Saturday, May 19, 2007

Full Circle

Once last summer, while I was reading the yard sale notices in the local paper, I came across an address that wasn't far from me. Maybe 10 miles down winding roads, passing fields of corn or grazing cows, passing cliffs with crumbling walls with signs that say, "Watch for Falling Rocks." There are magnificent farm houses here and there, some so old you can see the original log construction under the cracking mortar. I would love to knock on the door and ask if I could come in and look around the house; see how they decorated. Did they decorate with period antiques or a mish-mash of furniture, whatever they could get or afford? Then there are some fallen down, broken homes and I stare in amazement that people actually live in them; a tattered tarp covering the roof, the yards full of rusty junk and bare, brown earth, as if the grass has withered away from lack of attention.

I went to this yard sale, a house that would be attractive if not for the junk that littered the yard, filled the garage, the carport, the barn. Everywhere you looked, something was bursting with junk. A treasure trove for me!! An old, wrinkled man with leathery skin, tufts of white hair and wire-rimmed glasses sitting on his nose greeted me, no teeth in his mouth and started talking to me. It's hard to lip-read gummy words, so I smiled and nodded along to what he said, saying, "uh-hmm" and "Is that so?" to whatever it was he said. He was talkative and looked like the type that would give you a history lesson if you sat down and took the time to listen, and then I wished I could hear, to pick his brain of the stuff he knows. I tried to make it clear to him that I was Deaf and I couldn't really understand him, but he didn't seem to take any mind and continued to follow me around, talking all the while, to me, to an imaginary audience.

He had boxes and boxes of things, pulled out from his carport and garage, too much to take and display on tables, so he left them in the boxes. You had to get your hands dirty for this and I was in heaven! What fun it is to dig through long-forgotten enameled cooking crocks and dusty jars and pull out a matching set of vintage flower power drinking glasses. I went digging through every single box and had a pile of stuff by the time I was through. Then the old man surprised me and said if I wanted, I could go through the carport, too, just stay away from his tools. What a thrill! I entered this carport, a no-man's-land of sorts, cobwebs hanging and dust covering everything in sight. I spotted an old radio from the 40s, old pickling crocks, and huge pickle jars. I took them all! Looking at my growing pile of treasure, I wondered how much I would have to pay and he surprised me with a modest price of $25 for everything. I paid him and told him I would be back!

I went back with Hubby several times over the summer, he kept pulling more stuff out of his carport, garage and barn, and I kept buying more of his stuff. There were times he had his false teeth in and then I could understand him and I lingered to talk and listen to his tales. It was good when Hubby came, he would stand and lend a ear to the old man's voice and watch the girls run among the boxes, while I concentrated on my hunt. He liked to go to auctions and buy boxes of stuff from estate sales and yard sales and indeed, I found boxes that had the name of a woman scribbled on almost every item and it wasn't anyone he knew, probably from an estate sale, long ago. He had a huge, 10 foot tall crock sitting in the grassy portion of his circular driveway. It is an antique apple vinegar crock that was used in the early 1900s to ferment apple cider into vinegar. He bought a pair of them and paid $1,500 each, plus traded a truck for them and one broke on the way over. He became a friend and we bumped into him in town, at the firehouse auction where the auctioneer knew him by name and teased him in the middle of calling prices over something being auctioned.

I'm looking forward to going back to see him this summer, hoping he will have another summer-long yard sale, pulling more boxes out, one by one. We didn't see him all winter, driving by his house and seeing everything hibernating, knowing buried treasure lies among sleeping junk, our hands itching to dig. More than once, we were tempted to knock on his door, wondering if he would let us in the barn, but thought better of it. I remember every single thing we bought from him, some I have cleaned up and displayed, some still in a box, waiting to be put somewhere. I'm refinishing an old farm table and plan to turn it into a kitchen island. Maybe when I am old and toothless, my house will be bursting with "junk", passersby looking at my house, tsk-tsking as they drive past.

7 comments:

sufferingsummer said...

this sounds very close to my idea of heaven.
and yes our kitchen table is a vintage 50's formica that I found in Madison Wisconsin at an antique mall for $50 including all four chairs! I love it, not to mention it is the most practical table with a little one! Some day I will refinish an old wood harvest table for my imaginary kitchen but for now in our tiny apartment I must make due with what I have and if I have to make due red formica is just the thing(that is of course only because I couldn't find a pink one! what a find!)

lady macleod said...

What a great tale. Treasure hunt indeed. I have always loved learning history from those who have lived the events. thank you for the story.

Krissie said...

We don't have those sales here.
What a shame...

Annie said...

I loved this! Felt like I was right there - how beautifully you described everything.

You know, I have two old milk cans or creamery cans as I call them, in our garage, and I'm dying to get them blasted so that I can finish them decoratively - but, it goes back to that procrastination thing I have, that they're still all rusty in the garage. Maybe a project for when we return from vacation...

darth sardonic said...

i love how you write. it brings things to full life without overdoing it on details. i can see this guy's house, barn, yard and carport in my head.

jenny said...

S.S.-- I only hope he will be doing it again this summer. No ads in the paper yet. $50!!??!! What a steal! We love our red tables and the pink one is in the sunroom. Mismatched chairs but it adds to the charm!

L.M.-- Thank you for your kind words. History is that much more enjoyable from a first-hand account.

K-- Really? No yard sales or anything like that? Why not?

A- I used to have a milk can painted folk art style, but now we are more 50s art deco style so we sold it. But I am like you, I have several projects waiting in the wings, waiting for a day when the stars align and the girls are miraculously occupied for the next 5 hours...

D.S.-- Thank you. I try...

The Good Woman said...

A beautiful post. I've always had the desire to scratch for treasure, but never the temperament.