For isolated hillbillies such as Sophia and me, the daily arrival of the postwoman in her little yellow automobile is a major event. Often, she's the only human being I see during the entire day. The individuals who carry out this job in small townships such as Pont-en-Royans end up playing a vital role at the level of social cohesion, because they know everything that's happening in the community, and they concretize the bush telegraph system (referred to, in France, as the "Arab telegraph"). Many rural residents call upon the postperson to mail their letters and parcels, and they pay for the postage the following day.
A few years ago, I happened to say offhandedly to Martine—who's been our postwoman in Choranche for ages—that I was thinking of killing my old chooks [hens, for non-Australian readers], which had stopped laying eggs, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Now, it so happens that Martine is a pure country girl from down in the south-west corner of France, and she can kill a chook just as easily as delivering a letter. After finishing her postal work, at midday, she came back up to Gamone and gave me a marvelous hands-on demonstration of slaughtering a chook, plucking it and preparing it for the oven.
Talking about our postal service, I've always been intrigued by a stone carving in the façade of their post office in the main street of Pont-en-Royans. 1490, that's a hell of a long time ago. Does this really mean that the two-story building that houses the post office of Pont-en-Royans was erected two years before Columbus discovered America? Probably yes, but we can't verify this hypothesis since the crazed revolutionaries of 1793 burned all the ancient archives of Pont-en-Royans.
All the archives? Well, not quite all the archives. Sitting here on my computer, there's a digitized ten-page parchment that describes in detail the medieval real estate of Pont-en-Royans. In this tiny fragment, you can clearly distinguish the word Pontis in the upper left-hand corner. Sure, it's not easy to plow through fuzzy medieval Latin. Personally, I have a lot of trouble in deciphering this stuff. As far as I know, no scholar has ever yet attempted to analyze and translate this parchment.
If ever I were to put together funds, find specialists and succeed in organizing a serious deciphering effort for these priceless Royans parchments [as I've been trying to do for the last two years], would they finally tell me whether the post office building was really two years older than the America of Columbus? No, not at all. The parchments were written around 1350. So, America and Martine's post office at Pont-en-Royans were still well over a century away in the future.