Friday, March 30, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 5

Epilogue Blood Farm 5

            “Alice DID think about her THINGS.” I said.  “She seemed, to me, to know them all very well.  Not a technical expert in anyway BUT she dead-on knew HER things and LIVED those things too.  She lived just as the family always had.  She had been raised to live that way.”
            The woman looked me in the eye.  It was a meaningless look.  She either didn’t understand or didn’t embrace what I had said.  She still held the pitcher with both hands.  I reached into the yellow ware lots and picked up the small cup.  From that I plucked the small broken sliver, rolled it between my thumb and index finger and presented it for viewing before the woman.  She looked down upon it.
            “This is a tiny fragment from a blue seaweed mocha yellow ware object that was just like these whole ones.  Probably from a mustard, salt or pepper pot.  Alice found this.  Probably she found it digging in her garden or along the house foundation by the doors.  At the least, she found it in her travels in the neighborhood; by the side door of a neighbor’s house for example.  Spotted on the ground just after she’d knock on the door.  She knew what it was and picked it up.  When she was back in her kitchen she washed it, inspected it and put it in the cup for safe keeping.  The biggest miracle is it making it all the way to the auction today without getting lost.” I said and then paused to look at the woman’s face.  It was still a meaningless look but it WAS focused on the tiny china fragment.
            She looked up a me.
            “TO ME.” I said straight to her face.  “This is a MESSAGE from ALICE about this yellow ware and how SHE felt about it AND understood it.  She LOVED it all as objects AND LOVED IT ALL as FAMILY.  Her finding and preserving THIS fragment”, I continued “proves HER commitment AND understanding of Blood Farm and all of her things.  She was her own curator of her own museum that was created by all seven to eleven generations of her family.  And, apparently, YOUR family TOO.  She, here, sends you a message about HER feelings about all this yellow ware.  And it’s a DAMN GOOD MESSAGE TOO.”
            The woman set down the pitcher with the other seaweed yellow ware, took the fragment sliver from my finger tips into hers, carefully scrutinized it, looked up at me and said “How do you know all this?”
            I paused and then said “It’s my job.”
            She looked at the sliver again and then …put it back in the small cup that I was still holding.  I couldn’t tell ANYTHING; if she got ANY of this or did not get …anything I had said … at all.  As ten seconds ticked silently and very slowly off I …did not see her follow-up expression for I was struck by two notions.  First I realized the auction preview must nearly be over.  Second, from across the hall I could see the fire chief staring at the woman and I… in a very fire chief knowing manor.  At the end of ten seconds, as I stared at the fire chief, the woman said “What else are you going to buy?”.
            “Buy?” I heard myself say as I looked back at the woman’s face while also noticing her sister staring at me behind her. “Oh, well… I WAS going to bid on the desk but that looks like it will sell too high for ME.” I said as a declaration.
            “OH WE are going to BUY THAT TOO.” she said right back.
            “You are?  Well.  Fine.  Good.  You should be OK but it will sell for a lot” I said regrouping internally to the extent that I, while speaking, realized the trio of dealers inspecting the desk earlier WOULD “keep bidding” once the seven started their bidding.  AND realizing… that I was already “out” of all this.  “You should do very well today as long as you buy the things you like.  There are some very nice things here today but I am not expecting to buy anything.”
            “Not buy ANYTHING” she said.
            “Nothing today”.
            “We will not be able to buy everything we want TODAY because the auctioneer  is planning a second sale this summer.  THAT’S when he is selling the GRANDFATHER clock”.
            “Second sale?” I said.  “With the clock?”.  I FORGOTTEN about the clock.  The auctioneer hadn’t.  “Summer sale?” I said to myself.  THESE PEOPLE HADN’T FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE CLOCK.  And probably caught the auctioneer off guard when they …spoke to him about it.  I started flashing old and vague mind views of Alice’s collection tour in my head while realizing… painfully… that it is REALLY HARD to remember what was in an estate when you no longer HAVE the objects TO LOOK AT.  “MY GOD” I said internally “the auctioneer successfully played musical chairs with the contents of Blood Farm and now it is scattered and VANISHING.  “Do you know what happened to Alice’s papers in the desk?” I said.
            The woman paused, looked in my eyes and then said.  “Yes.  WE ASKED about those.  He says that the lawyer is giving the family papers to the historical society.  “Did you know that?”
            “No.  But I knew Alice had the desk full of her family paper collection.  Today that desk is empty and there are no papers in sight”.
            “No.  The desk is empty with no papers insight.” She repeated.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 4

Epilogue Blood Farm 4

            Stepping away from the fire chief as his large form stretched upward to overview the auction hall I said “I’m going to go LOOK some more”.  I did.  With purpose.  I went to the front of the seating, in front of the seven and began inspecting the group of better yellow ware pottery soon to be sold.  Alice had a kitchen full of old yellow ware but most of it was heavy mold cast post Civil War utility wares; bowls, large bowls, mixing bowls, deep plates, etc. including two matching covered “BUTTER” tubs.  Separated from these by the auctioneer were six better lots.  These collector gems were displayed front and center.  I reached out and picked up the obvious best one; a medium size blue seaweed decorated table pitcher of fine make, bold decoration and… perfect condition.  It was the logical “best piece”.  I kept my body turned slightly toward the seven and …kept a nonchalant eye on them.  As I lifted the pitcher two of the women, sitting next to each other and clearly sisters, each made minor involuntary twitches and converted to “watch my every move” facial expressions.  I slowly looked the pitcher over completely and set it down.  I lifted a similar blue seaweed mocha yellow ware lidded mustard pot, repeated the inspection formula and set that back.  Then I lifted a equal seaweed mocha SMALL handled cup.  Again inspecting that I discovered, loose in its bottom, a small broken pottery sliver of another …blued seaweed mocha... item, of equal quality to the whole offerings I was reviewing.  I rolled that around in my fingers, put it back inside the cup and set that down.  Then I picked up the original pitcher again.  All the while, as if I was fly fish casting, I kept my nonchalant eye watching the surface of the water (the seven).  As I picked up the pitcher for the second time, one of the sisters got up and …struck.  Stepping to me as I held the pitcher she directly (and inappropriately by auction hall etiquette) said “Are you going to buy that?”.
            I looked up and said “Maybe.  Why?”
            “OH… well, I just see you handling it and we like it very much”
            “It is very nice and is the best of the lot.  Perfect too.” I said endeavoring to slowly reel in my cast with pleasant verbiage.  “At first these seemed too good to be from the estate.  I thought they might be additions.  I didn’t remember specifically SEEING them IN the estate.  But that was so long ago.”
            “You saw the estate?”
            “Yes, years ago.  Alice Blood, the owner, walked me through”.
            “You?  Aren’t you’re a dealer.  She never sold anything.  Never ever.
            “Oh yes.  I didn’t buy anything or even bother to try.  I believe that was why she toured me through the farm.  She knew I understood that.” 
            The woman looked at me with a perplexed expression and said again “Are you going to buy that?”
            “Are you?”
            “Well… YES.”
            “Then I won’t” I said.  And waited.
            After a pause she said “Oh!” and looked down at the pitcher.  I handed it to her.  She took it and held it before her with both hands. “How much do you think it’s worth?” she continued
            “You mean how much will you have to pay here today?”
            “Well yes.  I guess that’s it”.
            “It is it.  As high as sixteen hundred but maybe a low of eight hundred”
            “Sixteen?” she said looking over her right shoulder at one of the men.
            “It’s the best piece, it’s perfect and it’s great.  There’s only one more thing that I know about it”.
            “About it?”
            “Yes.  When I first saw it here, it seemed… because it is so good; so fine a specimen… and is English; made in England… you know; 1850-1860… that it might NOT be from the estate.  But now, after thinking, I know that this pitcher really, really was Alice’s great, great grandmother’s. 
            “Really? Know that?”
            “Yes.  It is probable as to how it got to the farm.  The family were coastal sea captain trading merchants… that moved inland around 1800.  They were still doing business and traveling to the coast on business through the Civil War at least.  They retained their merchant status and contacts.  For the family… or just a family member… to be on the coast and have access to the most recent merchant finery of coastal trading is probable.  This pitcher would have been acquired on the wharf then and brought back to the farm.  The same for these others.  The other yellow ware over there; the bowls and all  are of greatly inferior quality and were probably acquired from peddler’s wagons right in the farm yard.  The family knew the difference.  ALICE knew the difference.  This pitcher was always protected and treasured by the family.  That history, to me, enhances it for THEY cared about it through the family generations just as much as WE DO standing here now.”
            “I am a descendent of the family.  I am a Blood.  So are my sisters.” the woman said gesturing toward those behind her.  That’s WHY we are here.  We are going to buy our family’s things. 
            “Buy your things?”
            “YES.  They should have been ours; ALL of it, by inheritance.  But there’s been a dispute of ownership of the farm and we have lost the inheritance.  We lost the farm and we even lost all of the things too.  Alice SOLD all of it DECADES ago.”
            “Decades ago?”
            “YES.  To some rich woman up there who NOW IS DEAD but STILL OWNS IT”.
            “Did Alice know this?”
            “NO!  Well I mean YES.  Sort of.  I don’t think she knew it was THIS” the woman said gesturing to the whole auction hall with her hand.  “Actually I don’t think she ever thought about it at all”.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 3

Epilogue Blood Farm 3

            “Those people are the AIRS” the fire chief said while looking at them and then turning his face back upon my face.
            “Heirs?” I said.  “To Blood Farm?”
            “WELL… they SAID they was.  And STILL say so.  But they ain’t.  That lawyer showed ‘em”
            “Margaret’s lawyer?”
            “Yep.  They come around pretty much right after you’d cleaned out Margaret’s house and the lawyer was selling it.  Come to Alice and said Blood Farm was THEIRS.  Just after Margaret give it to Alice.  You know:  TRUSTED IT she called it.”  The fire chief looked back over his shoulder at the seven.  They were paying no attention to us.  He turned back and continued.  “That lawyer… Alice got him to come right away.  Well… it was actually ME who called him.  Alice was VERY upset.  Anyway.  That lawyer showed them and they don’t like it”.
            “Showed them the trust?” I said
            “Well.  MORE than that I guess.  Seems… by THEIR figure it was theirs by AIR.  But that lawyer shows them how Alice and Eb-bEE had SOLD the farm to Margaret’s mother.  So SHE owned it.  AND STILL DID.  And had TRUSTED it to them.  And it was still Margaret’s till SHE DIED.  And it was STILL the mother’s after that.  And that lawyer is still trusted by the mother’s AIR.  IN FACT:  seems to me… HE may well BE the AIR because he does all the TRUSTING.  That trusting makes him in charge of EVERYTHING.  Those airs don’t like that and tried to SUE him.  He said to me ‘let’em SUE AWAY’ and laughed.  And he’s been right I guess.  He cleaned out Blood Farm and SOLD IT.  He’s selling the clean out RIGHT HERE TODAY.  Except I not seeing as much here as I saw there was at the farm.  I’m not seeing the things I was interested in.  Really:  There’s quite a lot by my reckon that’s NOT here.  Why are YOU HERE?”
            “I read the sale and thought it was.” I said.
            “Blood Farm”.
            “You read that?  I didn’t see that.  The lawyer’s office told ME.  And I had to keep calling them up.  And the people who bought it too:  They’s suppose to be here TOO.  But I don’t see THEM EITHER.  I called them after I talked to the lawyer’s office.  I was at the house when this auctioneer cleaned it out.  HE TOOK AS LONG AS YOU DID at Margaret’s.”  He stopped talking and was staring down on my face but not AT me.  I said nothing.  Then I said:
            “What happened to Alice?”
            “SHE DIED.  Don’t you know THAT?”
            “No.  How would I know that.  I haven’t been up there since I was at Margaret’s”
            “So how do you know about ALICE?”
            “Margaret took me there”.
            “Took you there?”
            “After her mother died.  Her mother stored things there.  At the farm.  In the attic”.
            “There?  I never heard THAT.  But that was a WHILE AGO right?”
            “Oh yes.  Right after she died”.
            “WELL WE WATCHED OUT for them; me and my fire boys.  Check up on them.”
            “So what happened?”
            “After Alice died?  That lawyer came right up after I called him”.
            “But how did she die?  What happened to the captain?”
            “HE DIED.  You don’t know that?  HE DIED FIRST”.
            “The captain died.”
            “Fell down and froze to death right in the YARD”
            “FROZE to DEATH?” I said.
            “Jamie found him in the morning.  Drove in the yard to check them after the snow and there he was dead face down IN the snow.  On his way to the barn we guess.  Alice didn’t know he went OUT.  Thought he was in bed asleep.  Went out to PISS probably.  Fell down froze to death.  Froze solid overnight.  Just solid they said.  I didn’t see him.”
            I stood looking into the fire chief’s eyes while the auction hall hummed around us.  “And Alice died too?” I said.
            “NOT right away.  LAST FALL.  First week in November.  NICE WEATHER that week.  The Indian Summer.  Jamie was checking her every day after Eb-bEE died.  Go in say hello you know.  She was fine.  Happy actually.  But alone there so we’d CHECK.  So I said to him how was Alice today.  He said fine but he didn’t see her.  I said didn’t see her how you know she was fine.  SHE ALWAYS COMES OUT THE DOOR.  Oh he says the door was open and the laundry was hung out.  Oh I said OK.  But then later like a little bird told me I said I better go see myself.  I did and the door was open and the laundry hung out.  Everything just a BEAUTIFUL day.  So I knock by the door and nothing so I called her.  Nothing.  So I stepped in and THERE SHE WAS.  DEAD in …THAT chair.” He said pointing at Alice’s mother’s 1880’s oak rocking chair about ten feet up the auction hall wall from us.
            I looked at the chair and said “Her MOTHER died in that chair.”
            “RIGHT.” said the fire chief.  “HOW do you know THAT?”
            “Alice told me.”
            “WELL SHE DIED IN IT TOO!  That’s where I found her; just sitting.  With her cigarette burned down in the saucer in her lap.  DIED THERE SMOKING.  She could have burned the whole place down doing that.”
            “But she was dead.”
            “Well, yeah… I guess.  But it’s a firetrap in there.  WAS a firetrap.  Not one any more.”
            “Alice smoked?” I said stupidly while endeavoring to mentally tally up the death stories.
            “JUST there in the chair.  HER MOTHER smoked a PIPE.  She DIED with her pipe lit.  ALICE didn’t like the pipe so always smoked a cigarette there.  Only once a day.  Sort a RITUAL.  Died doing THAT”.
            “Probably not so bad to die like that.  For her.”
            “DIE LIKE THAT?  Well.  I suppose.  Funny to me:  When I found her it didn’t SHAKE ME.  She seemed so happy just DEAD there.  Just like that; sitting in her house happy.  She LOVED THAT HOUSE and all her things”.  He turned looked over the auction hall.  “I wonder where all of it went?” he said and stood facing the hall next to me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 2

Epilogue 2

            In the morning, at the opening of the 8:00 AM preview, I was there.  WHY I was there was not clear to me for I had decided to NOT buy anything… including the desk with the hidden note in it… “unless it’s going really cheap”.  “It’s” was ANY good antique from Blood Farm going really cheap; not just the desk.  The desk I surveyed from across the hall.  No one was looking at it.  At first.
            THEN a consortium of three well known dealers surrounded the desk and had their way with it meaning… they took all the drawers out of it, shined flashlights all over the drawer spaces, lay the desk case on its back, shined flashlights all over the underside of the base, pointed here and there to each other, stood back, looked, talked and looked again.  They then put their noses right down into the interior writing surface and therein talked, looked, pointed and… sniffed.  They then stood the desk back up, put it back together, carefully pulled a couple of interior drawers out and… carefully put them back in and… finally… stood back from the desk as a threesome and talked out of the corner of their mouths to each other.  They did not find the hidden slip of paper.
            “THAT’S THAT!” I said to myself and kept watching to be absolutely sure …that one, two or ALL THREE were “gonna buy it”.  Once I assured myself I pronounced the “gonna sell for too much” meaning, in short… an undistinguished old, small, perfect and untouched Chippendale desk worth buying and leaving alone for …two thousand dollars… would sell for no less than twenty-five hundred, have a thousand dollars spent on …restoration (read: removing the old VICTORIAN surface and… “refinishing it”)… then be “offered” for five thousand, then… TRY TO SELL for forty-five hundred only to have that price plucked downward over a year or so back to a “end of season” thirty-five hundred “at cost” “SALE” price only to fall short again and… end up in a … “ANNUAL NEW YEARS DAY” back of the hall with its back against the wall… auctioned again… bringing …$1500. “to a local dealer” on the coast who finally sells it for two thousand dollars (“including sale tax”) to a couple who …put it in their “summer place” “right on the water”.  No one, including the person refinishing the interior… ever finds the hidden slip of paper until… the couple’s daughter says “HEY MOM DID YOU KNOW THERE’S AN OLD PAPER IN HERE?” while fussing with the center desk drawer one Maine coastal summer vacation morning …ten years from now.
            As I let go of ever owning the desk my vigilant “whose competition” gaze landed without effort upon a …group of seven (five women, two males) well dressed and shiny shoed … “retail” type “auction goers” turning from the center isle between the bidder’s chairs in the hall to seven “right in front” “reserved” chairs.  They all sat down.  Then some of the women got up and went back and forth from… the large groups of Alice’s kitchen china, ironstone, yellow ware and “old pottery”.  Oblivious to them but obvious to all others was that this “THEY” liked all “THAT”… and were gonna bid on it.  I was … “who are those people?” ,“not from Maine”, “from away”, “can pay for it” and … “don’t know what they’re doing”.
            THOSE mind statements led my now trace like gaze BACK to the center Isle between the chairs where it… snagged one.  THERE, half way down and moving forward WITH HIS GAZE leaving the party of seven and turning ON ME …inclusive of a small knowing smile as my gaze squished into HIS GAZE… came… the fire chief.  He kept coming right past the seated seven …who DID acknowledge him …and he them… so as to make it certain to me THEN that HE DID “know who they are”.  He came right over to me as I stood along the side wall, extended his hand and said “WHAT YOU DO’EN HERE?”
            “I was looking for you.” I said with direct eye contact.
            “LOOK’EN.  FOR ME?
            “ME?  WHY?”
            “So YOU could tell me what happened to Alice and WHO those people are.” I said pointing past him to the front row seven.  The fire chief followed my pointing finger and looked over his shoulder.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm

Epilogue: Blood Farm

            “IS GONE. Then.  Then it IS gone”.  At the end of chapter 2-6 I wrote that about Blood Farm.  That’s what happened.  Just like that whole last paragraph says.  Blood Farm, now, “IS GONE”.
            To reach that moment took a half decade past the clean out of the mother’s estate.  I never went to Blood Farm.  I only heard about “it”; the going, going and gone of Blood Farm AFTER the “it”.
            First came the auction.  I noted a listing for an auction from Mr. Lawyer’s auctioneer that read like …something is more to this… than what was a concise, good and old estate contents listing.  I’d watched auctioneer’s listings closely ever after the mother’s estate sale… with foolish hope of discovering an old tea table …or such plunder… listed.  That never happened and I made numerous auction preview visits that turned up nothing from that estate.  I had concluded that the mother’s estate was, in the end, a what I saw was what I got.
            Reading this new listing to myself set off a mental blinking red light for it was a true old estate and… where does one find those on the loose these days… and THAT gut message followed with another gut message saying “something is going on here get to that preview”.  I did.
            Right after entering the door I saw the highboy from Blood Farm.  It was easy to denote for the original brasses were just as I remembered them and so was the miss matched surface condition due to the prolonged separated storage of the two sections.  Alice’s desk was next.  There it was… empty.  When I saw it Alice guarded it and it was full of her gatherings of family history:  Jammed full of every iota of old paper Alice “found”.  Once the minute of panic, shock and fluster passed over me, I calmed myself down, told myself I was the only one who “KNEW” and “got to work” meaning I did an exhaustive examination of everything at the auction preview to… WHAT?
            Figure out a personal special “mine”?
            Figure out what had happened?
            Figure out something to buy and keep as a personal memento?
            Figure out… WHAT?
            Pleasingly the going through all the stuff quelled any inner questions and I, puppy dog like, went around the auction hall eagerly lapping and jumping up on…everything.  “Giddy” is the full grip word I use for my behavior.  In the end, THAT came up short for I discovered, by deductive logic, that A LOT of the estate was NOT THERE.  What happened to that?
            This preview was the “day before the auction” preview. The following morning there was another preview for two hours before the actual auction began.  I would go to that too AND attend the auction.  I had not concluded to “buy” “anything”.
            Before leaving the hall, I went back to Alice’s desk.  It was a classic and traditional New England Chippendale bracket base thirty-six inch wide slant front desk with a late Victorian thick, dark and dry varnished surface.  It retained the original key hole brass escutcheons but had wooden Empire style replacement drawer knobs.  It was estate found dusty, dirty and EMPTY.  It sat in a line of furniture against a side wall.  No one was looking at it.
            I opened the lid after extending one lid rest to support it.  It had a plain… but not plainest…  standard cubbyhole interior with small drawers flanking a square center drawer.  On a finer desk this center drawer is the one with a shell carved on it.  This draw had no carving on it.  I pulled out the drawer completely removing it from the desk.  I looked down into the empty drawer.  I turned the drawer up side down, looked at the bottom, looked at the rear, shock it and then… carefully pulled on the drawer’s bottom board that protruded ½ inch past the rear of the drawer.  It easily pulled out revealing a small hidden space within the draw bottom.  There was a slip of paper with writing on it in this secret space.  I took the paper slip out and read it.
            It was a very old 18th century rag paper slip, lightly age toned and with brown ink writing on it.  At the top was a small yet precise drawing of a schooner.  Below that was written:  “Captain Blood.  This is wrote with my own blood and if you do not scratch this out your old master will come after you”.  I read it.  I stared at it.  I turned the slip over.  I read it again.  I stared at it again.  I put it back in the hidden space.  I closed that.  I put the drawer back in the desk.  I closed the lid of the desk.  I pushed the desk slide back in.  I looked around the crowded preview room with its garish lighting.  I felt like I was in a cloud.  I wandered outside and left.  Before I drove off, another dealer spoke to me.  “OH I’LL BE BACK TOMORROW” I heard myself say.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-13


            The two week long clean out went well.  The lawyer never bothered us.  Although the fire chief was there every day he never did any work so as WE were working he had to stand around at a safe distance.  He did spend ever more time in areas we were NOT working, especially the barn and shed and… especially over by the old tool bench in that shed.  Loaded with old… but not valuable… “old tools”, the boy in him was fascinated and drawn hither.  I placed one of the team; a younger move and haul boy, at work in the shed with instructions to “keep an eye on him”.  By the end of the first week he ceased his poking around.  The whole of the second week we spent clearing the shed and barn area so he was well guarded.  Otherwise the only aggressive intrusion was two visits from the real estate people; the first a group of three and then a single woman who endeavored to be bossy about the progress.  That effort, evidently planned before her arrival was negated by the whole house being eighty-nine and one half percent… empty.  Making muttering about the “condition of the walls” when she returned from her “GO LOOK IT’S EMPTY” self guided walking tour of the whole house …which I don’t think she actually covered because she wasn’t gone that long… she suggested we were done and could leave but I said “No, no, no we will be working out here (shed and barn) for a week”.  Referring her to Mr. Lawyer for the time allotment details that took care of that.  I also sensed she’d been tipped off about the mice and bats for she never, ever left the center trail through the shed to the kitchen door, never went in the barn and preferred to go into the house by using the front door with it’s old key.  She had to leave the key for us to use too and… did not like that.
            Our process of clean out was simple and aggressive.  It followed our usual practice.  That is designed to get the job done and reduce outside interference.  We cleaned out the kitchen, dining room and living room first.  That was easy and created a “cleaned” showoff area that any visitor could be taken to and then …taken no where else.  WE; the whole team using all man power and six trucks, then cleaned out the whole upstairs of the ell; the five plus rooms packed with “rubbish”.  This area was “the worse in the estate” meaning that in addition to abundance, the removal of this abundance was difficult because of its location.  All of it had to be maneuvered out of the rooms, down the tiny hall, down the tiny back stairs, into the living room, through the dining room and kitchen, out through the shed and finally into the back of a poised truck.  As a truck filled it drove off to the warehouse on the coast, the next truck backed into place right away and… this repeated over and over for several days for the “down and back” drive to the coastal warehouse took three hours round trip.  Often times we will actually rent warehouse space locally to cut down the turn around time but here, due to the large size of the house, we could divert stalled labor to another region, in this case the front part of the house, when we were delayed.  All and all the clean out progressed precisely including having the fire chief express a “REALLY GETTING IT DONE” that I am sure he also reported to “Shelly”.
            At the end of the day… at the end of the first week; a Monday late afternoon, all of the house was cleared, including the cellar… but not… the attic.  That region had been held for last for extraction for it included descending the attic stairs, walking down the landing, then descending the front stairs and then out the FRONT door… into a truck.  Loading a truck from a front door of ANY old estate on the MAIN street… attracts attention from EVERYONE “passing by”.  It is as if we are putting on a show that says “come hither and bug us”.  Knowing this we prepare to do this AS FAST AS POSSIBLE …. AT “DAWN” (first thing on a preferably slightly rainy morning).  Planned for and done with a lot of men and trucks poised at the front door… it all goes smoothly.
            That late afternoon, with all the day’s trucks, loading, men and… my partner already gone, I did the routine end of day walk through to check off “progress” and to “set up” …in my mind… “the next day”.  Up, up, up I went to the attic.  Way up with the little attic window and the rubbish moraines I …reviewed.  Then I turned to the Crow’s Nest door.  I looked at the sign on the door and… took it off.  I tore the old paper from the nail, opened the door and stepped inside the room carrying the sign.  The room was exactly as we had left it during the inspection.  I looked around to mentally quickly configure an extraction attack plan.
            There wasn’t that much, including the books,  “Maybe twenty boxes” I figured.  Then “the furniture”.  Small, bone dry so very light “no problem”.  “The rug too”.  “The bed’s probably the worse; has to be taken apart and… the mattress goes too “yuck”.  Then I again noted the blank space where a bedside stand had been.  A lamp that had been on the stand was on the floor to the left pushed back to the bed.  There was some clutter there too on top of a small paper box.  “Must have been on (and in the drawer of) the stand” I noted.  All that would go.  I reached down and picked the paper box.  It was a 1930’s candy box with a color paper wrapper showing a wicker cart with an umbrella all bedecked in pink, light blue and light yellow ribbons.  It was slightly heavy and a contents slide to one side as I lifted it.  I opened the little box.
            Inside was a clutter of small shiny objects.  A few pennies, buttons, bottle caps mixed with a cheap sliver plated ladies watch, a silver thimble, a silver bead necklace, a silver cigar trimmer, a silver watch chain, a glass stopper, a slip of painted glass, several finger rings, washers and a round brass medal.  There was also a small silver case for a box of matches.  There was no match box in the case but the case bore the marks of being burned on one end.  I knew exactly what I was looking at.
            It was Simon’s plunder.  It was as the mother had described it to me decades ago.  Exactly.  It was Simon’s missing plunder.  It had been taken from Simon’ fence post plunder trove by Margaret.  Long, long ago when she was a little girl.  She probably took it innocently from lust not knowing how much her mother care for it.  Then she slowly found out as the mother would have mentioned the disappearance and the Simon story over the years.  Knowing SHE had the plunder hidden in her room, SHE kept it and said nothing.  Except to call her room… The Crow’s Nest.
            I put the lid back on the little box and took it and the door sign down the attic stairs then along the landing, down the front stairs and out the front door.  Simon’s plunder was… mine.
            Until I stepped out the front door.  There before me on the lawn, half way to the street and the big maple tree… was a crow.  The crow looked at me, turned and hopped a step away.  The crow stopped and looked back at me over its left shoulder.  I stopped.  I looked at the crow.  I paused.  “Simon?” I said.  The crow kept watching me over its left shoulder with one eye.  I held out the box.  “Simon” I said again and took the lid off of the box.  I tilted the box so the crow could see the contents.  The crow didn’t move, kept watching me with the eye, then turned toward me, cocked its head to the right and continued to watch me with its left eye.  I reached into the box, picked up the silver bead necklace and tossed it onto the grass halfway between the crow and I.  The crow didn’t move except to adjust its left eye to focus on the necklace.  “Simon” I said again and lightly tossed the whole contents of the box to where the necklace was.  The crow didn’t move; just stood looking at the plunder.  I walked over to my truck; down the driveway and away from the crow and the front door.  I kept my back to the crow, opened the passenger door of the truck, put the candy box and Crow’s Nest sign on the seat and… looked back a the crow.
            It was standing in the plunder with what looked like the lady’s watch hanging from it’s beak.  I turned to face the crow and the front door.  The crow flew off with the watch.  I went back to the front door eyeing the plunder on the lawn as I did this, went inside, locked the front door, went back through the house, out through the shed and closed the shed door.  As I locked this door I looked up the driveway to the front door and lawn.  The crow was back; standing where the plunder was.  It pecked downward, picked up a small item and …flew away.   I walked over to my truck, got in and… drove away.  The next morning I went to look at the plunder on the lawn.  It was gone.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-12


            Wait.  Again, the wait.  Nothing happened.  This is a usual occurrence.  So was the final short word exchange with Mr. Lawyer.  It’s always like that:  I utter “the number” and the principal decision maker of the estate responds with a “I’ll let you know” of some sort.  I am suppose to squirm?  Actually I learned very early in my long career that lawyer speak uses very, very few words.  In this case, for example, we’d just spent several hours plus with this guy and his girls in a giant haunted dark dirty bat filled house and… all he has to say at the end is an “I’ll get back to you”?
            GOOD FOR HIM.  I …learned to ALSO give out very few words AND LEAVE.  I mean:  IT’S THEIR PROBLEM and “don’t forget to close the barn door” too.  This reversal of short words deployment works wonders.  Mr. Lawyer has NOTHING from me except a verbal “the number” AND I’m GONE.  MY silence is MY final offer.  Additionally from Mr. Lawyer’s vantage this is all low priority.  HE already “has the estate”; the money, the bank accounts, the real estate, the trusts, the auction and even the “what happened to THAT?” mother’s car.  NO NEED FOR HIM to get excited about all that mouse filled junk especially when he just got some moron to offer… quite a bit of money from his vantage… to clean the place out.  Yep:  He’ll get to it.
            He did.  After over three weeks had past he, before contacting me, further contacted his real estate connection to firm up the “put the property on the market” directives of estate closure.  From that followed a telephone call to me regarding MY OFFER and CLEAN OUT clause.  NOT MENTIONING my offer and quizzing me lightly on clean out he endeavored to suggest I needed two days for a clean out.  “Ha, ha” I said and stood firm on my two weeks.  He rebutted a whole real estate for sale now show the house so must be cleaned out now saga.  I rebutted “that’s not my problem”.  Another week plus went by.  He telephoned again with a… “we are ready to start the clean out of the estate” …communication.
            “Does that mean your accepting my offer, I’m buying the estate contents and will have two full unrestricted access weeks to …get it out?”
            “Good” I said using shortest word exchange speak and knowing it would not be “good”.  There was a silent pause then:
            “When can you start?
            “Tuesday”.  Today was Monday.
            “Tomorrow?” he said.
            “Yes.  At 8:30 in the morning would be best for me”.
            “OK… fine …I’ll have someone at the house.”
            “Thank you very much.  I’ll see you tomorrow morning at eight-thirty”.
            I never saw OR spoke with Mr. Lawyer again.
            We did arrive five minutes early with three empty pickup trucks and, including myself, six men.  With our lunch boxes.  We waited in the yard for ten minutes.  Then the mother’s car pulled into the driveway and parked up by the shed door.  It was not the mother’s car as I remembered it.  The old “low mileage an old lady drove it” classic had been fully “shined up” so that it glowed with the aura of “antique car” including a shiny new license plate that said “ANTIQUE AUTO” at its bottom.  The not a finger print on its glow and a lovingly purring engine… stopped, turned off and… the fire chief got out.  We were all looking at the car.  None of my crew knew anything about the mother’s car.  I didn’t know anything about the fire chief except the old Blood’s Farm mentions.  HE didn’t know who I was or that I knew about THAT car.  I assured myself to myself that I WAS GOING TO SAY NOTHING.  That always works best if I want to find out EVERYTHING.
            It did.  Mr. Fire Chief; sometimes called “Brady”, “Rick”, “Buzzy” and “Mr. Richards” over the next two weeks including me managing to NEVER call him by ANY name… was… in charge.  HE held the KEY to the shed door and the estate.  HE promptly unlocked that and gave me the key asking me not to loose it.  He made brief small talk about “the mess in the house” being a “fire trap” and us “cleaning it out” “did we need help I can get some boys from the fire department” “how you gonna do it” “Oh OK LOOKS GOOD I’LL BE CHECKING (every single morning at 8:30 like clock work so we moved our start to eight and he never noticed because he was always at least five minutes late) “where you gonna start first” “Kitchen?” “I always LIKED Mrs. Ardsley’s KITCHEN” “I ALWAYS LIKED MARGARET” “I’VE KNOWN THE FAMILY ALL MY LIFE” “DID YOU FIND ANY VALUABLE ANTIQUES LEFT IN THERE YOU KNOW THEY HAD AN AUCTION OF THOSE I WAS HERE AND HELPED THEM PICK OUT THE ANTIQUES THE HOUSE WAS FULL OF THEM THERE SURE IS A LOT OF JUNK LEFT HUH”.
            I figured out what happened to the car.  Later on I actually was told the estate “sold it to him for a dollar” in exchange for his ongoing… gonna bug me for two whole weeks… “help”.  I never got rid of the guy, room by room, floor by floor, ITEM BY ITEM “huh that’s pretty good isn’t it I didn’t see THAT” including his …I deduced quickly… daily reporting back to Mr. Lawyer’s OFFICE of our progress.  He kept talking about talking to “Shelly” that at first I thought was the real estate broker but I then felt out to be one of the two women from the inspection.  He never spoke to Mr. Lawyer.  Just this “Shelly”.  I figured that out too. YEP:  HE stayed on top of ME and SO DID MR. LAWYER.  I was not phased.  He usually would hang around most of the mornings and then disappear… just before lunch.  “YOU EVEN WORK WEEKENDS HUH” he said the FIRST Sunday morning.  On the second Sunday morning I had to remind him “WE STILL HAVE TOMORROW” (meaning Monday) because we “STARTED ON TUESDAY REMEMBER WE HAVE TWO FULL WEEKS UNRESTRICTED ACCESS”.  Evidently Monday morning Shelly told him that was true but he sulked around all day Monday and “want the key back Tuesday morning”.
            “You can have it at 4:30 this afternoon” I said.  I actually gave it to him at ten of four …and left.  We’d closed and locked the barn door AND every other door except the …shed door.  That was HIS problem.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-11


            Walking through the kitchen and out into what was once the summer kitchen and shed but now was a large open shed space… full of rubbish placed upon rubbish… I did not stop.  I did turn my head side to side as I lead the group across the space to the bottom of the shed chamber stairs.  Stopping, turning to face the group and then making more pencil marks upon my paper slip, I kept my eyes looking past the people and on the rubbish.  The others stopped before me and did the same.  Sort of.
            It did not matter for I went up the chamber stairs right away.  Once up there I walked to the far front corner by an ankle level window.  I heard my partner come up the stairs.  I did not turn to him but instead bent to inspect the rubbish mound before me.  I then heard Mr. Lawyer and team start up the stairs.  They stopped on the stairs when they could view the whole chamber.  “What are you looking at?” I heard one of the women say.
            “Bats” my partner replied.  I turned just in time to see the women turn and descend the stairs.  One of the women had her hand on the top of her head.  “I hate bats” said my partner to Mr. Lawyer.  He was still shining his flashlight up into a corner of the rafters and scrutinizing the lighted spot.  Mr. Lawyer looked at him, looked toward me, then turned and went down the stairs.  My partner looked at me.  I looked at him.  The exchanged looks were understood to mean “we are done”.
            “Breeze through” best explains the next few brief moments of the rest of the walk through inspection.  The barn was the biggest building …full of rubbish… of the whole estate.  The law team opened the front barn door and stood there in the daylight.  All this showed me was that the mother’s car was no longer parked where it had always been parked.  I said nothing about that.  My partner and I walked through the barn; all three floors… promptly.  We took just enough time to be sure “we did it” but sped along to be sure to NOT let the law team just stand there.  Down we came and back to the kitchen I lead them.  They followed leaving the barn door open.  In the kitchen I went directly to the kitchen table, took the paper slip from my pocket, started studying it then started tallying the marks.  My partner stood off by the kitchen door.  The law team studied ME.  I paused, looked up at them and said “OH.  Better check the CELLAR”.
            I went to the cellar door, opened it, descended the stairs, stood at the bottom for a full minute surveying more rubbish and two old rat traps.  I counted to ten and went back up.  The law team had not moved.  They stood watching me.  Both women held their blank legal paper pads before them.  I returned to studying and marking my little paper card.
            THIS LITTLE CARD… with all the tiny pencil marks… now told ME how much dollar value I… I… “have seen” in this estate.  Each tiny mark spoke a dollar value; $25., $50., $100, or … $500. or even $1000.  Very carefully marked in fact, these “little dots” told ME a full dollar value of “what I saw in there”.  Once I totaled them up that is.  I did this.  The resulting number IS NOT how valuable the estate is OR how much I will pay.  The value of the estate, by contents, is much higher than my dots show for I factor in the “cost of doing business”:  Trucks, truck loads, men, men hours, content extraction time, time-time-time plus extra time, access time, delay time, screw ups, theft, breakage, people bothering you, neighbors bothering you AND paid out cash bonuses… and more… including “lunch” (actually in this estate… LUNCHES for TWO WEEKS). 
            “What I will pay” is based on… a very little bit… the tally number minus the cost of doing business.  THIS NUMBER is applied to… what I… I… THINK… sort of… “what Mr. Owner” “WILL SELL FOR”.  THIS NUMBER is divined by ME using everything I know about the estate IN PROCESS and… HOW a given owner is acting, has been acting AND is gonna act when I give them “a number” (purchase offer).  SOMETIMES, please understand, that means “I will not pay enough I do not want this estate Thank you Goodbye”.  I say this and… go to lunch.
            In this estate… the nonchalant boredom of Mr. Lawyer, the bats in the hair “OH MY GOD I HATE THIS” of the women combined this their “full of trash” “PROBLEM FOR ME” “just awful in there who would do this (clean it out) core position that moved to THE WORDS … fire trap… was dexterously applied to my “MR. LAWYER HAS ALREADY HAD A PROFESSIONAL AUCTIONEER IN HERE; A PERSONAL FRIEND WHO NOT ONLY ADVISED HIM BUT TOOK OUT “the good stuff” AND SOLD IT at public auction soooo….:  This stuff is “junk” and “a problem” and Mr. Lawyer doesn’t even expect ANY “free money” from this AND… I AM HIS ONLY game in town AND… he wants to LEAVE NOW and EAT LUNCH.
            Next I figured in the I had all ready figured this out  “Just how much DID Mr. Lawyer get for all that “good stuff” at auction after “the cost of doing THAT business” was …paid down.  Figuring an “eighty-five hundred if lucky” “the auctioneer screwed him” base amount that … “I guess”… PASTED MUSTER with Mr. Lawyer I… KNEW that what number I needed to “buy this” had to just touch… an “enough”… below the auction figure to be a “pay THAT for THAT junk AND clean it out” BUT ALSO enough so…WE GET THE ESTATE CONTENTS… IN FACT.
            Looking up from the table directly at Mr. Lawyer I said “SIXTY-FIVE HUNDRED; SIX THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS AND TWO WEEKS UNRESTRICED ACCESS TO CLEAN IT OUT”.  Mr. Lawyer said nothing.  Then he looked at one of the women.  She wrote something, presumably my offer, down on her legal pad.  I said nothing more.
            Mr. Lawyer then said to me directly “I’ll let you know”.
            I said “Very good.  Thank you very much.” and …walked out the kitchen door with my partner in front of me.  We got in the truck and drove away to… eat lunch.  It was twenty of twelve.  Mr. Lawyer and the women appeared at the shed doorway as we turned around.  They still had to …lock the place up.