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Caught, released, caught

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
May 12, 2002
Liz Fox and her husband, Tim, have been reunited with a treasured family heirloom that was stolen twice from their home.
Actually, to say that a colorful largemouth bass mailbox is a "treasured family heirloom" is something of a stretch. But, Liz told me the other day, the fact that it was stolen twice and ended up in the city of Meridian's surplus property sale eight days ago is undeniably true.
The fish mailbox was such an unusual item that it was picked for a page 1 photo accompanying The Meridian Star's May 2 story on an auction of surplus property. You may remember it. The auction, I mean. The auction included bicycles, televisions, a Sony PlayStation and Super Nintendo, motorized lawn maintenance equipment, along with hundreds of other items from the lost-and-found and surplus property shelves.
When the newspaper was delivered that afternoon, Liz's mother-in-law, Warriene Fox, couldn't believe her eyes. Tim, you see, is an avid, accomplished fisherman, competitive tournaments and all that, and the fish mailbox, well, just sort of set his home apart from his Dalewood neighbors.
The mailbox is big, almost 4 feet in length, representative of what fishermen call a "lunker" something unusually large for its kind, as in a large game fish.
It was housewarming gift from Liz to Tim, purchased off the Internet in July 2000. When it went missing the first time, the weekend of the Alabama-Florida game in September 2000, neighbors were worried that its loss might jinx Tim's luck at the next fishing tournament. It showed up when the apparent thief tried to sell it to Tim's father, Tom, at his camp house.
When it disappeared the second time, in March 2001, Tim and Liz really thought it was gone for good.
It was apparently taken by a bunch of hoods who were part of a local burglary ring. Police reports were filed. Liz called local law enforcement agencies periodically to see if they had recovered such an item and her descriptions must have been pretty interesting:
It's a big thing, green, hard-molded rubber and, of course, it looks a lot like a fish, with black and yellow eyes, scales, fins and a tail.
And it was wrapped around a mailbox. You knew it was a mailbox because it had a little red flag attached to its side.
When the newspaper story about the auction appeared with the photo of the fish mailbox on the front page, neighbors called and that alone gives this story a nice touch. Tim and Liz were able to identify and prove ownership through old photos and reclaimed their property from the auction block, the day before it would likely have become a hot item at the surplus property sale.
And, boy, are they happy now. All thanks to the newspaper.
Liz figures the fish mailbox has created enough attention. "It will not be the resident mailbox again," she said. Friends and neighbors have suggested she turn it into a diaper dispenser for the couple's 9-month-old daughter, Lauren. Or a bird house. Or anything but a mailbox.

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