Of the Baker City Herald

Elizabeth Parker copied her final tax forms at the Baker County Library at 7 o'clock Thursday evening.

At 10 p.m., she leaned across the counter at the Haines Post Office and, with a sigh of relief, slipped her tax return to Postmaster Dotty Miles.

Parker, who lives in Baker City, has made the 20-mile round trip to Haines on April 15 at least twice before.

Her son, she says, always admonishes this habit of mailing her tax returns as late as possible.

andquot;When I drove up here and saw (Miles) in here talking on the phone and smiling, I knew it's so I can come see Dotty,andquot; Parker says, laughing about her tardy tax return.

Ten o'clock isn't the latest she's sought a tax day postmark.

andquot;Five minutes to 12, probably,andquot; Parker says.

andquot;Of course, April 15 is always a surprise,andquot; Miles smiles.

Haines is the only Baker County post office open until midnight on April 15 to help those procrastinators in need of a proper postmark.

andquot;I figure it's the 15th until midnight,andquot; Miles says. andquot;I postmark up to midnight. If it's after, it's not. That's how I keep my integrity.andquot;

Miles, 61, has been the Haines postmaster for 18 years.

She started this midnight tradition 16 years ago.

andquot;I just started for the heck of it we were into customer service back in those days,andquot; she says.

On Thursday she greeted each of her customers the same with a smile and a cookie.

andquot;Hello! Did you make it?andquot; she asks Jean, Janie and Joseph Shurtleff as they push through the office door long after the sun has sunk behind the Elkhorns.

Janie's eyes slide to one of the four office clocks.

andquot;It's only 9:30,andquot; she smiles. andquot;Oh, and you got the cookies, too!andquot;

The Shurtleffs, from Boise, are staying with family in the Haines area.

andquot;It's awesome,andquot; Janie says of the late night postal service. andquot;We kind of put it off as long as possible.andquot;

As the Shurtleffs turn to leave, Miles makes sure to offer the treats she sets out on every April 15.

andquot;Did you get a tax cookie?andquot; she calls. andquot;I got store bought cookies too, just in case people are squeamish about homemade.andquot;

Janie slips a cookie from the tray and turns to smile at Miles.

andquot;I have to have a cookie, I earned it,andquot; she says. andquot;Have a good night thank you for staying open.andquot;

Miles' tax day customers aren't only locals in past years she's helped quite a few truck drivers mail their returns on time.

andquot;Back when they used to do a lot more talking on the CBs, word would go out that they could mail in Haines, so they'd just get off (the freeway) at North Powder,andquot; she says.

The latest she's stamped an April 15 postmark was 11:50 p.m.

But don't try to slip by the deadline she locks up at 12:02 a.m.

She rarely has problems with angry customers.

Besides, improper behavior is against the rules in a post office.

andquot;It's against the law to cuss out or hit a postal employee,andquot; Miles grins. andquot;And you can't shoot me either that's a federal offense.andquot;

On normal days, Miles keeps the post office open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch from 11 to 1.

andquot;Everybody in Haines works somewhere else if I was only open 8 to 5, no one could get their mail,andquot; she says.

Most of the time she switches the date on her postmark stamps after the mail truck leaves at 4 p.m.

andquot;I change my stamps unless they particularly ask (for that date),andquot; she says.

She generally receives 15 to 20 pieces of mail after 4 o'clock.

At 11 p.m. on Thursday, she counts 73 envelopes addressed to the Internal Revenue Service.

andquot;And remember, we're just a little tiny outfit,andquot; she says.

As the clocks hit midnight, Miles picks up the date stamp she kept close at hand all evening.

She plucks out the rubber 15 and replaces it with a 16.

andquot;We've done it again,andquot; she says. andquot;April 15 is history. And this tax day is put to bed.andquot;