You may have seen a couple of these pics already in Jenn’s posts, but I uploaded the entire collection to flickr.
We really were looking for a popcorn ball company. As we passed an sign announcing the town of Kimball, South Dakota, Jenn said she had seen signs for a popcorn ball from the town of Kimball, SD, so we took the exit in hopes of finding the place where they were made. We didn’t get more than a half mile when we drove past a house so amazing that we had to pull over and take a look. The home itself was hard to see, a tiny house behind a small front yard filled with row after row of amazing antiques and ‘junk’. Next to the house was a larger garage filled with even more stuff. A wooden fence connected the two buildings, and a small gate in that fence led to a back area with tools and table saws and construction horses and other things strewn about. It took a while to even get a sense of the property layout because of the rows and rows of stuff.
We walked through the rows, taking turns with the camera for at least 15 minutes with no sign of anyone around. Busy curtains covering halfway opened wooden windows of the house flapped in the breeze. I stared into the windows for a few seconds listening for any sound or sign of life inside, but I heard and saw nothing.
Things were arranged in a semi-categorical fashion. Rusted out tongs and hand-tools lay together on a rolling table, looking like something out of a scene from Hostel. Hub-cabs from long extinct cars shared a table. Two shelves carried those little glass covers that go on electric wires of telephone poles. Much of the stuff was rusty. Giant wagon wheels lined the front fence of along the entire span of the property.
Walking a little deeper into the maze, through a wooden arch adorned with a cow skull was a pile of bones on a circular pedestal. Next to that sat what looked like a sculpture made out of auto parts, a mechanical skeletal counterpart to the bone pile – a gas tank and other rusted metal forming a spine.
This arranger, whoever it was, had an artistic eye. Things were painstakingly organized and often times arranged to resemble other things. Cogs and rusty saw blades adorned the garage walls like tribal murals. Someone had been collecting, sorting and designing for a long time. This was a collector, an artist and an archivist of Americana. No one could accuse this person of being a hoarder.
Finally the owner came out of the house. He had a white hair and beard and wore a faded denim shirt and blue jeans. He would not have looked out of place prospecting for Gold in Californy or waving a shotgun at us and screaming ‘Get off my land!’. But his sweet disposition was instantaneously apparent. He apologized for taking so long to come outside, he had been on the phone. We talked for a while about his ‘collection’, when we found out we were looking at the remaining 10%. He claimed that he sold the rest of it off, truck loads at a time, at less than ideal prices because of the economy and because he was getting tired of taking care of it after so many years (30,40,600, I forget). We talked about travelling the country and the places in the south and west where he found much of his stuff.
Bars, restaurants, antique shops in cities, homeowners looking for interesting pieces all paid him well for the rusty stuff. He said he discovered his house and his stuff had been blogged about quite a bit and he was hoping one of his relatives would show him how to use the Internet to buy and sell stuff. He was super nice, if not a bit disappointed that we had no room in our own junk collection to store anything we might have bought. My biggest mistake after this whole interaction was that I failed to get his name or take his picture.
Mr Collector Guy, if you ever find this blog, thanks for the inspiration. Best of luck in getting online. I hope your place stays the same for as long as possible. It was a beautiful thing to find by mistake.
We never found the factory but we did find the Kimball, SD popcorn ball at a gas station. It taste like ass.