It may be my favorite New Yorker cartoon, An old man is on his deathbed, surrounded by family and friends. He sits up and announces:
“I wish I’d bought more crap!”
But you don’t have to buy more crap. Sometimes it just, well, accumulates.
This is about a story just told to me by a Leader reader I’ll call Steve. In a recent email, Steve, a veteran sailor, told me he was looking for a marine diesel engine, and an acquaintance told him, “Got one. And a lot more.”
He had no idea how many more.
This acquaintance had been put in charge of clearing the estate of a late freelance junkman.
Steve wasn’t prepared for what he found on the rural property out in the woods near here.
“The place was a junkman’s dream,” Steve said puckishly.
When he went out to the rural lot, Steve found a ton of scrap metal that had been picked over, “but the pickers had hardly made a dent.”
Continuing the metallica inventory, Steve said he found a dozen diesel engines and several dozen gas engines, all under tarps.
But Steve wasn’t done with his junk junket. He also found “a shed full of old VW engines and parts.”
More about this oxidation collection:
“There were 80 cars out there, including a 1942 Jeep, six VWs, and a few customized vehicles of questionable provenance.
“There was a fire truck with a fern growing out of the moss on the hood.”
Steve can’t recall how many boats he found out in the woods. “Some of them should visit a bulldozer, ASAP,” he said.
He stepped through the rotting deck of one. Quite the junkyard.
His conclusion: “Seeing all this inspired me to go home and clear out my own humble clutter. I would never want to leave a mess like this to my heirs.”
CASE IN POINT
It just so happens I heard of someone who did just that. This would be the father of my friend Lowell in northern California.
Lowell’s late dad lived alone in a small town in western Colorado.
“My dad had a label maker,” Lowell says.
“And every time a battery conked out, dad would put a label on it with the date it died.”
Plus, Lowell’s dad never threw out a pair of old shoes.
My favorite part of this collector/hoarder’s collection was his stash of dead TVs. When a tube died, the Colorado retiree put it … in his bathtub. Along with all the dead batteries.
Needless to say, the bathtub soon became unusable. After all, who wants to bathe with ex-Energizers and dead Trinitrons?
“When Dad passed away,” Lowell sighed, “we had to take three debris bins to the dump.”
When I told my wife about this local junk collection, she noted it probably wasn’t the only similar one around here. She’s from Arizona and has also lived in New Mexico.
She offered this observation about all the junk decomposing in the woods of the Evergreen State:
“Out in the desert, if someone has six dead pickup trucks, everyone can see them.
“Here, where greenery is so lush and fast-growing, it covers up a lot of junk.”
We resolved some time ago to start getting rid of stuff we’ve collected over the years along with our gray hair. Our kids shouldn’t be burdened with all this stuff.
And besides, debris bins don’t come cheap.
Bill Mann of Port Townsend has written a humor column for USA Today and was TV columnist for three major daily newspapers.