Yard Sale Report for 4/21/12 plus The Haunted House Story

Voguing for Mr. Potato Head

Just last night my wife and I were sitting in shadows of nice restaurant, you know, the kind of place where the waiter introduces himself and instead of saying he’s going to be your waiter, he says he will be “helping” you tonight, as if he was he were a guru here to guide you, or a new partner committing to a relationship. I had this temptation to say, “Thank you so much, but who’s going to be our waiter?” I have to admit though, the food was good and the waiter did go out of his way to make everything go smoothly, so along with the Garlic Snap Peas and the Red Oil Dumplings, which were so hot our tongues were still buzzing 15 minutes later, we got a lot of people watching in.

It’s one of our favorite pastimes, guessing who’s on a first date, who holds the purse strings, and who looks like they have a good story. Suddenly it hit me, right between the Chicken Lettuce Wraps and the Shanghai Shrimp with Garlic Sauce that for me, going to yard sales is quite similar to this kind of people watching, except that instead of watching folks from across a darkened room, it’s as if you were being invited to sit down with them at their table for a light snack and a story.

This last Saturday was nearly perfect yard sale weather. Not too hot and certainly not too cold. People seemed so relieved there was no rain, that they wanted to visit a bit and congratulate each other on the fine day. The weather lubricated them a little like a festive wine and made them willing to bargain, which is for me, of course, like honey to a honey bear.

To start with, I had good and respectful company in the diminutive, but strong willed Cindy, who kept me entertained on the road, but who needs to learn how to bargain… Never, take the first price. People tend to be shy about asking for a lower price, but honestly most sellers don’t care, and if you do it right they even appreciate it. Be friendly, be respectful, but never take the first price.

Killer Button Maker

One of the first bargains of the day was a super sweet ButtonBiz Button maker. The owner wanted $20, I offered $10, we finally settled on $12. Original price, somewhere in the neighborhood of $300… I have an idea for making collage pins for people.

I found a nice pair of cloth scissors for $1, which I purchased to practice my scissors sharpening technique, and then at a fundraiser for a local dragon boat team I bought a Le Pot Bodum Tea set, never used for $2. The last thing in the world I need is another teapot. I am rather tea obsessed and I maxed out on teapots years ago, but I love the little glass cups and use them when I’m cooking to hold various ingredients. Go Dragon boaters!

At one of the sales further out in the NE east of Portland we wandered into a sale that included a lot of seasonal stuff, Christmas lights, Halloween décor, and crafting materials. When we got to talking about some of the stuff, the lady of the house, who was in her 60’s proudly informed us that her and her husband had taken first prize for best costume, past 2 years running. She said, “When they see us walk in the door, they already know we’re going to take the prize.” Just then, her husband shows up and she tells him that she was just telling us about their Halloween costumes.

Mr. Potato Head Dancing

The husband runs right off to the garage and pulls out these 2 gigantic Potato head costumes… One for her and one for him and when I ask him to model them, he does not hesitate. He not only puts on the Mrs. Potato Head costume, but dances around the yard a bit and even Vogues a little. As I whip out my camera, I think, “Damn! This is exactly why I go to yard sales!”

As we drove through North Portland I decided to show Cindy where I used to live in a small purple and green Portland Bungalow. After complaining that the new owners had dug up all my bamboo from the front yard, we pulled down towards the end of the block and parked in front of a house with a large pine tree in the front yard, just then, another car came from the opposite direction and obviously wanted to park in the same place we were sitting. I pulled over to let him in and as the cars passed, he apologized for wanting our space and I said, “I was just telling my friend about the legend of the house.”

He got a funny look on his face and said he’d like to hear the story too. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that he actually lived there, but even so, I wasn’t sure I should repeat the neighborhood story, which fairly gruesome. I asked if he was sure he wanted to know and he replied yes in a direct and clear manner, so there sitting in our cars, parked next to each other in the street, I told him the following tale, every word of which is true.

Year ago when we lived in Portland in our little green and purple house with the bamboo forest in the back, there used to be this man who would walk up and down the street a couple of times a day. I gathered he did not drive due to the loss of his license in some unknown, but probably easily guessed way. He always wore a large brimmed leather hat and wrap around dark glasses, regardless of the time of day or amount of sun shinning and his pants had that shiny grayish color that suggested he did not wash them often, if at all. He always seemed to be in a hurry, leaning slightly forward as if his nose were leading him somewhere in a perpetual hurry.

Every time he would pass, my dogs would have a fit and threw themselves against the front window with murder in their eyes. It was a secret of the household that if the dogs ever got out, they would only run up to people and demand pets and kisses, but if you didn’t know them, they could be pretty scary. One day while I’m out moving rocks around in the front yard, this guy stops and says, “I’ve been walking past your house for 5 years now, you’d think your dogs would be used to me by now.” I gave him a look and said, “Yeah, but you’d be crazy to try and come in my house.” And he replied, “You’ve got a point there.”

There was also a stout lady in her 60’s who often walked by the house on a regular basis with her ragged little long hair Chihuahua. It took me several years to put them together and realize they were married and lived just down the street in the run down old house with a picture window and a large pine tree out front. The neighborhood was just starting to come up a bit in the world and their house stuck out like a bad tooth in a nice smile. The front curtain was always closed and you couldn’t help but wonder what might be going on inside that dark interior. Over the 6 years we lived here, I never saw them at the same time, just him, rushing off somewhere in his grim and determined manner and her with her sad little hyper dog.

Then, we didn’t see him for a long time… When we finally ran into her again, she told me that he had died about 8 months previously. She said that not a day went by she didn’t miss him, which honestly kind of gave me the creeps. She didn’t say what he had died of.

Then… We didn’t see her for quite awhile either. Finally one of the neighbors told me what had happened. Evidently she thought that he had hidden a substantial amount of money somewhere in the house and was always looking for it. One day, she got it into her head that it might be in the cold air return in the floor. So she tries to reach in there as far as she can, but she’s short and stout and her arms are not long enough, so she sticks her head in there too so she can reach a little further… and of course she gets stuck.

I heard it was a long time before anyone found her and suffice it to say that it was someone walking by on the street that made the grisly discovery. I used to wonder what she must have thought about with her head and arm stuck down in that hole in the floor. She must have screamed… and it probably echoed quite bit, but no one outside could hear it… If ever there were a haunted house, that one must be it.

So… I finish this story, sitting next to this guy in our respective cars and he says, “How long ago was this?” and I say “About 6 years ago.” Well, he looks thoughtful and says how that sounds about right. He’s been living there for about 5 years. I compliment him on how nice the place looks now and he says that he can’t take the credit, the people who lived there before him fixed the place up…

Then he says, “I don’t think I’ll tell my wife.” which both Cindy and I think is a pretty good idea.

Evidently no one ever found the money.

Dewalt cordless power tools.

Back to the yard sales. I found a DeWalt 14.4v cordless tool set with 2 saws, a drill, 2 chargers, and 4 batteries. He was asking $25, I offered him $20 and he said yes. The batteries all seem good, which is about $340 right there, so officially that was one of the bargains of the day.

I got a Light and Motion Bike light with rechargeable battery, which retails for over $250. The thing is like having a miniature floodlight stuck on your head. He was asking $20, I offered $10, we settled on $12. I told him it was worth every penny of $20, but I wanted to pay less and he said yes with good grace. They also had a simply beautiful hammock there that was long and bright like some kind of huge tropical snake, but I just don’t have the right trees for it. It killed me to leave it ($10, but he would have gone down). They also had this wild coat hanger with deer hoofs, which I hate to say I bought for $2. I just can’t resist the weird.

One of the brightest lights I've seen
Light and Motion

At one of the last sales of the day, I almost bought a beautiful antique coffee percolator, but I’m not really drinking coffee at the moment and it would just sit around and gather dust. At the same yard sale I got a queen size iron headboard for $10. They were asking $20, but since I said I was going to put it in the garden, they let me have it. It was so big that Cindy had to help me take everything out of the Element, squeeze the thing into the back, and then put everything back in around it. This kind of venture is even worse when I bring the dogs and we sometimes refer to the Element as the Clown Car. As soon as I got it home, I put it out in the garden to act as a banister by the hot tub. It was perfect!

I got a backyard fire pit for $20, a plastic hand for $1 (did I tell you I collect hands?), a rope hammock chair for $2, and a bunch of small stuff, like glue sticks and drinking glasses. I can’t even tell you how much stuff Cindy got, but it was prodigious. The headboard will keep people from getting out of the hot tub and falling into the garden, the bike headlight will help me to battle the chicken killing raccoons in the middle of the night, and the Dewalt tools? All guys like Dewalt tools.

Great deals, great people, a fantastic copilot, and near perfect weather. What more could I ask?

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