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Little Old Boxes by Bear Claw PDF Print E-mail
Written by Texas Outdoors   
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 00:00

Little Old Boxes

I walked up to the open garage, trying to look pleasant and open to everyone, but I was a man on a mission. Everything was spread out in rows on tables of various types; card tables, a couple of the folding tables you see at church suppers and neighborhood fish fries, and one slab of plywood on folding sawhorses. I could see that the display of household knick knacks and kitchen cast offs had already been picked over and scattered by the early birds. Garage sales are as competitive as bass tournaments for some folks. Hopefully, there would be some interesting leftovers for an amateur such as myself.

“What are you interested in?” the friendly young housewife who was running this little enterprise asked. There were several young households that had pooled their cast offs, and, after everyone in the group had gone over the loot, had opened it to whoever could find parking close enough to look it over.

“Oh, I love a bargain. Do you have any outdoor equipment, such as hunting or fishing tackle?” I’ve found if I don’t say the G word (guns) some of the young housewives are more open to dealing with me. It is getting to be a touchy world, indeed.

“No hunting stuff, and several of the husbands in our group fish in a bass club, so they went over the fishing tackle pretty well. You might look over in the corner, I think Heather’s grandfather’s old tackle box is with the yard tools we have.”

Sure enough, there was a little blue steel box, as likely to be a small tool box, as a tackle box. A young woman, Heather, I suppose, stepped over as I opened it up. “I remember my grandfather having that at our place at the lake when I was a kid. All us kids would go out in his old red and white Lone Star boat. He had old rods and reels, and sometimes just cane poles that we could use. I seem to remember that we always caught fish, and had a good time. Usually on worms, or minnows. There were some more fishing plugs in it, but my husband took some of them for bass fishing. He said the rest wasn’t good for anything. You can have it for $3. There’s still some old stuff in there. I think there were some fishing things that Grandpa dragged around behind the boat.”

I opened the box, it was a green steel box, with a metal shelf. There were some old loose hooks, a little rusty in the top section, and an old Heddon Sonic and a Pico Perch. Just holding it in my hand, I could remember when I would hold the Dacron line on my finger, and hold the line against my ear to hear the Sonic humming behind my boat nearly 50 years ago. Down under the shelf was an old Shakespeare Direct Drive reel with green braided line, just like I was remembering, a few Eagle Claw hook packets, and a couple of plastic floats that had been tangled up with a plastic worm, to make that gooey mess when the worm dissolves the plastic. There were some loose sinkers, and one old crappie rig still in the package. There was also a rusty needle nose pliers and an old pocket knife with rust on it.

“I’ll take it. I can use the box for small tools and parts, and maybe put the reel on my shelf.”

Which was mostly true. The reel was eventually going on my shelf. I already had nearly a dozen old Shakespeare reels, a few of which were tight enough that they might be used, but mostly, they fit with the reels I and my Dad and father-in-law had owned when I was young.

I probably will take the lures on a fishing trip some day. In fact, I tell myself, I’m going to take them and try to fish with one of the Shakespeare reels and an old rod I have. But truthfully, my time at the lake is usually so filled with family and having to keep things running, that my plan won’t happen until I finally retire to the lake.

But the box is going to go on a shelf in my store room, in the back. It will take its place next to other, similar boxes that have come my way in just such a manner. It all started when I was in high school. My Dad had given me an old, ratty looking steel box. It was painted with some kind of orange tractor paint. The hinges were sprung, and there leather handle was all eaten up from being out in the weather, probably under the seat of one of our tractors. Dad explained that it was his father’s tackle box. I had never known my father’s father. I did know that he was an outdoorsman, like I was turning out to be.

My Dad was a farmer, through and through. He often said deer hunting was a luxury we could not afford. I was allowed to shoot the jackrabbits that damaged our crops, and occasionally control the rats that found their way into our barns and work spaces. While we lived hundreds of miles from the nearest fishing waters, I had learned to love fishing as a boy on vacations with my Mother’s Dad. Fortunately, although my Dad never really did a lot of fishing himself, he was always ready to take us on a fishing trip each summer, and perhaps again in the fall, when the crops were not quite ready, and we had time because my sisters and I loved fishing so much. We even had a boat most of the time, and he often traded to get bigger boats. He loved trading. And we were lucky to get to fish in places from Possum Kingdom to Yellowstone.

But being a practical man, apparently Dad had used his father’s tackle box as a tractor tool box. It is a practical thing, to use a box in that way. But I always felt that there was something to be learned from old boxes when they have represented something special to their previous owners. When I find an old tackle box, especially when it is the only tackle box someone had, I feel a connection.

That is why I have several old tackle boxes that still have a bit of tackle in them, on the shelf next to the old orange box.

But when I’m gone, there won’t be a single tackle box. These days, I seem to have an entire storeroom dedicated to tackle (actually, one at the lake, and one here at the house). And I’m not alone! For most fishermen these days, their entire boat is a “tackle box”. They have compartments filled with organized plastic boxes, stuff into organized nylon bags. Our favorite lure seems to change with the latest development in hydrodynamic design, or chromatic paint, or improved plastic. Or maybe what our computer analysis program tells us will fill the livewell.

At one time, I had a huge Umco “Possum Belly” tackle box (something from the ‘70’s, for all you whippersnappers) that might have been my “tackle box”. It was so large and heavy, that my father-in-law forbid me from bringing it on trips, forget even trying to carry it on his 18 foot long Lone Star Commander boat! But someone jimmied the lock on my lake property storage, and apparently my Umco treasure chest, with a lifetime of lure accumulation, is somewhere else! I just hope that whoever now has my box has bad luck!

So, like a row of burial urns, my small collection of small metal tackle boxes sits in my storeroom, each with a little bit of the tackle that they came with (but I always throw out the mass of melted lures, bobbers, and plastic worms and outdated mono). I believe it ties me to a time gone by. Maybe the previous owners will enjoy going out with me by way of their favorite boxes in my little 1949 Lone Star row boat and dragging some of their lures over some promising water. Maybe I’ll make that sentimental fishing trip, after all. Maybe after one more trip, the boxes will let me use them for tool boxes.