanted to retire from the cartridge end of the business and concentrate on being a gunsmith.
"It seemed like the ideal time to try something different," Outland said. "It's quite an operation actually. We take a bar stock 12 inches long and turn it into cartridges."
The interest in black powder shoots requires the need for the cartridges for participants locally, to Civil War enactments back east, to the growing interest in the pastime due to the "Quigley" movie, he said.
It's also the opportunity to allow Cheri Outland to dabble in the field for which she trained, computer programming, by which the equipment is operated. It's also the chance for them to work side-by-side and to spend more time together, he said.
"Now we get to do what we want to do," he said.
Their son, Kody, will probably be involved in the manufacturing end of the venture. The former Marine lives in Worland and is helping dad get everything ready to start the business.
They will do some traveling, visiting daughter Katrina in Washington. They will take in the sites and sounds of Germany next spring.
What he will miss the most as he clears out his office and moves on is the camaraderie with his co-workers, fellow postmasters around the state and the public.
With all the talk about the postal service down-sizing, Outland is optimistic about the future. There have been many changes over the last two years with more to come, "but I truly believe there is a need for the post office."
Information from: Northern Wyoming Daily News, http://www.wyodaily.com