Delivering mail, chasing ghosts and changing the world one smile at a time

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake-based rural mail carrier Andrew Arnold with ‘The Mystery Machine,’ a Ford van he customized and uses to deliver mail.

MOSES LAKE — You might have seen it out and about.

Bright blue and green, with orange letters all around that say “The Mystery Machine,” rambling down country roads, an arm sticking out occasionally, shoving mail into rural mailboxes.

“It started out as a safety thing,” said Andrew Arnold, a rural mail carrier who works out of the main post office in Moses Lake. “My biggest fear is getting creamed on the side of the road. The bright colors made it stand out.”

And stand out it does, this bright 1997 Ford Aerostar van, looking for all the world like Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and even Scooby — Arnold has a Scooby head he sometimes wears — are going to tumble out of the van and foil some villain’s attempt to haunt for fun or profit.

Arnold has only delivered mail for the last year or so. Before that, he was a professional chef and worked at The Gorge. However, being laid off during the winters didn’t help pay the mortgage or provide for his family, so a friend suggested Arnold look into the Postal Service.

But he’s always tinkered with cars, always seen what he can do with junked cars, spare parts and odds and ends.

The Mystery Machine isn’t his first project. Arnold has made “rat rods” — cars built from parts of other cars — before, including a Bat Mobile, a Joker “rat rod,” and a “Zombie Response Team” vehicle.

“I did an SUV for Grant County Animal Outreach, another beat-up SUV we made cool,” he said.

Arnold said he bought The Mystery Machine in 2017 — originally a postal delivery van — in an auction for $700. By then, it had been pretty well beaten up.

“It had been rear-ended, laid on its side,” he said. “So, I found ways to hide the ugliness, to make it cool.”

And that’s what he enjoys most about taking old cars or junked vehicles and turning them into art.

“Taking something that most people would find ugly, and reveal an inner beauty,” he said.

“Old cars have dents and rust,” Arnold continued. “I love playing with cars, and I’ve got cars stashed across the state.”

Arnold explained that he doesn’t impose his will on a car. He doesn’t have an idea first. Rather, he lets the car “speak” to him and let him know what it wants to be.

Still, he has a head full of ideas for future vehicles “that keep me up at night.”

Mostly, though, Arnold sees his custom cars as means to an end rather than as an end in and of themselves. It’s fun being out and about, he said, delivering the mail and meeting people who smile when they see his van.

“My kid says I’m changing the world one smile at a time, and in today’s times, people need a smile. They need a wave,” he said.

“I see a lot of people, turn a lot of heads,” Arnold added. “Let’s go make people smile.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached by email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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