Editor’s Note: For the better part of three decades, Ted Trueblood wrote a monthly column for Field & Stream, captivating readers with stories of bluegills and bass, pronghorns and steelhead, chukars and grouse. Trueblood was the epitome of the total outdoorsman, and became known for the clarity, technical insight, and entertainment of his work. Among all the stories he wrote for the magazine, however, one from the Jan. 1956 issue stands out for the peculiarity of its subject matter—boxes. “To my surprise,” Trueblood later recalled, “I got more letters about that article than any other I can remember.” We’ve provided the story below in its entirety.
One time when I was on my way to the coast for steelhead fishing, I stopped at a cafe in Bend, Oregon, for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. While I was eating I overheard a couple of cowpunchers talking. Apparently, it was a time for introspection, because one of them said, “My weakness is horses, women, and dogs.” His statement always intrigued me because of the order in which he worded it. I never could figure out whether horses or dogs were more important.
Like the cowpuncher, I also have several weaknesses. As far as horses go, I can take them or leave them alone. But I have others—boxes, for example. I am fond of boxes. Like all hunters and fishermen, I need things in which to put things, and boxes, in many cases, are the obvious answer.
I have been collecting and making boxes for as long as I can remember. There’s a stack of them in my garage. My wife occasionally looks at them and says I’ll never use them all, but a man never knows when he might need a box. I started saving shotgun-shell cases away back in the days when they were made out of nice, clean-grained wood with dovetailed corners, and I still have some.
Among the boxes which I use frequently—and which I think many other sportsmen might find useful—are pack boxes, boat boxes, grub boxes, camera boxes and, of course, tackle boxes. I even have a bottle box, but more of that later.
Now, it is a fact well known by all men who have suffered in a hot boat in the August sun or shivered in a December duck blind that nobody ever made a box exactly right, just as nobody has ever made a piece of string that was not 1 inch too short. That is why I started making and collecting my own in the first place. I always needed something a little different. I still do.
The evolution of my grub box is a good example. I started in the grub-box-building business by making one with shelves and drawers that sat on the running board of a car. The front was hinged at the bottom so that it swung out and was supported by a little leg to make a table. That was a handy box. You could stop beside the road almost anywhere, drop the front, and in a few minutes have a lunch ready. However, the car manufacturers put it out of business when they quit making running boards.
My next attempt was one that hung on the back bumper. I put a couple of iron hooks on the lower back side of the box so that I could set it on or off at will. There were handles on the sides, and the front, again, swung down to make a table. It had one drawer and several shelves and compartments, and it actually was pretty good except for one fault: it was too darned heavy.
When we made camp, I used to take this box off the back bumper and set it up inside the tent with the swingdown front at the proper height for a table. One time, after I completed this job, I wiped the sweat off my brow, looked at the box, and said to myself, “Never again.” I left it right where it was.
My present grub box, which we’ve been using for about 10 years, was an accident—I found it. I was in a stew to get started on a fishing trip when I happened to see a nice wooden box in the basement of the place where I worked. Nobody claimed it; so I fastened the lid with hinges and a hasp and put a handle on each end. I put a partition in the middle and attached a piece of lath to the lid with a hinge so that it would lie flat when the box was closed but support the lid when it was open.
That was a lucky evening: this box turned out to…