Friday, September 5, 2008

Johnny Junk

A few days ago I read a wonderful blog post by Tipper over at The Blind Pig & The Acorn blog, and I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it. The blog post is about “Spreading the Love” where she thanks all those who shared comments on her blog in the month of August, and eventually the post gets to talking about yardsales. Tipper asks if anyone has ever had any yard sale experiences, so I’m gonna take it upon myself to throw my hand in the air and yell, “Me, Me”. Evidently, her post triggered a story in my soul that just needs to be told.

When I was young it seemed like every summer we’d have several yardsales, always on the first weekend of the month because that’s when old people and those on assistance got their government checks. Mom always said we really didn’t get rid of anything, or make any money from the yardsales, it was simply a way to trade junk around from one family to another. You see, it always seemed that the same people would come to your yardsales and buy things, and conversely you’d go to their yardsales and buy back things. So really, I suppose you could say that we just leased the junk from each other!

One time when we were little, my brother and I struck upon a great notion. We’d sell grab bags for $1 each. We didn’t tell mom what we had in the bags either, and she just reckoned we had various toys and such in them. Instead, my brother and I just put rocks and dirt and broke up sticks in them. I recall we sold several bags of this and nobody ever returned any of the bags to us for a refund. Mom about had a conniption when she found out we were selling dirt grab bags!

Me and my brother Jason. I think he's getting a little too much joy out of choking me here.

Probably the most memorable event was a yardsale we had when I was about 7 years old or so. We were set up at the junction of Route 33 and 28, there in Judy Gap, West Virginia. That way we’d get more traffic, and thus more customers. As I recall, there were two people selling there that day, us and Johnny Junk. Johnny Junk was an old man who, I believe, lived in his truck, and on which he had a camper that he sold work pants and blankets and pretty much whatever would sell out of the back of it. I never gave it a thought then, but nobody I know ever knew what his real name was, but everyone in the county knew Johnny Junk when you mentioned him. Funny how someone gets a name like that, and that persona overshadows your whole existence. Mom always warned us that he was a dirty old man and she would never let the girls get around him. I don’t know of anything untoward that Johnny Junk ever did, but you know how people talk and us kids gave him a wide berth. I don’t know whatever happened to Johnny Junk, maybe he went to that great yardsale in the sky, or perhaps just loaded up and drove into the sunset looking for another junction from which to peddle his wares.

Getting back to my story, at this yardsale, Mom had for sale two end tables that were kind of shaped like a barrel, only the sides were simply slats with about a 4 inch opening in between each slat. It was getting late in the afternoon and I was tired and wanted to go to the store to get me some hot sausages (yes, I really was obsessed with hot sausages when I was a kid), and I got to playing around the stand tables. Somehow, I got the bright idea that I could climb inside of these end tables and could pretend that I was locked in a cage. Well, I started to squirm my way into the table but could only get my head in so figuring I’d give it up for a bad idea, I started to go find something else to do only to find my head was stuck between the slats of the end table! I contorted and twisted but nothing would free me of this trap, so I did what any distraught child would do, I started to scream for mom! As luck would have it, just about that same time we got a customer and he was interested in the end tables. Undoubtedly, he would have bought them, except there was a mouthy, little urchin stuck halfway inside of one of them. Mom tried and tried to free me from the table but all there was to it was that I was stuck. People are always saying that the Burns’ have abnormally large heads so apparently my head chose that very afternoon to pull a “grinch” and grow three times it size. Well, the man who was going to buy the tables saw me and just about cracked up. Had I not been so worried that they were going to cut my head off, as my brother suggested, I’d probably have given him a good cussing.

Luckily, it was old Johnny Junk who saved the day, he saw the commotion and dug around in his bulging truck camper and produced a ball-peen hammer and pecked the table apart and freed me from my prison. Well, of course, the man who was interested in the tables didn’t want them now that they had been torn apart to free me, and mom didn’t want to take them back home so Johnny Junk offered to take them. He then added those gems to his massive roadside treasure trove.

I was so upset over the whole incident that it took a whole jar of hot sausages to get me calmed down, and thanks to Johnny Junk, I still had my head. And to this day, my brother wonders why I still pick on him about getting stuck in the shitpot. But that’s another story for another day, and probably one that I’d meet my demise if I ever told it!


Jason Burns said...

All I have to say is, "I should have squeezed your neck harder!"

tipper said...

So glad I brought these mememories to the surface of your mind! I love the innocence of selling dirt and rocks. I remember one of my small cousins colored rocks with crayons and sold them to the adults. I think every town has a resident Johnny Junk-I actually think we have several! And you getting stuck in the table is so funny!!

By the way I vote you tell the story abour your brother! And I'm going to share the story about your grandmother falling out of the car on my blog today-since you told me I could link to you anytime-I hope its o.k.!!

Matthew Burns said...

I look forward to reading your blog post that contains my story about The Fair Affair.

As for the brother story, I'll have to build up my courage on that one!!

Thanks for the comments.

Keith said...

Another great story. I needed a good laugh.

Matthew Burns said...

Just a note to let readers know that since writing this I have found out that Johnny Junk is still alive and still peddling his wares on Rt.220 south of Franklin. He still has the same old truck, and he is 94 years old! He's as committed to junk as a pig is to bacon!

Alyn said...

Great work.