"Do I Hear Five?"

"You need to get to the auction at least a half an hour before it starts. The real experts sort through the junk early, separating the good from the bad and figuring out what's valuable."

I listened intently over the hood of my grandfathers Dodge van as we chipped at the frost on the windshield. Before I had a chance to finish scraping the passenger side, my grandfather, Bill, jumped into the driver's seat and urged me to let the defroster handle the rest. Sensing the unbridled excitement in his voice, I obliged.

Each weekend, Bill wakes early and heads to estate sales in the heart of the Wisconsin farmland in search of antique tools and toys. After a career selling electronic switches in Milwaukee, Bill retired to a farm near Adell, Wisconsin and started raising sheep. Tired of the long hours associated with raising fifty sheep a year, he looked elsewhere for entertainment.

Acting on a life-long interest in tools and attempting to clear out his garage for his next project, Bill started selling off some tools on Ebay. Enjoying the craft of researching the history and application of antique tools, Bill started buying tools at garage sales and auctions. Since September of 2002, he has sold over 1800 antiques on Ebay.

Driving an hour north as the sun rose, Bill explained, "Your Grandmother comes sometimes just to people watch. There will be a few hundred people filtering through today. People come to bid on farm equipment, silverware, guns and others for tools," he grinned.

"What's the auction today?"
"The description says estate auction: farm equipment, guns, cheese-making and a pick up. You can't go into an auction wanting something specific. You won't find it," Bill explained.
Grinning ear to ear, I nodded.
Arriving early, we registered with the auction service and went out searching through piles of farm equipment. Surgically, Bill sifted through the various piles and boxes making frequent introductions to other such addicts.

"He is in it for the oil cans." Bill motioned.
"Oil cans?"
"Yeah, oil cans. He collects vintage oil cans to go along with his cars," Bill explained as he turned over a box full of Stanley planes.

Nursing my coffee, I went out in search of gems. Shivering in my wool while inspecting a wall full of shovels, pitchforks and saws, I heard the familiar pop of an aluminum can. Turning expecting to see a diet Coke or perhaps a Mountain Dew, I spotted a group of camo-clad Wisconsinites starting off their Saturday with a case of Busch Light.

With a smile, the ring leader nudged the opened case with his foot, "Want one? these things (auctions) usually last a while."

"I am good, thanks. Trying to get through this coffee first." I looked at my watch, 9:17.

For the next five hours, these guys stood guard centrally located between the food cart, auctioneer's booth and port-a-potty. Providing a running commentary, they chimed in their two cents often as I passed by.

"Whatcha got there?
"What'd ya pay?"
"What the hell do you need that for?"

Good things.

As the last item sold, we packed up the Van with the day's bounty, bid farewell to the observers and headed back to the farm.

Looking back from the drivers seat, Bill smiled. "We did good today. That was one of the best auctions I have been to in a while. Now we just need to figure out what the hell we bought."
With no point of reference, but ecstatic from my day spent haggling and searching for gems, I nodded in approval.
Here are some more links,

Woolrich Horse Skin Hunting Gloves

I am a dreamer. The ideas and stories behind clothes are always more pure and unspoiled than the physical incarnation of a product. For example, I am really drawn to L.L. Beans' outdoor history and their loyalty to Leon's original vision, but I don't own a pair of Bean boots. With that said, every so often, I find a product that I am drawn to like a 13 year old to Twilight.

A few weeks ago, my friend Bethany sent me these vintage Woolrich Horse Skin Hunting Gloves. Designed for hunting, the horse leather flap on the right hand flips back enabling trigger control. I fell in love with the gloves as soon as I unwrapped them.

Judging by the stitching and the worn tag, these gloves could be from the 40's or earlier.

After decades of use, the virgin wool is surprisingly supple and smooth. I love the black and red stripes and the crossover around the wrist.

More importantly than their fine craftsmanship and beautiful design, these gloves fit perfectly into my romanticized world of Ice Shacks in Maine, Hikes in the Snow in the Cascades, Drives throughout frozen New England, and Campfires at Sunset. The slit in the right hand could just as easily drop the shutter of my 5d Mark II as open a Swiss Army Knife or fire a six-gun. I always identified with Flannery O'Conner's 1955 title to her short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Well a good glove is hard to find too, and I have found mine.

Here are some more links,
My Woolrich Horse Skin Gloves (Picasa),
My Own Private New England (ART),
Ice Fishing Shacks in Maine (ART),
A Campfire at Sunset (ART).


Finds from the Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale

I made out of the Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale like looter in the LA Riots. I didn't find what I expected. Going into the sale I anticipated finding a bunch of regional brands such as Pendleton (the family that owns the brand went to my high school), White Stag, Filson and Eddie Bauer. I guess Keenan Jay, a current Catlin student and blogger, stashed some away while he was helping set up the sale. The uncertainty and excitement of surprises at yard sales, rummage sales and flea markets will keep me coming back my entire life.

This Old Craftsmen drill was probably my favorite find at Rummage. I love how it looks like a miniaturized riveter or high powered tool that was used to make intercontinental bombers in the 50s.

At first glance, this wool hunting vest looked like nothing special, however had some really nice details.

All the way across the country!

Someone loved and cared for this jacket.

Originally this jacket had sleeves

A Herters goose down vest. Gorge Leonard Herter once had a booming catalog outfitter based in South Dakota. I wonder whatever happened to it?

Awesome Logo.

I really like the red fleece lining of the pockets.

Canvas leather backpack with no markings or label.

I like the color contrasts of green canvas and tan leather.

Great design.

My inner '80s fanatic went crazy when I found these blades.

Built in croakies, you don't see that shit anymore.

I have already passed these on to my girlfriend to wear when she plays squash. Well that's what I imagined at least...

Killer Loop....Killer Bag

My favorite find of the day: a vintage day pack made in Norway with a steel external frame.

Amazing design. It's surprisingly comfortable.

The guy on the left doesn't have the external frame and the guy on the right does.

I couldn't have predicted this, nor could I have ever asked for it. That's why I like it.


The Final Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale

For the past 65 five years, the Catlin Gabel school has urged community members to look through their garages and basements for things to donate to an annual rummage sale for the school's financial aid fund. Drawing thousands of shoppers from around the Portland area and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, the Catlin Rummage Sale was a fixture in the local landscape. In early September, I received an email from the school announcing the end to a tradition beloved by members of the community and avid rummage shoppers alike.

An old cardboard box with a section of binding twine is a tradition at the Rummage Sale.

Over the seven years that I attended Catlin, sixth grade on, I built a strong association with the rummage sale, fall and school. To me, the rummage sale was as much a part of my school routine as buying my books in early September or speeding out of the school parking lot in early June listening to Alice Cooper.

As the Maine nights grew crisp and I attended the last autumn classes of my life, I yearned for the piles of clothes and old ski equipment of the rummage sale. I soon set forth on a war path to rationalize making the 3,000 mile journey back to Portland for a long weekend. Eventually, I called my parents and announced my return. The first inkling of my affinity for antiques and clothes had surfaced at Rummage years ago, there would never be another, and I hadn't been home in 11 months....

During the last two weeks of October the school comes to a screeching halt as students, teachers, and parents go out for pick ups, sorting drop offs and transporting the "rummage" from Catlin's West Hills location to the Portland Expo Center. In a flurry of collapsible tables and over-anxious type A parents, sale preparations culminate in the opening of the doors to parents, alums, and volunteers on Thursday at 3 PM for the presale.

I showed up at 2:45 and eagerly awaited my chance to peruse the collection of more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of donated rummage. Anyone see my brother in back? I will give you a hint, he's 6'7"...

At 3PM sharp I was off to the races. Dragging my box and awkwardly snapping pictures, I scuttled to and from large collapsible tables labeled with large plastic hanging signs leaving a wake of unfolded clothes and overturned hiking boots.

Mr. Tucker sorting through piles of shirts for a gem.

A view of the chaos. Dre.

The presale ran from three to five, after that the gates opened and the masses rushed various sections of the sale like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. In those two hours I ran around searching through piles of shirts, old license plates, tools, and boots, all the time filling my cardboard box with my bounty. It was everything I hoped it would be.