Ancient rubber trunk doubles as furniture

Dan Thomas

As an Aspen Times copy editor, I’m semiofficially semiretired from writing. But moving prompted me to volunteer a gear review.

Strangely, it wasn’t outdoor gear I wanted to write about. It wasn’t uncovering the three snowboards I’ve bought for myself, the three snowboards I’m storing for friends, the pencil-sized milk-foamer my sister sent me, the downhill bike I blew a work-related bonus on, or the skateboard I used to dislocate my shoulder that motivated me to write.The piece of gear that never fails to capture my attention when I’m moving is this vulcanized rubber trunk that’s followed my dad and me around the country since the 1950s.There’s no other word for this thing but “relic”: I’m not sure they even make footlockers anymore, much less vulcanized-rubber monstrosities that last for 50-plus years. If they do, they certainly aren’t embossed with the head of a Native American (probably “Indian” when it came out), and I couldn’t even find a reference to the company that made it, American Vulcanized Rubber, on Google.

I’m pretty sure my dad lugged it off to Clemson University when it was still all-male and all ROTC, and I’m certain my sister hauled it off to the University of Virginia when she was a freshman. Probably because its rubber-and-rivets aesthetics (think the assless chaps in “The Road Warrior”) likely clashed with my sister’s penchant for Laura Ashley, I inherited it my freshman year. The trunk and I grew together when I transferred, my only permanent piece of furniture in a study lounge I shared with six other dudes. It’s been with me ever since.I’ve worked for seven newspapers and four ski resorts in the past 11 years, which has involved driving at least halfway across the country five times. Whenever I’ve had the luxury to store furniture or stash it at my parents’ house in Virginia, the trunk becomes part of my elite advance reconnaissance unit: Even with all my T-shirts and boxer shorts jammed in it, I can lift it, and fit it in the useless trunk of my first car (which I totaled on the way back from Gypsum to Vail during my second job, as a sportswriter), and it even doubles as furniture in a hotel room or new apartment – and I’ve lived in 12 of those so far, by the way.

In fact, it’s not just furniture, it’s a Johnny Cash song: Edgemoor, Clemson, Fort Huachuca, Atlanta, Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Williamsburg, Charlottesville, Rock Hill, Chapel Hill, Eden, Avon, West Vail, Eagle-Vail, Tahoe, Breckenridge, Rutland, Glenwood Springs, Aspen.It’s been everywhere, man.