Posted Saturday morning, November 25, 2017.
Not sure where this was. Got lost on my drive. Somewhere out in the country northwest of here. It’s off a two-lane road that winds through farmland, woods, abandoned fields, and forlorn-looking town centers that have no real towns centered around them. I pulled off the road onto a lane narrower than most driveways and parked next to this building which was once a garage and filling station, I think. To fit the whole side of the building in the picture I had to step off the pavement on to the edge of the large lawn in front of a restored farmhouse. Just as I was taking my last shot I heard a voice calling urgently, “Sir? Sir?” A man in his forties, wearing an orange hunting vest over his Carhart overalls, with a ball cap riding easily on top of his sandy hair was hurrying down the lane from the direction of the main road. Turned out to be the owner of the building and collector of the signs.
“I don’t mind you taking pictures,” he said mildly but with a tension in his voice, “but I got to warn you, my neighbor doesn’t like anybody on his property, and he’s one of those people always looking for an excuse to be mad.”
I was already on my way back to the car, but I assured him I was done and apologized as if he was the neighbor himself. He didn’t relax, and he seemed in a hurry to get back to whatever he was doing, and I wondered if he was anxious to be caught out in the open by the neighbor. He didn’t stick around long enough for us to chat a bit and for me to find out he doesn’t collect old signs anymore and why he doesn’t. Can’t afford it anymore. The picker sites have priced him out of the market.
He was referring to online dealers in antiques, collectables, second-hand goods, spare parts, odd lots, and, well, junk offer their wares to the highest bidders among anyone with a computer or the right app on their smart phones with too much money to spend---and a lot of people have way too much money---and the owner of the signs was not one of them. He’d despaired of ever being the highest bidder and considered himself priced out of the market.
We finished with a few pleasantries and then he hurried back up the lane and across the road to his place of business, an analog picker site that had exploded out the doors of the old barn that housed it and into the lot around it, filling the lot with old furniture, machine parts, car parts, tables of knick-knacks, and unidentifiable…well, junk, and suddenly the root of his un-neighborly neighbor’s un-neighborliness was clear.
Bad enough, from his point of view, he had to put up with tourists stopping to gawk and take pictures of the roadside attraction next door. Imagine looking out the front windows of your meticulously restored Nineteenth Century farmhouse and have the view filled with a junkyard.