I met Chuck at a car show where I was vending. He is in his 80’s and will tell you with a huge grin that he is the most handsome, most charming, and most wonderful person you have ever met. He did this with his wife standing nearby patiently with a knowing and maybe affectionate look on her face. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was there with his Model-T that had the original engine and all of the original leather upholstery, I didn’t know because all Chuck wanted to talk about was gourds. Now, I love to talk gourds at any time and with anybody. Well, it seems the gourds that Chuck grew got squishy and rotted like old pumpkins. Without hesitation, I told him that he had harvested them too soon. I gave the startling advice of don’t pick them, leave them on the vine until the plant is completely dead and if they aren’t on the ground to leave them there all winter.
As it turned out, I did give the right advice. I got a call from Chuck in early Spring. He had gotten a nice crop of gourds and they had dried perfectly right on the vine. He want to know if I wanted some. To a question like that my answer is always yes. A gourd artisan just can’t have too many gourds. We made arrangements for me to come pick them up.
I drove out to his house, at the appointed time, interrupting his nap. Once he fully awakened, he led me to his garage to show me his bag of gourds. I was there calculating in my head how much I would be willing to pay, when I caught a glimpse into his garage. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I mentally got to mark an item off of my bucket list. His garage holds up to 12 cars and it is a museum of old cars, old car memorabilia and anything else that Chuck felt like collecting. I love the show, ‘American Pickers’ and day dreamed about visiting one of their collector’s stashes. I never thought I would really get to see the results from ‘American Pickers’. I have no idea how long I spent listening to Chuck tell me about how he acquired every little thing. Some cars were put back into their original new condition and others were souped up. There were old signs, gas pumps, oil can, old toys, and so much more. There’s a part of me that so wants to be a collector like that, but another part that wants a more minimal lifestyle. The minimalist is the stronger part at the moment.
The tour sadly came to an end and we headed back to the house with the bag of gourds in tow. I gave him a quote and his reply came out something like this. ‘I don’t want your money, I want you to make me something’. It took me awhile to convince him I could put anything he wanted on his gourd. After I bit of thought he decided he wanted a 1957 Chevy Ranchero in red and white drag racing an orange 1958 Ford El Camino with a pin-up in a bikini holding the checkered flag. Then this 80+ year old man pulled out a plastic lawn chair and started to stand up on it to show me a gourd bird house hanging in one of his trees. I put a quick stop to that. I think he thought he was invincible. He thought he wanted me to make him a bird house but he didn’t want the hole to get in the way. I suggested a Thunder drum, which wouldn’t have the hole, he agreed even if he had never heard of one.
I really like this kind of request. It really puts my skill and creativity to a test. The best part, for me, comes a few days later, when he calls to tell me he wants the Ford to be winning, with a rabbit at the finish line and a tree with a couple of birds by the start line. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I swear, that it could have been my father during his later years, on the other end of the phone. Chuck is so much like my own father. The collecting, the thinking he can do anything, and how he thinks, and plans, and schemes match the way my father was. At least now I know he is truly looking forward to my creation for him. It will probably go into his collection. I know I can never make what he had in his mind, but I’ll do my best and he will be thrilled. My father always was when someone made something especially for him.