Dateline: 2 August 2005
Updated: 27 July 2013
New York State Route 90 is a pleasant 50-mile stretch of rural road that winds its way through the rolling countryside not far from my home. It passes by quaint old villages and country-crossroad towns with names like Aurora, Union Springs, King Ferry, and Summerhill. Every year, on the last weekend of July, this normally-quiet thoroughfare hosts what has become a major regional event. It's called the Route 90 Garage Sale.
Imagine it... A 50-mile-long garage sale adventure! Thousands of people clog Route 90 for this extravaganza. My family has been among them for so many years that we consider it a family tradition.
The people who live on Route 90 are not the only ones doing the selling. Folks from all around will cart their crafts, foods, and assorted stuffs to the roadside and set up shop. We did this a couple years ago and managed to unload enough unneeded junk to buy Marlene a nice new $400 dough mixer for her little bread business. But we also came to the realization that searching the sales is far more fun than selling.
This last Saturday morning, Marlene and I and our two youngest boys piled into the SUV and headed out on our annual summer garage sale safari. It was the first time the whole family did not go. Our oldest son now has a summer job and had to work. It was too bad but, on the other hand, it meant we had more room in the vehicle to pack our treasures (and we really did pack ‘em in).
I went with only one objective in mind: to find a good garden hoe. It isn't that I don't have a hoe because I do. Fact is, I own several of them (some bought at previous Route 90 sales). I just happen to like hoes a lot, and I'm always on the lookout for another good one. I feel the same way about hoes as I do about guns.... a man can never have too many of them.
Well, I did see some hoes, along with all kinds of shovels, rakes, mauls, and post hole diggers. None of them appealed to me, but I found some other agrarian things that were even better!
For example, my best find of the day was an old wooden (no sheet metal and no plastic) chicken feeder. It is a feeder like maybe I remember being in my grandfather’s chicken coop when I was a little boy. It is a beautifully crafted blend of form and function, well used but still sturdy and almost perfectly preserved. I would say it has to be at least 50 years old and probably a lot more than that. Here's a picture of the feeder...
|Click picture to see a larger view|
The young guy I bought the feeder from had just hauled it out of his barn, along with all kinds of horse equipment and other old things that had probably not seen the light of day for decades. The feeder trough had ancient, dusty chicken manure and straw in it. There was no price.
“How much do you want for that chicken feeder over there?”
The man said he had to get $25 for it. I would have to pay more than that just to buy the lumber to make such a feeder. I didn’t dicker. We strapped it to the top of the Explorer with bungee cords and drove off, with me cackling excitedly to Marlene and the kids about what a rare and special find I had found, and dusty old coop crud trailing in a cloud behind us.
Later on, as we were slowly motoring through a crowded village, intently surveying the garage sale wares along the roadside, Marlene asked me, “Why is everyone looking at us?” I told her they were not looking at us. They were looking at my antique chicken feeder. It turned a lot of heads.
If a Modern had bought my chicken feeder, it would probably become a plant stand; a place to show off petunias. What a shame that would have been. I have a better idea. I will use it to feed chickens. In fact, I am already doing this. But I’m thinking that I should build an exact reproduction and give the original to my country agricultural museum.
I was also thinking that I could put together plans telling others how to build their own Classic American chicken feeder. Surely there are a lot of fellow agrarians out there who would appreciate the simple rural elegance of this wonderful piece of farm equipment from days gone by. Then again, I thought I could go into business making reproductions and I could sell them to Moderns as plant stands. This is the way my mind works. I can’t help it.
There were a couple other nifty agrarian finds that I hope to tell you about in future blogs. But, for now, I want to tell you about one purchase my 10-year-old son, James, made. I gave him $12 spending money for the sale and he made some excellent buys. His most expensive purchase was $4 for what he thought was an adze.
James wants an adze to use in conjunction with his axe (which I wrote about in a previous blog) to square logs into beams. He watched a man do this at the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine last year. How many 10-year-olds do you know who want to buy an adze?
Unfortunately, the adze was not an adze. When he showed me his purchase, I had to tell him that it appeared that he bought a very, very old hand forged hoe. It looks like it could have come over on the Mayflower. It looks that old. I would call it a grub hoe. Someone with more hoe know-how might say it was a grape hoe.
Whatever the case, James is not into hoes (yet) and was a little disappointed. But it all worked out in the end because I happen to have a real adze and I found it for him to use. Then I gave the boy $4. I can use a good grub hoe.