Pineywoods Pickin’…. A Hometown Haul
By Dana Goolsby
Some folks have a hard time parting ways with their junk. In fact, some folks have a hard time parting ways with anything they have acquired over the years. Last year I had the opportunity to pick a hoard in my hometown. There is nothing like pickin’ a hoard! The types of treasures you might find depend largely on the person who was hoarding, but you are almost always guaranteed an interesting find. These are the kind of folks that make East Texas a picker’s paradise.
Some folks hoard magazines and books, others hoard collectibles, some cars and tractors, and then there are those who just hoard anything they can get their hands on. The definition of compulsive hoarding (or pathological collecting) is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value. When hoarding is clinically significant enough to impair functioning, it can prevent typical uses of space so as to limit activities such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house, and sleeping. It can also be dangerous if it puts the individual or others at risk for fire, falling, poor sanitation, and other health concerns. Here in East Texas we call this type of behavior “being prepared for anything.”
The Pineywoods is home to some impressive hoarders and collectors. Here in East Texas, hoarders store their treasures in houses, barns, storage buildings, buses, and anywhere else they can stick something they perceive to be important or valuable. Some hoarders run out of room and have to buy or build new places to house their hoards. As far as “being prepared” goes, East Texas might be the place to go in the event of a major catastrophe. Let me put it like this, had an East Texas hoarder been aboard Noah’s boat he may have sailed on and been the first to discover America.
This particular hoarder’s house that I had the opportunity to pick obviously had a hard time relinquishing things she had acquired over time. She eventually had to buy a mobile home to move into behind her house because her things had taken over her home. The house had been picked over by the immediate family since she had passed away, but what was left was up for grabs. Her immediate family members had gone through and selected items they wanted to keep, but also told potential buyers there was a possibility they had missed a thing or two and reserved the right to deny the sale.
The house was a wreck and practically falling down. Things were piled to the ceiling and the floors were covered with a sea of odds and ends. The family had set some things outside the house for pickers to pilfer through, but the house was still packed. I looked around outside but it didn’t take long for me to find my way into the house.
I have no reservations about going into an old abandoned house or a house packed to the brim with junk. I just march right in and keep my eyes peeled. You never know what you might find, which boards are bad, or what kind of critters could be living inside. Pickin’ has its hazards, but a seasoned picker won’t let an opportunity to comb through someone else’s junk pass them by.
There were old Palestine Herald Press newspaper clippings hanging everywhere in the kitchen with information ranging from recipes to coupons. The kitchen was full of canned vegetables so old that the lids were rusted shut, which is probably for the best considering the appearance of the contents was dark brown or black. The bathroom cabinets were full of medications, some of which I had never seen. The floors and shelves and any flat surface was covered with various trinkets, and other random stuff. It would have taken hours, if not days, to go through everything left in that old house. The family had already hauled off truck loads of junk, but had only put a small dent in the chore before them.
“You come on back after 5:00 p.m. this evening and load the rest of this up. It’s hot and by 5:00 p.m. I will probably be willing to strike a deal. You can have what’s left for, hmmm…$50,” I heard her telling a man who inquired about hauling off the entire hoard.
“Naw lady, how much will YOU pay ME to haul all this stuff off? I don’t wanna buy it,” he said.
“You just come on back here this evenin’ and we’ll talk,” I heard her yell to him as he walked off.
I didn’t find any amazing antiques in the house, or anything of real significance to a normal picker. I did, however, find a can of Royal Hair Dressing, Musterole and some 666 Preparation with Quinine in the medicine cabinet. I had never heard of Quinine and the bottle itself was enough to draw my eyes to it even though it was on the top of the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I added the Royal Hair Dressing, Musterole and Quinine to my stash and went to find the lady in charge of the sale. I had no idea what Quinine was and so I asked her if she had ever heard of it.
“Oh yeah, that was for fussy babies. If your baby was fussy you just gave them a shot of that and it knocked ‘em right out,” she said.
Well I should imagine it did “knock ‘em right out.” Quinine has been reported to contain opium. I looked up the medication 666 Preparation with Quinine but did not find a single recommendation for soothing fussy babies. However, I did learn that it was used to treat nocturnal leg cramps and malaria…but not in children. The bottom line is, I would not recommend using this medication at all, especially to treat fussy babies.
I pulled an old King Edward Imperial cigar box from beneath a dresser and put my goodies in it. Then I spotted an old wooden pipe which I added to my cigar box stash and a seafood cookbook that was published the same year I was born. I had a cigar box or two when I was a little girl, I used one to store my treasures in and one as a school box. The pipe was interesting enough because it had decorative carvings on the bowl and cookbooks are always good to have.
I was beginning to lose hope of finding anything extra special in this hoard. I knew a few folks had beaten me to the old house and combed through it thoroughly the day before. I heard they found some amazing treasures and figured they didn’t leave much behind. Just as I was getting ready to hand the lady $2.00 for my cigar box full of goodies I found some amazing hometown memorabilia.
Long ago in Grapeland, home of the fighting Sandies, there was a cafe called Dorothy’s. Dorothy’s Cafe was home to the most amazing hamburger you have ever sank your teeth into in East Texas and some of the best chicken fried steak you could order in the Deep South. The little cafe was lined with red booths and the bar stools around the counter were red, too. My grandfather used to take my sister and I to Dorothy’s, where he would order us both a hamburger basket and grape soda water.
There are a few pieces of decor that stand out in my mind when I reminisce about Dorothy’s Cafe in Grapeland. There was a clock on the wall that held business cards, and every minute on the dot the business cards would flip. There were also two planters that sat on the counter. One was a ceramic hamburger that had ivy spilling out of the top, which ran all the way down to the floor. The other planter was a Sandie football helmet that had been made into a planter, which also had ivy pouring out of it.
Just as I was about to hand the lady my two crumpled dollar bills, I saw something maroon and white out of the corner of my eye. It was the Sandie helmet planter that had once adorned Dorothy’s counter. As soon as I saw it I was transported back to Dorothy’s Cafe. I could almost smell those burgers and chicken fried steak. I snatched the helmet up and didn’t dare set it down and started looking again with a renewed sense of hope.
I flipped through several old Grapeland Sandie Sentinels that were lying on the ground. I recognized several faces, but one stuck out in my mind more than others. I happened to come across the annual in which Cindy Garner, a former Houston County District Attorney, was a senior. I once had the pleasure of hearing Garner speak while I was a student a Grapeland High School. Garner certainly had the shock and awe factor and knew how to make a jaw drop. She swore at all of the students and talked about panties; however, that is the only part of the speech that I can recall today. I am sure she talked about something of significance, but whatever her speech was about was cancelled out by swear words and panties.
That Sandie helmet planter was my favorite find of 2011, and the total haul cost me $5. Dorothy’s Cafe is but a distant, fuzzy memory of my childhood and finding that helmet helped me hang on to a piece of the past from the Queen City of the Sand Flats. In a day and age when things are changing so quickly I find myself wanting to hang on to little things that connect me to my past in the Pineywoods.
East Texas is a picker’s paradise. I am always on the look-out for strange and unusual or nifty East Texas memorabilia. If you have inherited a hoard, your collection has taken over your home, you have started packing your things into a bus, or if you just want to reclaim your storage building, barn or garage I will help you lighten your load. I will happily come out and pilfer through your stuff. If you are a serious hoarder or collector and wouldn’t dream of letting go of your possessions, I would love to photograph your treasures. If you are interested in having MYETX come out and look at your treasures email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a date.