The word junk can have a pretty broad meaning. As a noun, it can be old junk, just junk, worn out junk or things that are heading to the junk pile. Now, some folks use it as a verb when they go junking and use it to describe events like a junk fest or, in my town, something we call “junking in the dirt.”
I’d never been junking, or if I did I never called it that, and I never would have considered myself a junker. But I did venture into our little town’s “junking in the dirt” at our indoor dirt arena and took in a horse trailer load of what I called “ranch-fresh junk” to sell.
It was fresh because it had just been pried out of the weeds and salvaged from an old caved-in barn the day before the sale. You don’t find junk much fresher than that. No threat of it spoiling.
I took in some heavy metal like old iron wheels and a blacksmith table forge, some light metal like old bikes, washtubs and cream cans and a few other things like old skis, chairs, wooden horse hames and a nice collection of Life magazines from around 1950.
I didn’t think I had thrown that much stuff in the horse trailer until I had to write up 77 price tags. After the first few hours of the sale, the tags were more suggestions than prices on some of the items. I probably should’ve written them in pencil. When you’ve got a chance to move some junk to someone else’s home or pasture, you have to be ready to negotiate. Especially the heavy stuff that you’d just as soon not load and unload again.
My mother was a junker before junking was cool. She’d swing by the local dump ground to peruse and she traveled the farm and household auction sale circuit far and wide, often with a friend or with us kids in tow.
Mom was a favorite with the auctioneers. She was good natured so they could joke with her and make her a part of their rambling banter as they worked their way through the endless offerings on the endless flatbeds of once-loved junk.
And she was there to lend a hand if they couldn’t get a bid on whatever bucket or box of goods they were hawking. “Will you bid a dollar?” Liz would be there to help them out.
Treasure in a can
One day she came home with a dollar box bargain that convinced Dad she had either lost her marbles or that the church ladies were spiking the concessions coffee. She proudly showed dad a nice box of empty beer cans that she got for a buck. Maybe she emptied them before the bidding started, he wondered.
In the days before Internet she somehow tracked down and subscribed to a beer can collectors magazine. She ran an advertisement in it to sell her old, empty Dakota beer cans from the long ago discontinued Dakota Malting and Brewing Co.
She got $20 a piece for those cans that she paid a nickel for in that dollar box from the auction sale flatbed. Dad said nothing more. It was our family’s most lucrative junk deal.
However, we still have boxes and boxes of those 1950-era Life magazines. They were 15 cents when they were new and folks are asking $5 to $40 for some of them on eBay. Let me know if you need a few (crates) of them. Two bucks a piece. Negotiable. So offer me a buck and I’ll take it. That’s what us junkers do.