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Friday, October 30, 2009

This Bird has flown

When the good sales weren't happening, an infrequent ritual I enjoyed over the summer was a late afternoon visit to the Elephant’s trunk, with my daughter. She joined me only because she knows there is something in it for her. Italian ice sold in cups so flimsy they would be better to serve them from detergent caps instead. You can literally order them by the color and size of stain you prefer, “I’ll have a small lemon stain, and she will have the large raspberry swath, please.”

Late afternoon at the “Trunk” is actually 12:30-1pm. Most dealers have been in there since 4am and to them it is late afternoon. The hearty stick around ‘til the owner of the place begins announcing what time they need to be off the field. Cattle rustlers treat their charges better.

We stroll between the dealer-less gaps in the field looking at the  odd pieces of paper that fly around when the wind has kicked up unexpectedly (see flyer). There are other interesting items that have been squished into the ground from the press of shoppers  earlier in the day, or from Sunday’s past. My companion is better at finding those items. Rarely, anything of value, but occasionally something recognizable reveals itself and to her it's gold. This another pastime which is similar to beach combing, except the broken glass found here is not to be admired unless you are due for a blood donation.

One strange twist to the Trunk that has grown into a regular practice, is the junking of un-saleable items after the day has ended. Many booths, as they pack up, will unceremoniously walk an item, or a pile of stuff to one of the many oil drums around the field. In a late trip to the trunk last year I walked by one of these piles and saw “gold”.  This is how a diggers are born. One casual glance in to a junk pile followed by the sole criticism, “Hey, that’s not junk.” is typically how the trouble starts. While we make our rounds to the booths that are left, so do we also keep an eye out for the dealer that doesn’t want to be troubled with items of no value...to them.

I am not alone in this stealthy pursuit. I see others who have noticed a dealer discarding something, that 5 minutes ago, had a price. We all have a similar approach, to look and peek, but not seem too obvious. It is garbage after all, but what the hell? Why not?  This summer I ran in to a friend and his son, who  are also diggers. We chat and reflect on the latest discoveries.  But we came to to dig, not talk, so our attention is diverted to a particular pile that is growing in size.  Alternately, we pick from the pile.  They find a glass display case and a sturdy folding card table. and I spot a large pile of paper that has just been dropped off;  A 3' x 4' cardboard sandwich of papers wrapped in string.

I am frozen by the discard.  Is this what I think it is? There are an awful lot of papers here and I instinctively grab the pile.  I can't believe there is anything priceless in it, but I am enthralled by the copyright at the bottom of this over-sized page.
I own some old papers, but this is 10 years before the American Revolution. I have, if nothing, found something I can research and study.  There is almost 70 over-sized sheets to go through on topics mainly around Ornithology and Zoology and then there are gilt-edge pages of English biographys.  The next cover seemed just as promising.

There are 3 like this.  However, that's all there is.  No illustrations, just pages and pages of the descriptions of the plates once contained within. As I look more closely, there are a couple of clues. Some of the pages similar to the one above have researchers marks on them, and minor catalog descriptions.  They seem to have been posted in a museum, or gallery at one point.  The cardboard that held this mess have auctioneers lot # stickers on them. I found something interesting but what had value was sold probably long age.

There were also 4 like this (see right), dated 1875 with a nice note from the publisher, but also ravaged of the prints with only a few descriptions.

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