My kids call me a hoarder but I’m not. I just like junk. I read somewhere recently where if it’s cool stuff, it’s not hoarding. I’ve got cool stuff. Or at least I used to have cool stuff.
My passion for junk started at a very young age. When I got to the point where I could roam around the neighborhood on my own I began collecting stuff. My buddies and I would go up and down our alleys looking for treasure in our neighbors' trash cans.
I can still remember Russell climbing head first into a can and only his feet were sticking out just above the rim. “Hey guys!” he shouted, his voice echoing in the metal container. “I think I found something.” We pulled him out and he stood before us proudly holding his prize. It was an old windup clock.
Mike and I stood in awe of Russell’s find. It was shinny brass and it was beautiful. The glass on the front was broken and it didn’t work but it was still beautiful. We had to ask, “What are you going to do with it?” Russell pondered our question for a while and then proudly said, “We’ll put it in the clubhouse!”
Of course. Our clubhouse. It would be the perfect addition to our secret, no girls allowed clubhouse. Actually it wasn’t exactly a clubhouse but more of a space between my garage and the fence by the alley. But it was ours.
The clubhouse had a table that Mike had found next to a trash can and we had three mismatched chairs each of us had contributed after trash hunting expeditions. Russell sat his alarm clock on the table and we all stood around admiring his new find. Then after an appropriate time of admiration we went back to searching the alley for more treasure.
All went well until Russell announced a brilliant if not stupid plan. He had been to the local junkyard with his older brother and saw a treasure trove of junk. “They’ve got cars and car parts stacked up all over the place,” he told us one day. “All we have to do is climb the fence when no one is there and get some parts a little at a time and we could build our own car!” Somehow it sounded like a great idea.
And so next Sunday we did just that. We lived near 21st Street in North Omaha and the junkyard was way down on 16th Street, which as far as we knew was the end of the known world. But that Sunday after church, where I’m sure we all prayed for help and forgiveness, we set out on our adventure.
We got to the junkyard and walked around the side and stared up at the huge fence surrounding it. The ground was uneven next to the fence and we found a high spot. One by one we climbed the mount and made a leap to grab the top and pull ourselves over. When we got to the other side we reveled in our cleverness. Then we turned around and looked at the cornucopia of car parts as far as the eye could see. Mike and I slapped Russell on the back to congratulate him on his brilliant idea. It was at that time we heard it. It was a low growl.
We turned as one and looked at what was the biggest and meanest looking dog we’d ever seen. It took one step toward us and we were back over that fence in an instant. I don’t know what the high jump record was at the time but I’m sure we three beat it and ran all the way home. That experience cooled our desire to collect junk, at least for a while.
When I grew up and got married that old yearning to collect stuff returned with a vengeance, but now instead of searching through trash cans I was searching in flea markets and garage sales. I collected old cameras and anything photographic along with radios and other forms of electronic equipment.
When we recently moved from a large house to a much smaller apartment I had to rid myself of all that wonderful stuff. It was difficult but I did it. But now every once in a while I still get that old urge to go back to my roots, head for the alley and search through a trash can.
Terry Turner is a Prime writer who can be reached at email@example.com