“AVE been TALK’EN bout AUCTION for THREE generations that I can remember. POTTERS place and they NEVER SHUT-UP. That Ellen Potter didn’t MARRY until LATE. KEPT her SILVER SPOONS where the sun don’t shine I told her. LOT OF HER where the SUN don’t shine. If you know what I mean.
“I’VE been in there off an on now forty YEARS. I figure. Them spoons is still in there somewhere too nears as I KNOW. Lot of things in that dark in there. I figure I just keep showing up. MRS. Potter but now I’m ELLEN. Been that many years. Ellen won’t you SELL ME TODAY. I been in-shed. I been in the barn.
But I ain’t been in the bed.
“Zipper” Harris is a local longtime antiques picker (finder of antiques). I’ve known him all my life. I started being an antiques dealer before he become a picker. Before that he was just “Zipper”. “Zip” for short. That he come by quite early; first grade we all remember. In first grade when we’d go outside on recess Zip could never zip his jacket up. The teacher... Mrs. Dunlady... always had to do it. You know: With him inside the jacket. Never could zip it himself. Next year; second grade, still couldn’t do it. Went along so in FIFTH GRADE he’s STILL having the teacher zip him up. So right along we started calling him ZIPPER. Or Zip. And that’s stuck.
Then he become an antiques man. Picker. Zipper the picker.
He parents run a motel out on Two. Always run it. You Know: Nice place nothing fancy TOURIST place. Zip always worked there. Now he’s most of the place himself.
His folks live in the HOUSE and that walks through the old barn out back to where Zip’s built himself a bungalow: Nice little cabin that’s a HOUSE. Out back there. He goes in through the old barn to the parent’s house. That barn he uses for his antiques. I’m always in there. Never been in Zip’s bungalow. I always go to the front door of the parents house and they let me in to walk through into the barn. Except in summer when I pull around back of the house to the side door of the barn. Zip opens that door in the summer and has his antiques sign out by the road. He sells to the ones who stop. They go in the side door with their wallet and come back out with no more money and a pile of junk Zip just sold ‘em. ‘WORKS OUT FINE DON’T IT’ Zip always says to ‘em.
Everyone is looking to buy the old fly fishing equipments so Zipper figures he’s gonna be special on that. ‘Cept that... well... it isn’t that easy to get anymore. BUY IT mostly and Zip don’t like having to do that so most of it he misses out. Oh he got plenty of the old crud; the old Sears and rob junk. Nothing FINE any more. Zip: He get beat out on that at the sales and auctions. So he’s just got the old crud he puts outside the barn in the summer trade. I don’t say anything about this to ‘im. I know it’s a sore spot.
Most of what he gets I don’t want and he tries powerfully hard to make me want it he says. Most of the time we fall back to just chat and looking over a prospect if some summer people stop going through. Zip works them hard if he thinks they’ll show color (old gold digger’s panning expression).
I seen him sell “The POPE’S Hat” to a couple from LONG ISLAND. Some fraternal thing he called the POPE’S HAT. They didn’t know nothing. I think. Maybe they did. Anyway: They bought it. That’s the kind of stuff he sells there mostly.
Zip can go a pretty long time without having to find (“buy”) anything. He got plenty around he’s dragged home. Always something around like a canoe chair he wants too much for. And stuff like that. Some of it been there TWENTY YEARS I swear. He don’t move on his price. Funny thing is he actually remembers all their prices. He’s got one of them Langley’s Root and Herb Bitters bottles; just the aqua common one. NO PONTIL. He want twenty-five. It’s only worth TEN. But he’s had that in there twenty-five years. For twenty-five dollars. Every summer they ask it (the price) over and over. “STILL GOT IT” some of ‘em say. The reason he does that is he likes it; that Langley’s. HEAVEN FORBID he finds a GOOD (old) BOTTLE.
One time he had a Warner’s (Safe Cure) box with three bottle still in it FULL. Kept ‘em out in the barn they never froze I wonder why. RIGHT? Anyway. He sold ‘em. The BOX with the bottles still in it. Summer guy went back and forth for an HOUR and then give Zip the hundred fifty. After he left Zip celebrated. Went through the house out to the soda machine and took off a Moxie. Locked it (the soda machine for the motel) back up and walked around the side of the house to the barn’s antiques door. He sat down and opened it. He SAT in that chair; that old PRIVATE SCHOOL arm chair, sipping it for TWO HOURS. JESUS you think he’d OFFER me one. I said so. He just laughed. I’ve never sat in that chair of his either.
You ever been in a house with him? Jesus. He stands his ground with a DOLLAR. And that WORKS TOO. Tight. Jesus. You get all the way in there way to a back shed or something and he gets a dollar out on some old buckets or such. Then he says the dollar for all the buckets. Then the old fella says okay real slow the way they do. Then Zip; he’ll say “WELL I don’t know IF I SHOULD for THAT dollar. Just like that he say that. Then that old fella... why he’s STUMBLE BLOCKED. So then Zip says “I’ll tell you what put in them two (old wooden) BOXES and I’ll CALL IT a TRADE. Course the old fella DOES.
That’s how he gets all the crud he’s got. It’s a slow and steady process. I asked him about a pair of chairs he’s got in there (the antiques shop barn). I asked in nineteen seventy-seven I swear. He says he can’t sell ‘em. “FOLKS” he says “HAVE TWO MORE MATCHING”. Won’t sell ‘em he says. Don’t even know what they are ‘cept that they’s IN THE HOUSE. His he got in the barn. He says he’s just waiting. Been forty years. Damn fool.
He found a Civil War belt buckle in there. (Ellen Porter’s house? Never been clear to me). He put it out in the barn. SIX YEARS they (Civil War collectors) all come by and told him it was a “fake”. Six years of that. One day one of ‘em brings a summer sport along and they talked that buckle over for an hour. Then Zip tells him fifty bucks and that it’s a fake. That fella look back and forth then paid out the fifty. Zip folded the money into his pocket. “That buckle ain’t FAKE.” the fella said. Jesus if you think Zip forgot THAT. Only ‘better one’ I ever seen get him.
Zippy’s a funny man get’en to be a funny old man now. Seems to be. He don’t know any art. He knows an old thing; that something is old. But he don’t know its ART. I told him once. Now probably thirty years ago. I come on to an early tall clock up in the attic of the Schooner Winthrop House. The case was lying down under the eves. The bonnet was off and pushed in-under too. The movement was in a box. Must have been put up there after the Civil War. All the Winthrop boys were killed in that war. Union boys. Whole family went to Hell after that. No one had been in that attic for a whole century. So Zip’s up there with me. He sees the old clock and starts his engine. “Shut-up” I tell him.
So the cleanout goes along a couple of days and I take that clock out early the third morning. I take it right out to the truck and take it right home. It said “Dover” on the dial. That’s Dover New Hampshire not Dover England. Zip is going along with me on all of this. So he starts his mouth engine up once we’re on the road to my place.
“Campbell’s” he tells me “got a clock just like this right inside their (antiques) store door. Come face to face with it every time I go in. Want seven hundred dollars for it.” That was it right there for Zip. My tall clock was just the same as Campbell’s and worth seven hundred dollars.
I poked that a little as we drove. Did he see the movement? You mean the works in the box? Yes. No he figured they were all there fine. Did he see me take off and save the finials on the bonnet. He seen me take off the ‘decorations’. Did he see me make him take the top end of the case so I wouldn’t have to worry about him chipping the feet on the base. No he didn’t notice that except that I took “the heavy end”.
I told him it’s a tall clock, not a grandfather’s clock and the ‘works’ is called a ‘movement’ and is regarded as sculpture; three dimensional art. He wanted to know if ‘it will work’ (go tick-tock): “CAMPBELL’S DOES. HAD A CLOCK MAN FIX IT”. I give up. I said the case and bonnet are sculpture too. “BIG LONG BOX AIN’T IT” he says. I give up. Thirty years ago right then. Never ever made another try at Zip about art. Just no point. I hid that clock in my barn for a decade. Money in the bank you know. Zip forgot about it after he told me along that Campbell “SOLD HIS GRANDFATHER”.
Campbell’s old tall clock was import: Welsh. Used to import boat loads of ‘em. They are all the same; cheap junk that people think-look-rich... so that they appear think-look-rich but didn’t have to spend much ($300-$400). These days those folk have found out the truth and now they won’t even buy ‘em. I’ve never owned one.
Ellen Potter has a tall clock too and you bet Zip been ogling that for thirty years. It a “Hoadley”; a cheap Connecticut wooden movement that peddlers sold from their wagons. The family would go in town and have the case locally made. Many times a coffin maker would make a case. Usually they are plain with a dark brown stain finish. Some cases are paint decorated fancy and I pay attention to those. I did glimpse the Potter tall clock when I went to that Ephraim Howe Honor home tour... twenty years ago. A glimpse is all I needed. They had to screw those clocks to the wall to make ‘em level so they would work (go tick-tock). That’s a warning sign right there as to their quality. Zip, of course, thinks it’s worth seven hundred dollars. You can see how it is easier just to give up and shut up when it comes to explaining art to Zip. “ANTIQUES” as he calls them is another matter.