CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - 'Tis The Season

(03/30/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

The ads are already appearing in the newspapers and soon the season will be in full swing. I'm not talking baseball; I'm speaking of that addiction that is worse than nicotine and the other mind controllers. I'm talking big-time yard sales and flea markets.

You've seen those bumper stickers with "I brake for yard sales" on them? Well, mine should read "I go broke for yard sales."

It may have something to do with growing up in the lean years. There is so much affluence today that people throw away perfectly good stuff or let it go really, really cheap. Maybe I should have been a garbage collector instead of going into journalism, but some of you smart alecks out there may say that I didn't stray too far away from my calling.

But, anyway, how many Mr. Coffee makers can one use even at three dollars a whack? Or, my great weakness: manual typewriters. I always think that if I find the right typewriter it will contain a muse and a genie who may make magic on the cheap.

Then, there is the personal stuff that people sell, like photographs and picture albums. I have family pictures of my own that I can't identify and it isn't like my parents found me floating down the crick on a log like they always told me, although there are a lot of unexplained shots taken along Grass Run. I just can't comprehend how people can sell Aunt Louise or Uncle Fred and not feel something, especially for 50 cents or so.

It was on a lonely country road that I saw him sitting on the table. The inscription read "To Thelma with love, from George." The price was 50 cents. I thought I had found an early George Jones, back when maybe he was only doing a maintenance diet of a fifth or so a day, because the look in his eyes seemed to spell spiritual trouble.

But the more I looked at him I realized that the bottled up look in his eyes couldn't be uncorked unless I found Thelma. (I figured he wasn't really George Jones, as I didn't think ol' George would be wearing a tee shirt with "How 'bout them eers!" on it.) Every man has had a Thelma or two in his life-well, six or nine, maybe. Come on, I'm a struggling writer, not a statistician. Who counts?

I knew only one thing could cure George, and that was for me to find Thelma. I believe in extrasensory happenings, especially every time the state legislature meets, and, lo, it wasn't a month or so until I spotted her on a table at a flea market. She didn't come cheap, and I wouldn't have wanted her to, somewhere around a dollar as she had a nicer frame than George. She wasn't autographed, but right off I knew a Thelma when I saw her.

Now, I have this hundred-year-old house up in Preston County that some people, lacking sensitivity, have called a tumbledown shack. But I have read enough real estate blurbs to know it is correctly described as a rustic, handyman's special in the country, with lots of potential and charm.

This is where I cart many of my yard sale treasures, and to heck with people who call me eccentric-or worse. And this is where I set up housekeeping for George and Thelma. Many of you Methodists out there, and I grew up as one, will scream about living in sin, but I have enough trouble with the sex lives of those dirty little field mice until it has hardened me into accepting that what is going to happen will happen anyway, which I suppose makes me some sort of Presbyterian.

You might say that it was like waving a red heifer at a bull, but George for the first time I have known him looks happy. I can place the pictures back to back-and you may find this hard to believe-but when I come back there are facing each other.

It sure does make a fellow happy to see things work out for two people in love and know that he had a hand in it. And it only cost a buck fifty.


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