Packratting for posterity

Almost 18 years ago I inexplicably began collecting eclectic junk. It was eclectic and it was junk for several reasons: it was all old and second hand, it was all weird and industrial in nature and it was usually being sold as junk rather than as ‘collectibles’. I paid by the pound.

I picked up a lot of crap before Sal even noticed. It was accumulating in the garage unseen but in cardboard boxes and, by the time I had eight or so, she did, in fact, notice them.

“What the hell is all this junk doing here?”

“Well now, sweetie, I know it looks a bit odd but, you see, I am kind of dreaming of living OTG some day and, if that ever happens, I may need some of this junk. You know, OTG type raw materials?”

“Fine! Whatever! But what is that thing? And why are there three of them?”

“To be honest, I have no idea. But they were cheap and Harry at the junkyard suggested I get them while the getting was good. Clearly they are some kind of log-moving device. I think. Maybe.”

“Well, you are nuts, you know that? But, if it keeps you happy, fine. Just don’t get any more junk, OK? I can hardly move in here.”

“OK”, I lied. But, technically, I didn’t actually lie. Not technically. The next few batches of things were so large they wouldn’t fit in the garage. I bought about 16 or 18 twenty-two foot long double hot-dipped galvanized 6×6 angle iron heavy rails salvaged from a collapsed BC Hydro power transmission tower next and then 12 huge 4′ x 2′ heavy grates. I put them all on the driveway. That did not go over well.

“What the hell! Why do we have a do-it-yourself transmission tower on our driveway?”

“No where else to put it…..?”

And so it went for approximately two years. More and more stuff bought for an as-yet-to-be determined project. There was occasionally a bit of tension – nothing I could not ignore. The turning point came for us (as a couple) when Sal came home from work and yelled to me from the front door, “Hey! Get your coat. Some guy is throwing out a whole bunch of what looks like winches. It is your kind of crap!” We went down the street and loaded the car with about a dozen winches, some the size of a small dog and some bigger than a large one. The guy had been a winch repairman and was getting out of the business. The car sagged from the weight. We both felt like we had scored!

I also bought some marine junk/crap. I just kinda like marine crap and so it was more of an indulgence than part of the loose and not yet conceived housing plan. But, it was marine and some of it was bronze and stainless and all of it very cool. Sal likes marine crap, too. That was a blessing.

Amongst the myriad things I got for next-to-nothing were some old ship’s lights. And, over the years, they have matured and mellowed in boxes under the house. They have not proved as useful as the huge angle iron or the massive grates. Who knew?

Yesterday, I decided to make another project. I rescued two of the lights from the still impressive pile of junk. I cleaned them up, attended to the wiring and chose the locations. “Hey, Sal? You still up for some wiring?”


“I am going to use some of the old lights from the junk pile.”

“OK! If it gets some of the junk from the pile, I will help. Can you use up all of it up?”

“No. This is a work-in-progress. SLOW process. You have to go with the flow, ya know?”

“Fine. But keep it up. I wanna get rid of all that junk someday. Please.”

“Are you saying that I should stop looking on Craigslist for more?”

Reality check: I have used way more than 75% of what we got. If we go by weight, more like 90%. It all came in handy – still does. The downside? Every bit of it was carried in by hand and small boat. Junk collecting is a real exercise in exercise.


15 thoughts on “Packratting for posterity

  1. OMG Dave you are my father, his brothers and sons. It took me 3 years to clean out their sheds. I found tap and die sets for large cast iron pipes, which my grandfather bought surplus after WW1. Junk is a family genetic trait which somehow my husband inherited through me. Enjoy every piece of junk.


  2. Crap is useful always! Piles of crap are a sign of having a thrifty DNA gene. Living OTG makes a having junk pile a necessity. Conservation is vital. Good on you Dave.


  3. As a kid, I spent my summers on a lake where my granny had a cottage. She had a big boathouse. The only boat that was ever stored there was a flat-bottomed Peterborough punt that I used to row all over the lake. But the boat did not take up that much space and, when stored for the winter, was raised via a block and tackle device, so there was that much more space for junk. By the time I got there, granny had been pack-ratting for about 25 years. Nothing got thrown away if there was a remote prospect of some future use.

    I used to love that boathouse. As a kid, if I came up with an idea to make something, to repair something, whatever, I could venture into that boathouse and look at all was was collected on shelves, in cabinets, hanging from the rafters, etc. Almost always I could find what was needed, or adapted, be it for fishing, woodwork, for the boat, or just drills and bits, screws nails, etc. of all sorts, bits of copper and tin, wire, wire mesh, rope and string, inner tubes, paints, solvents and brushes. Tin snips and various cutting tools. Sandpaper and steel wool. There were different types of oil lamps, lanterns and wicks, mica sheets for woodstoves. Sheets of glass. Containers of divers types, gas cans, oil cans for lubricating stuff. All manner of pieces of pipe and rods, wood dowels. A complete Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, and then some.

    So jdc, no need to apologize for your junk collection. It’s not junk at all, but a treasure trove. I think granny even had some of those old ship’s light. I think her son, my uncle, contributed those. He spent his life at sea. If I had ’em now, I would use them for sure.


  4. That ship’s light is awesome. Over here, people pay lot’s of money for this stuff just to put it in their fancy houses….there is an “industrial” trend in interior decorating. But don’t tell Sal, she might force you to sell and ship the stuff 🙂


  5. For 10 years or so,up to his retirement Rick cluff on the CBC morning show would constantly insert the the phrase ‘ right now’ It was irksome to me for years and it was exclusively his thing
    For the last 6 months or so this irksome phrase is everywhere,always.
    lately a few news readers have decided that maybe ‘ in the moment’ would reflect better on them so there is minor relief, minor.
    Recently I Read Bruce Hutchison’s first fiction book written around 1942 called The hollow men
    About 150 pages.
    In his story which is really a memoir he constantly uses the word ‘presently’ to begin sentences
    I read a lot, and have yet to see that from earlier times,in any major way.
    Bruce in royalty in the field of wordsmithing here in Canada, editor of the Vancouver sun for eons all while living in Victoria
    I am floating this here cuz besides David and Sydney there may be a few more who might comment on this Baffling to me linguistic phenomenon


  6. Can’t help you much. Writers often use key words and phrases as kickstarts to expressing their thoughts. I do. Methinks is a Shakespearean word I resurected to do just that. And many pseudo intellects nowadays start their answers with the word, ‘so’…….and THAT drives me insane. Many common speakers use phrases like, “‘At the end of the day….’ or ‘bottom line…..’. And just about everyone, when speaking tries to hold the floor with, ‘umh’ and ‘and’ abd ‘ya know?’
    Communicating effectively is a challenge. Shortcuts and lazy phrases are to be expected. If you want to get real, rant and tirade against the all too omnipresent, continuous , inappropriate use of the F word. It’s a freakin’ everywher, alla time, too common vulgarity that simpky means, STUPIDITY. Lord, save me from the F-word!


  7. And leave us not forget that stellar turn of phrase “at this point in time”.

    Sure, using a word like “now” in its place might show an admirable economy of language, “at this point in time” has, I believe, an impeccable provenance. I seem to recall it being popularized by Richard Nixon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.