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JUNK VS. JUNQUE

Story ID:172
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Butte Montana USA
Year:2005
Person:Kathe
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JUNK vs. JUNQUE
by Kathe Campbell

Have you ever noticed that your belongings are junque and someone else's stuff is junk? There's a huge difference between the two, in the eye of the beholder, of course. For what appears as one man's junk, is another man's treasure at yard and garage sales. It's the stuff of shopping frenzy that begins with spring's last snow and ends with the frosty morns of late autumn. In-between, basements languish as subterranean vaults collecting yet another years worth of tiresome discards.

With the onset of the annual cycle, everybody and their brother band like sheep to exploit your junk. At day's end, your
cupboards are immaculate and home, hearth, and garage emerge naked. Thus, the following weekend lures you across
town where you shop for better junque, some of which looks amazingly familiar. It's an integral part of life that causes a wife to obsess and a husband to revel in the joy of it all, and visa versa.

Having stuff must be a comfort thing, or maybe a feeling of well-being missed in one's youth. Or could it be that a loveable and very talented old slob lives here? Living with a mess pot for 53 years must indicate a strong union, for today, partings of the way are commonplace for trifling less. After all, much of pop's stuff was used to build our two homes, and he has tinkered endlessly over and under a stable of vehicles and play toys. If ever asked why he couldn't clean up his act, he quickly snapped, "Because I know exactly where everything is and I don't have time to clean." My beloved's stuff is now buried beneath disabling years of severe arthritis, and the family insists that it's now time for a Garage Gala.

Because of it's widespread locations, pop's junk often seems trivial. If organized and cleaned up, it would magically turn into cherished junque. He has casually stashed stuff anywhere handy, but amazingly knows right where it is six months later. His garage and basement have been a junk collectors delight for years, for God forbid he should miss a tool sale. If a neighbor needed it, pops had it, bits and pieces of riches that warmed his heart and satisfied prolific cravings. It's a mystery why he hung onto spent bullets, broken chains, rows of bald tires, used batteries, cans of dried paint, and a wealth of scrap metal. Maybe someone will need them tomorrow.

The more work benches, the better. They're everywhere, strewn with broken and oily drill bits, rusty bent nails, wire, pipes, and enough screws, nuts and bolts, to open a hardware or auto repair. If the end of it is sharp or threaded, it's needed for something. I've spent half my life sorting, but it's of no use, for upon snatching a tool from it's orderly home, it sadly reigns as eternal flotsam and jetsam in the scrap pile of pop's life.

With pops in a nursing home nearly a year, every trek into our big garage leaves me seething in the reality that mice and pack rats are having a field day amongst the clutter. The kids and I will wade through squirrel-laden pinecone stockpiles to sort, clean and throw out. I realize I'm toying with disaster, but it's nothing new. I've lived on the edge for years. The makeover and systematic attack will be one of the great challenges of my dotage. Unfortunately, my initial assault resulted in merely standing and staring. I tried shuffling stuff from one place to another, but deep down yearned for a big shovel.

Upon a visit from my neighbor, a department head at our hospital, she remarked that they were departing with hundreds of plastic tubs and asked if I could use them. Could I use them? Just give me a black marker pen and I'll be off to the races! Forty or fifty tubs showed up the following day to liberate my orderly soul and beckon a shot at the upheaval.

After claiming the finest of pop's cherished cache for their own garages, the day came when the children and I set a thousand and one items out on benches and tables. A set of metrics here, dremels there, for if pops had one, there were always two and three of every handyman's gadget invented.

Shoppers came into view outside our gate at 5:30 a.m. leading us to wonder if they had camped there all night. The newspaper ads must have been doozies. Ordinary small tools went like hot cakes and our grandkids couldn't fill coffee cans fast enough with fasteners, washers, snaps and toggles. I feared we might have to set up a cot for the priest who probed endless tubs for cast iron nails to make rustic cross jewelry. Bags of sand, cement, Styrofoam and insulation will have new homes, and tires make great swings for kids. Even empty paint cans will be filled with cement, for whatever reason I preferred not knowing.

On the second morning everything came to a grinding halt as, despite his wife's loud and obnoxious expletives, a man snatched up the old pump for his garden decor. Meanwhile, a teetering little old fellow fell in love with the walker on wheels, while his wife of 93 became ecstatic over the porta-potty. And wonderfully, my youngest granddaughter refused the old folk's ten dollar bill. Women and teens were impressed with our assortment of plastic bags filled with tools and doohickeys for milady, while men pored over every mechanical device, and gas or electric contrivance ever manufactured. Power or portable, if it ran, it sold.

After three days, the sights and sounds of it all came to an end with someone, somewhere, needing it all, lest two items. A trailer house axel and an enormous party size briquette barbeque. An old badminton set and rusty wheelbarrow for growing petunias took a lady's fancy, while two men carefully coiled yards of colorful cotton rope for horse leads at their dude ranch. And lastly, two tots survived their curiosity and mom's wrath after toppling into the duck pond.

Peace and quiet at last as the walls of the big log building shuttered and heaved a sigh of relief. The squirrels were put out, but this lovely building, with it's upstairs bunkhouse, looks handsome with all of pop's junque hanging in its place. A shoppers delight in these parts had finally left room for why garages were originally invented, and I stood mesmerized.

When pops eventually lays eyes on his beloved old bastion, the first thing he'll ask is, "Whaja do with my power tools, my sockets and wrenches, my auto stuff, my jacks, my . . . ?" And I'll proudly reply, "Never mind dearest, the best of your hoard is sorted and organized in marked bins, minus a few thousand pine cones. All sits on shelves and in cupboards where pesky squirrels once nested. And what's more, you've made a tidy little sum at your garage sale." Oh, he'll blow sky high and rant for a day or two, then he'll sit in his wheelchair and bask in the grandeur of it all. And what's more, to temper any chauvinistic tendencies, I'll heroically come up with a wealth of goodies he thought he'd lost years ago.

Kath