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Friday, July 21, 2006

THE MAKING OF A LETTERBOX

I’m not really sure how the whole idea of my first plant came into being. My brother, jackbear, had become very enthusiastic about letterboxing and there were more of those boxes near him. He was slowly converting from geocaching to letterboxing and he was taking me with him. We both craved the creative aspects that written clues allowed rather than relying on some small piece of technology that lead you around by the nose. So my first plant was intended to be a geocache hybrid but it never really panned out that way.

Jackbear helped me with the box. He gave me a large ammo can and we did a little fake rust on the outside. He even carved me a stamp to put in it. He was just beginning to carve stamps and he really enjoyed it. I made an altered book and added some vintage materials to make the box appear as if someone had just left it behind. I even wrote more fictional letters to include in the box itself as a way of wrapping up the story the clues told. By the time I was done with it, it was not a cache. I didn’t want any small trade items in it and I didn’t want any of the things to be removed from the box. That, jackbear told me, was better suited for a letterbox. So even though I intended it as a cache, and even recorded the coordinates for it, I never listed it and never regretted it.

That first plant was in September of 2003 called “The Old Stock Box”. It has since been retired, mostly because with more experience I realized I hadn’t picked a very good location for it and the clues were tortuous. I had people totally confused and making wrong assumptions. I edited the clues and added a hint but still people were looking for the wrong kind of tree and walking right past it. So I retired the box in the Fall of 2005 just after Halloween. It had its time and it was over.

“The Old Stock Box” will always be near and dear to my heart because I always felt that it was a good box. It had a scenic, historical location (though I wish I had found a better hiding place than behind an old wall) and it had a good (fictitious) story with it. The box was full of “personal” items as if it truly had been owned by someone who had since misplaced it. The stamp was hand-carved and a good beginning stamp. Not the best but greatly appreciated by those few who found it. Since the clues were so hard to find (encrypted into the text of the story with the only hint being “the year is the key”) very few found the box but I was amazed that so many attempted it, sometimes even more than once.

What I truly appreciate about that box was the logbook. And I admit, it was just a little assignment notepad (since it was going to be a cache). The fact that most people actually wrote something of value in it touched me. Not just “good box” or “nice hike”. They told me their story, their journey of how they came to find this box in the woods and how they labored over the clues. One entry told me of how they walked by the place then found another box on the trail in which I had given them another little clue. Another entry mentioned that they couldn’t find the box then went to the local museum and library (located within walking distance of the trailhead) to do some research on the area. They found a clue and came back to find the box! I was astounded…this is exactly what I had hoped for when I had placed it.

“The Old Stock Box” taught me a lot about planting boxes and about what I need to do and don’t need to do. I felt terribly guilty that some folks couldn’t find it and I tried to help them as best I could. But I have learned patience. Don’t give too much away or it ruins the experience you’re trying to give to them.

I liked the story of that box so much that I planted it’s sequel in “The Old Safe Box”. The story continues about the characters and the box is planted in the same spirit as its predecessor. The clues are easier to decipher but it’s still one of my faves. If you’d like to read some of the material that was included in the contents of “The Old Stock Box, retired”, it’s posted on my other blog, Literary Fluff.

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