It’s the Fourth of July, I’m happy about America’s birthday and should be celebrating. It’s upsetting, however, that I’ve lost my newspaper delivery man. Along with others along two northeast Hutchinson routes, we’ve been blessed by the dependability of Sam Sanders.

Sam and his wife Carolyn retired recently after thirteen years of timely and gently placing the Hutchinson News on our front porch. That’s among the longer venues for anyone in this type of early morning and sometimes stressful business performed in all kinds of weather. And it’s often a thankless job accomplished before many people are awake. Each paper to be delivered on time, and when delayed by factors totally beyond the delivery person’s control, they often catch hell.

We take delivery of our morning paper for granted. We want to open it as we sip our first cup of coffee and relax inside while the paper-thrower may be freezing or wading snow outside. Television’s Mike Rowe has made a good living and fascinating program by featuring “dirty jobs” that most of us wouldn’t do but often couldn’t do without. Perhaps he should follow someone like Sam Sanders to see how demanding and frustrating a seemingly simple job can often be.

Sam picks up his papers as early as 3:30 a.m. from the 17th and Plum Kwik Shop before setting out to serve about 100 customers. The number is declining as more readers turn to digital news delivery which eats into the carrier’s earnings. The Sanders roll papers as they drive placing rubber-bands and plastic, when needed, to protect against moisture. Interestingly, I found that carriers must buy their own supplies and gas while receiving about 30 cents for each delivered paper. That’s $30 a day or $210 weekly for a 100 paper route minus their gas and supply costs.

It takes nearly two hours for the Sanders to complete their two routes giving plenty of time to think about higher gas prices, wear and tear on their car and fewer customers, as the younger generation shuns the print edition for internet delivery. Sam recently bought another used car and hated to give up his thirteen years since the meager earnings helps with payments. He’s concerned about the toll so much stop-and-go driving, along with winter, takes on his vehicle.

At times, Sam has trudged over four feet of snow to make certain papers get on porches and those weather impacted roads can be hazardous. Sam and Carolyn both have second jobs at Hutchinson Community College where he washes dishes during the school year. That’s why he must finish his route before school starts which makes for very long days, seven days a week after that 3:30 a.m. start.

I’ve known Sam for much longer than the nearly decade and a half he’s been throwing papers and my wife, Sharon, was a mentor to Sam while he was in high school. His work ethic and desire to do a good job is second to none. Dependability could be Sam’s middle name. And that’s why he’ll be sorely missed in our neighborhood as an outstanding carrier and representative of the Hutchinson News.

He's one of those “thankless job” guys we all depend on, but who are often out of sight and out of mind.

I dropped a small thank you check into the mail for Sam and other customers might want to consider the same. Those well-wishes can go to 548 E. Sherman St., Apt 1, Hutchinson, KS 67501. I suspect the paper has many more “Sams” and they all deserve a lot more credit than they normally receive.