The Junk Man Cometh

I believe we are all frugal in our own way. The color of satisfaction lines the second-hand coat you find for next to nothing. It’s the reason why women shop the clearance racks, why I and my friends get excited for estate sales, why Pinterest has its followers and why Jeff wants to be a junk man.
If you look into the heart of a Redneck, you’ll see the stuff of a hoarder who recycles. My man stashes away car parts like a chipmunk hides his nuts–err, sorry Mom–like a dog buries his bones. He may not always remember exactly where it is, but there will come a project that requires that one piece of metal he already owns. That Redneck’s soul thrives on taking items beyond repair and re-designing them in ways that make other Rednecks envious.
Our cold winters—Jeff’s off season—fed his obsession by allowing him time to think of ways to benefit from picking up the junk of others. A few years ago, it hit its peak when he decided he’d try to barter with a few people who needed their junk hauled. He’d remove a trailer full if he could keep “the good stuff.” And he soon had more “good stuff” than we had room to store. He even borrowed a semi trailer from a friend to store what he thought we might sell at yard sales in the spring. Little did I know that I’d be enlisted as the yard sale queen, nor did I believe the number of smelly chairs and couches that could fit in a semi. (Jeff, you see, has very little sense of smell after years of breathing paint and other fumes in his garage.)
We didn’t get rich from selling junk. No, we didn’t even pay for the gas to cover hauling his loaded trailer back to the house. But we did collect a few items to use around the house. A lamp here, a patio set there, a desk without the keyboard tray, or a few old photos of someone else’s family. And it kept Jeff busy and happy. I’d come home from work and hear, “Hey Honey, come down and check out what I brought home today!” I’d grin and bear it, because I have one of those re-use-it genes too.
So today, when we were enjoying lunch with a friend, I smiled as Jeff told us his dumpster diving story. It had been raining all week, and since business is slow with this weather, he took one of his trucks to our neighbor’s shop for its required inspections. Jeff enjoys being able to circumvent the system and walk through the shop entrance like one of the guys instead of going to the service desk. While he sat in the shop office waiting—no sterile waiting room with old magazines and a TV tuned to CNN for this guy—he looked around a bit.
In a nearby trash can, he spotted the top of an umbrella that appeared in serviceable condition. “It only had one spot at the top with a slight bend in it,” he explained. So he started rearranging the other trash in the vessel to maneuver his prize out without dumping yesterday’s lunch or the morning’s stale donuts in the process. As he pondered his find, he noted the two construction workers standing outside watching him, chuckling between themselves and shaking their heads. He looked up and grinned, holding up his hands as if to say, “So?”
He pulled the umbrella from the can like Mary Poppins would from her valise and proceeded to open it. (Yes, inside.) His satisfied smile didn’t last long though, as just after he had it opened fully, the handle broke in two, and the top fell off onto the ground. The two workers outside roared with laughter, when he just shrugged, tossed the pieces back into the can and walked out into the rain.
I guess some junk is just that.

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