• Carmen Marie Fabio

Dust and dirt

Arriving early to pick up my son last weekend, I sent him a text saying I would be in the local charity shop to peruse the ever-changing stock of stuff other people don’t want. He arrived just in time to try and talk me out of the item I was about to purchase – an almost 2-foot tall steel crate thing filled with vaguely animal-patterned Styrofoam balls.

“It’s ugly,” he said.

“It has potential,” I countered.

“It’s ugly,” he repeated.

Undaunted, I handed over the $15 to the cashier, who said if I didn’t take the Styrofoam balls the price would be $20, and then had the pleasure of observing my boy’s facial expression as he carried it to the car for me.

This latest addition is one in a litany of oddities I’ve found in junk shops, things so quirky (not ugly) that I knew I could give them a good home. The crate comes on the heels of the black metal table lamp featuring a raven on a branch. In one claw, he’s holding a small lantern that contains a small nightlight operated by a three-way switch. The whole thing is adorned with a tall red and gold shade. I was congratulated on my purchase by a woman who followed me out of the store, telling me it was something that belonged in a millionaire’s home.

“Why didn’t she buy it then?” asked the same son.

I still have the ridiculously ornate Turkish birdcage that could never reasonably be expected to hold an actual bird. “I bought something today,” I told my husband.

“Yup,” he agreed when he saw it. “That’s something.”

It sits in the dusty front porch awaiting a useful purpose.

With the glut of dollar store cochonnerie that imbues our lives, the unconventional finds that have character, a past, and invariably a story, are infinitely more interesting than the brand-spanking-new sections of our vinyl-scented shopping malls.

But I must confess that I outdid myself recently by buying something that my nephew placed on Facebook as a lark, not thinking he’d get any serious takers – but first, some background.

Genetics are not easily overruled and though my kids don’t always agree with my taste, they too enjoy poking through the hidden corners of the second-hand shops. When one son, then aged around 10, found a set of some sort of goat’s horns mounted on a plaque and selling for the princely sum of $4, asked for it, I couldn’t say no.

And it somehow triggered a series of events that has led to a proliferation of bones of sorts on my front porch. Right next to the bird cage.

The goat horns were soon joined by a set of cow jaw bones found in a field in the Eastern Townships, bleached by the sun. They were joined by a set of deer antlers I found unceremoniously dumped in the garbage. I felt the animal deserved a more dignified send-off so his (or her) horns were united with the cow. Following the addition of a single caribou antler purchased from Hudson’s now-gone, but not forgotten, Ye Auld Curiosité Boutique, I foolishly responded to the Facebook post that said, “Who’ll give me $100 for this beauty?”

That’s how the roughly 5-foot wide by 4-foot tall stuffed and mounted elk head came to rest on my kitchen table as I try and find somewhere to put it.

I’m told it’s about 50 years old and the same gun that took the beast down was later used in a murder with the triggerman getting a 30-year sentence.

Is it true?

I don’t know but you won’t get the same story from any purchase at a shiny-new retail big-box outlet.

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