From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Foiling the Antique Hunters


Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Christian County, Kentucky... And What I Think About It...



Lately, I seem to have trouble getting my thoughts together to write anything. Here's something from my archives, written about seven or eight years ago, when I was working at the little country store just a mile from home.

And if this describes you -- well, now you know what I think.

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Business was slow at the little country store yesterday afternoon. I don't suppose I'd had a customer for an hour or so when the gray Mercedes pulled up and a man and a woman came inside. They were wearing the appropriate Ralph Lauren clothing for a day in the country. They paid for soft drinks with a fifty peeled off a stack of bills, and looked around the store with interest.

"Do you have any old things here you'd like to sell?" The lady was running an exquisitely manicured finger along the back of the ancient church pew where our regulars sit to eat sandwiches and tell stories. Her eyes wandered to the vintage Coca Cola thermometer hanging by the sink at the back of the store.

"No, ma'am," I said. "Everything in here belongs to the family." (Not my family, but The Family who has owned the store for 55 years or more and until recently, ran the business.)

"Well, do you know of anyone who has some old furniture ruining in their barn? Or maybe you know an old person who'd have some things to sell?"

"No, I sure don't," I said. "Sorry..."

"We're spending a few days here visiting," the lady said. "We like to look for antiques everywhere we go."

"Everybody around here is pretty antique-aware. I don't know anybody who'd sell a thing," I said firmly.

"Well, thank you," she said. "You've got a real nice little store here."

They donned their sunglasses and drove away, leaving me a little surprised at the degree of antagonism I'd felt when they started asking about buying the old things in my neighborhood.

Some might say that if my neighbors did have some old handmade pieces of furniture rotting in their barn, it would be better for a Mercedes-driving stranger to have them than for them to be ruined. But I'd have felt like an accessory to a crime if these strangers had paid little-of-nothing for something that should be a family treasure, even if the family hasn't realized it yet.

It was obvious that the antique hunters were from a different world. Their flannel shirts, blue jeans, barn jackets, and oversized hiking boots hadn't seen any honest wear, and their car probably cost nearly as much as my house. They might have looked just right in their country costumes at a resort or lodge somewhere, but they didn't belong at our shabby, dusty little country store with the outhouse behind it.

Every town around here has antique stores in it. Those antique hunters didn't want to shop. They came to the country because they wanted to steal, and that's what irritated me. It gave me an undeniable pleasure to refuse my help.

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6 comments:

Limey said...

I don't know if my memory is playing tricks on me, but I'm sure there used to be an 'antiques' store in the mall (if it wasn't Hopkinsville it may well have been Clarksville). The point is I was passing by one day and I was astonished to see an old black and white portable t.v in the window. It made me feel like a bit of an antique myself :). As for those two 'gangsters' you mentioned I applaud you for your stance and hope they left the area empty handed. What those people do is only one step away from theft.

Sarabeth said...

I'm having the same problem with wrting. My mind is just not together.

Sammie said...

I love history and antiques but feel the same way about taking something old from one area and selling it in another! Its like losing part of your heritage. But I have an old bottle collection that I started 35 years ago. I have enjoyed looking for them in the dirt around old homesteads. But now I "need" to down-size the things in my house so will probably have to sell them where I can. I have way too many and I hate cleaning more the older I get.

heelers said...

Gen, I'll have to try and conceal my city slicker ways when I'm passing through Tennessee! James

Trixie said...

Oh I so agree with you! Fortunately I was able to get some family heirlooms my uncle had thought about selling at a garage sale. Nothing of real value or importance to anyone else, but I was thrilled to have my great-great-grandfather's tools that he brought from Virginia to Missouri during the thick of the Civil War. Just knowing that these were things touched and used by a child who was apprenticed to someone during that time is amazing. That he was my ancestor is unbelievable!

Trixie said...

I may have an extra "great" in there as I try counting back through the generations.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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