North Country newspaper carrier retiring after 42 years and more than a million miles
Those are the sounds of Michael Boswell's early morning world as he folds and bags newspapers and then whisks them through the air to land perfectly on each porch.
This month, Boswell added a bittersweet note to his rhythm: his final Christmas letter to his customers.
After 42 years delivering the New Hampshire Union Leader to North Country customers, the 60-year-old Littleton resident will retire at the end of the year.
He started the job on Pearl Harbor Day in 1969 when he was 17, delivering to 110 customers before school.
As he winds down his career, Boswell serves 300 residents and 45 businesses. He travels more than 200 miles in a wide arc from Littleton to Colebrook six days a week, and puts roughly 70,000 miles a year on his Toyota truck.
"When I get done with this job, I'm wondering if I'll be able to drive by somebody's house without stopping," he said. "I'll stop, get ready to throw a paper out, and go, 'No, Mike, you're not doing that anymore, just drive.'"
Boswell likes being his own boss, so the job was a good fit. Working from midnight to early morning? Not so much.
"It turns your schedule all upside down, your whole body, too," he said. "I'm going to have to learn how to sleep again."
Boswell said he'll definitely spend more time with family and he wants to go to shows at the Weathervane Theater in Whitefield, something his schedule hasn't permitted him to do.
He's a baseball fan, so he'll have more time to follow his team, the Detroit Tigers ("Gotta love that uniform"), and he likes hunting, fishing, golfing and cooking, but isn't sure exactly what January will bring.
"I've always had a passion for working on a golf course, so I may be taking some classes to become a greens superintendent. Who knows?" he said.
Union Leader single copy manager Al Desruisseaux has worked with Boswell for the last 10 years. He said as an independent regional distributor, Boswell made a total commitment to his customers and the Union Leader.
"The service he and his family have provided over the years is top shelf," he said. "I will miss him and wish him well."
In that service, Boswell folded thousands of newspapers, filled out mounds of paperwork, drove through blizzards, dodged wildlife and even had his house burn down once while on his route.
With the help of his wife, Kathy, he raised five children and made a success out of the route his father started in 1955.
Most of all, he's made friends.
Driving through deserted streets before dawn, he points out homes of former paper boys and girls (he's worked with more than 600 over the years) and shares special knowledge of his customers.
"She just had surgery so I leave it inside the door," he said, hopping out of the car.
Liane Kenney started working at Northwoods Truckstop in Colebrook a few months ago, but already appreciates Boswell's personality.
"He's a very friendly man," she said.
Early morning regulars at Northwoods Truckstop greet Boswell by name and share jokes and good wishes with him.
"He not only can take it, he can dish it out, too," said customer Robert Crawford. "We're going to miss him."
Boswell's route includes deliveries in Vermont, where he visits Daniel Madore at DTM Small Engine Repair in Canaan to share coffee and doughnuts.
"I can usually throw the paper and hit the mark perfectly," Boswell said.
"He can't either. Not all the time. I have a picture of one that's up on my roof," Madore said, laughing.
"We love him," said Bambi Kennett, employee at the Big Apple in Colebrook. "He's been around a long time and everybody knows him. He's amazing."
In his Christmas letter, Boswell thanked his customers and left them with a final message.
"I ask you to live life to the fullest and make each day count. Strive to make a difference in life and remember as it says above the headline each day, "In God we trust."
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Kristi Garofalo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.