Gassing up in Texas, I notice this pickup up-to-here with junk. Here comes the guy. “Admiring your load,” I say.
“Man, I got barns full.”
Two kinds of people in my business: dabblers, they get the phone number; and people like me, who say, “How far?”
Pre Cell Phones in a We-Don’t-Call-911 Kind Of Place
We head towards the La.-Texas border. This was bad hombre territory, back before the state boundaries were finalized. Outlaws nested out here. They made babies. Plenty of the bloodlines still live here. They don’t call 9-1-1. They just handle things.
Start on a county blacktop, then off to gravel and shell, once we hit red dirt and pine needles I begin questioning the wisdom of following a stranger out to the middle of nowhere…
Crosses my mind, first driveway I get to, hang a U, get the hell outta Dodge, but no homes, no driveways, just a narrow dirt road, a deep ditch on both sides, so what to do, but keep following…
…another ten long minutes, my chest thumping, finally, a house. He pulls in. I see some barns. We get out of our trucks and meet in the middle. “Where the heck are we?” I ask him.
“You’re in Devil’s Pocket,” he says. Check that off the Bucket List.
The Dogs Were Friendly
I could see treasures. Plus the dogs were friendly. So I let my neck fur settle down. The guy was north of fair. Sometimes he’d say $5 and I’d say, No, it’s worth $20. Two hours later I’m piled high. My passenger seat is floor to ceiling. Truck running, I ask the guy again – was it two lefts and a right, or two rights and a left?
As I let off the clutch he thumps his fist against my tailgate. “I never showed you that little barn off over there.”
“I ain’t got room for air on this load,” I said, but my eyes followed his, towards a small building that was powerful interesting.
I Got It Bad
Sun setting, fully loaded, why even consider this? I got it bad. That’s my answer. I got it real bad. He pops the lock off the barn door and points in…
Just then I got this shiver in my neck. What if this was a trap? Go in, he slams the door, locks me in, and nobody even knows where I’m at…
I stand wary at the doorway. He’s off a yard away, holding the open door, while I peer in. Ordinarily I’d just jump in and enjoy the treasure hunting, but I trust that shiver, so I take a step back.
“Thought you might be interested in that crate,” he says.
“The one under that old quilt.”
I see it now. Might be a trunk or something, make great coffee tables, but being a steady minded man, I tell him, “If it’s wonderful it’ll just make me miserable that I have no room for it.”
“Maybe next time you’re around,” he says. The way he said it, took some of the worry out of me.
“Well. Might as well take a look.” Like I said, steady minded man…
Look, But Don’t Touch
Stuff, stuff, move, move, just to get near it. Finally, it’s just the quilt and the whatever beneath it.
“This is a pretty fine quilt!” It’s covered in dust, but even so, this ain’t just anybodies grandmother with a thimble!
Trying to baby this quilt as I remove it, the closer I get to the box…there’s this feeling, oooh-oooh-oooh in a tingly good way. I was reaching down to brush off some dust so I could admire the carvings –
“Careful!” I freeze. I see his chest move. “Grandfather warned me to never touch it. You gotta use those sticks.” He points at these big dowels leaning over in the corner.
Looking back on this box, I think I see carved angels, and is that wood or metal, touch of gold tint to it…
Whatever it is, this didn’t come from the Prien Lake Mall.
“How’d you come across this?” I ask.
“It’s been in the family a long time. My grandfather, he was so poor he even sold his bed, but he never sold this thing.”
“I don’t want to get in the way of family heirlooms,” I usually mean that.
“Well, I ain’t gonna give it away.”
“And I wouldn’t expect you to.”
Lemme think… (I’ve filled my truck up with $10 for this, $20 for that, biggest lick was $45. If I buy this, it’s unload, and reload. Only seen a long side, a short side, and the top, don’t know what the other sides look like, especially the bottom.)
Read my mind when you hear me say, “I’m thinking $500.”
A Bible and a Tape Measure
Got the thing home, dark of night I put a hose on it until it glowed in the moonlight, so I hid it.
I didn’t sleep well. Next morning I get my Bible and a tape measure.
I ain’t much for metric, certainly don’t know about all that Biblical cubits stuff, but I did a little looking up and I ain’t for certain, because I still ain’t brave enough to crack it open, but let’s just say I’m real sure that I’ve got the Ark of the Covenant.
Which, as picking goes, is pretty much the ceiling.
These American Picker TV guys, finding bicycles and stuff, and I think, man, if they only knew…
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This Bedtime Story is brought to you by Eighty-one, which hopes you realize it ain’t just fishermen that lie about their catch…
Other Bedtime Stories can be found on the Eighty-one Facebook page. Uncle P can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.