VALENTINE, Neb. — Once again, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed the patrons from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Nor did a blockaded Main Street and its islands of corralled bulls on display one block away. Nor did hundreds of high school athletes, coaches and fans in town for a Class C district wrestling tournament.
For seven decades, untold millions of letters and packages have been mailed from Valentine during February adorned with special stamps known as a cachet. They commemorate the community and Valentine’s Day.
Also during February, the outgoing mail is postmarked in Valentine rather than being trucked 130 miles to North Platte, where western Nebraska mail typically is postmarked.
Corrine Pascoe of Valentine was among a stream of people during the weekend who had no intention of letting the inconvenience of dealing with more traffic in town interrupt her Valentine’s Day tradition.
A cachet veteran, Pascoe worked steadily and carefully at a post office lobby table to neatly stamp about 50 red and white envelopes carrying Valentine greetings to friends and family members.
She had nine rubber stamp designs — and red and black ink pads — in front of her. She pressed red ink cachets on white envelopes and black ink cachets on red ones.
The cachets include traditional “Heart City’’ and “Crossroads of the Sandhills’’ designs. They and other old cachets remain in service and have strong fan bases, Postmaster Arlene Paulson said.
In recent decades, new cachets have periodically been designed by local high school art students.
The most-used stamp depicts a girl opening a country mailbox overflowing with valentines, Paulson said. It was designed by Loucinda Heinert, a Valentine High School senior, and first used in 2000.
Paulson said patrons and postal employees will affix the cachets to an avalanche of anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 or more letters and packages each February.
Packages and large envelopes addressed to “Postmaster, Valentine, Nebraska’’ and filled with ready-to-mail envelopes for the cachet and postmark arrive daily from across the country and around the world.
Couples planning weddings schedule their “save the date” announcements for February and route them through Valentine for the special treatment.
Some locals send more Valentine’s Day cards carrying the cachets than they do Christmas cards, Paulson said.
The Valentine Chamber of Commerce started affixing special Valentine’s Day-themed cachets on letters deposited in “Cupid’s Mail Box’’ on Main Street in 1947. Paulson said the post office’s program started in the 1950s.
“A lot of people have never heard of Valentine, Nebraska, but our cachets reflect our country life,” she said. “It reflects cattle country and rural America. We enjoy doing it. For us, it’s an act of love.’’