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“One man’s junk” … so they say …
When people enter my home, they usually say, “You have a lot of stuff!” “Early yard-sale” I quip, “is my decorating style.”
For anyone who has ever watched PBS’ “Antique Roadshow” and marveled at how people “stumble” upon treasures that they find in the trash, at a yard sale, or in their own attic that turns out to be worth a fortune, this is the intrigue with which I have become engaged. And fortunately for me, my husband is in the “hunting” pursuit as well.
Don’t get me wrong, we are amateurs in the greatest sense of the word. We know nothing about any of it. But we love going to yard sales, estate sales; you put a sign out in front of your house, and we’re stopping!
We’re even naive enough to think that when someone advertises they are having a sale that starts at 10 a.m., we don’t show up until 10 a.m. Or at least, we used to. We have learned about the do’s and don’ts, the etiquette, the protocol, the SOP’s of estate sale-ing. It’s definitely a “learn as you go” kind of thing. One of the keys is “watching.” For an advertised yard sale, you can show up early, but only step on the property if you see others combing through items. For estate sales you can show up early — if they give out numbers. Forget standing in line. Just take your number and DO NOT budge! If they give out “temporary” numbers, make sure you stick around for the “real” numbers to be exchanged at specific times. We haven’t figured out what to do once we’ve entered the home as it begins to look pretty quickly like a “free-for-all.” The people who regularly attend these sales — and we’ve begun to recognize the frequent flyers — know right where to go. There are some that head straight for the jewelry, some for paintings, books or textiles. They know what they are looking for and where to find it. They have their loop, they carry their own scales, and they are logged into the online search engine Google to find information on those items they’re not familiar with. We just kind of spin around in overwhelming awe.
I’ve had people breathing down my neck if they wanted to see something I was looking at. These folks are serious and can be quite pushy and rude, but for the most part, it’s not unpleasant and most shoppers are courteous.
There’s an old world-open market feel to the sale and it never hurts to ask for some wiggle room. Though the first day of a sale, the prices are usually set. That’s fun as it always feels good to get a “bargain.”
My husband and I were at an estate sale a couple summers ago that was being held by a woman’s family. She had moved out of state and instead of hiring estate sale vendors decided to have the sale themselves. We arrived “on time” and much to our disappointment — we were “rookies” then — there were already a ton of people there! We almost drove away, figuring everything would be picked over, but decided to check it out anyway. We pretty much bee-lined to the back of the house where I noticed a pair of closed French doors and went straight for them. No one was out on the patio so I opened the doors and ventured out. It wasn’t too long before the vultures, I mean people, began to follow. I picked up some patio pots and my husband went right out to the backyard. Soon after, he began calling me, sort of in a whisper, but desperately trying to get my attention.
“What?” I “whispered” back exasperated. I was shopping, too!
“Come here!” he demanded.
Reluctantly, I walked toward a large group of tall weeds.
I couldn’t see him. “Where are you?”
“Right here,” he whispered.
I peeled back some weeds and he was standing next to a 5-foot white fountain — in a swamp.
“I want this!” he chokes out.
“What? You can’t buy this! It’s stuck in the mud, you’ll never get it out of there and it’s probably not for sale. Plus, it must weigh a 1,000 pounds!”
“Go get the lady,, he says.
I begin to object again but, “GO-GET-THE-LADY!” he shouts (in a whisper).
I put down my pots and stomp to the front yard thinking, this is so stupid. I find the lady.
“My husband is in the back yard and wants to buy the fountain,” I tell her.
“What fountain?” she asks. “
Can you follow me?” I plead, taking her away from her serious inquiries.
We find him, in the weeds. I pull them back and he’s grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Is this for sale?”
She looks at it, then at him, “Sure, I guess,” she stammers. “
How much do you want?” I ask.
“I don’t know, how much do you want to offer?” she says.
Without wanting my husband to respond before me and not really thinking this was going to be coming to our house, I quickly said, “$10?”
I watch as all the color goes out of my husband’s face except his eyes, which began to turn an odd fiery red. Much to our surprise, she shrugs “OK.”
His color comes back and I could feel mine leave.
“Pay the lady!” he irrupts.
“We’ll be right back”, he tells her, “we have to get our truck!”
So we fly home, 90 miles an hour. I am reeling, I can’t believe it. He can’t believe I offered $10. We can’t believe she said yes. He tells me I have to follow him back as he doesn’t think all the pieces will fit in the truck. We fly back, I’m trying to keep up with him and he’s driving like a maniac.
Now, I’m fairly strong. I can pick up a lot of weight. My husband and I are around the same height, 5-foot-6-ish. He gets down in this swamp and his adrenaline is going so strong he gets this thing dismantled by himself.
The parts are all laying on the ground. The top part of this monstrosity is a woman holding a flower. My husband asks me to help him lift it off the ground so we can get it up into the truck. I get my fingers under her and try to lift with my husband and can’t budge a fraction of an inch off the ground.
“I can’t help you get this into the truck,” I tell him.
Somehow, someway, he gets all the pieces up off the ground and onto the truck. Now the top piece is the “lightest” and it gets heavier the further down you go. I asked him to wait for me to call someone, but he was too impatient and concerned that someone else would come and scarf this item up.
The adrenaline must have worn off by the time we got it home and off the truck because he couldn’t reassemble it without calling three guys to come help. Now it sits in our back yard, not as a fountain — too much work to try to find the parts needed — but as a beautiful flower garden. I love it now. It overlooks my “God’s Garden.”
We haven’t found the item for “Antiques Roadshow” that is going to make us rich, but we are having fun trying! Oh, and my husband’s hernia is healing nicely, thank you.
Tina Hancy is the office assistant for The Livingston County News.
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