Friday, November 16, 2007

Ledbetter's Junkyard

I'd like to think that, as a kid, you had some wonderful place to play. I had several. I played in the crick out back. I climbed the hills and wandered the cornfields. I met people in the trailer park down the road. I hung around the bridge that crossed the crick at the end of our property and that was a popular meeting place, as well as a grand starting point for our hi jinx. We were country kids and we had to make our own fun. A lot of it involved crayfish hunting, swimming, fishing, eating unripe field corn, and whatnot, but a lot of it revolved around the local junkyard.

This was a young man's dream. Fill several hillsides with abandoned cars and trucks and let them run amok. We were always raiding it for it's treasures, forgotten tapes, cigarettes, speakers and radios, furniture, clothing, knives, stickers, jewelry, and mementos. You know, the kind of stuff that would only be worth something to a kid. I found several pairs of womens underwear, and while I found this to be very educational, I didn't keep any. I did have a large collection of antennas though.

I had a pack of buddies that I ran with. They all lived a stone's throw away from me, and we got together on a regular basis, just to entertain ourselves, and spread our brand of chaos just a little bit farther than one kid could do on his own. It was a good time.
Most of the time, Mr. Ledbetter didn't know we were there. That was part of the fun. It made it more interesting. Mr. Ledbetter also owned a dog, and that made it very interesting. Every story you have ever heard about the attitude and general demeanor of a junkyard dog is absolutely true. This bitch would have eaten it's own mother if it saw her trying to sneak out with a 1976 Chevy Impala rear view mirror. But then again, I don't know why she would. She drove a Ford.

But I digress. A trip to Ledbetter's was always a learning experience. You can learn a lot about a person just by going through their car. (Hell, just ask a cop.) We found diary's, a receipt for a headstone, live ammo, a calender from where they spent their vacation, homework they had flunked, love letters, condoms still in the package, dirty magazines, some kid's retainer, shopping lists, a reminder to call their bail bondsman, money, family photos, blood, a hat that said "I'm with Stupid", albums, traffic tickets, concert tickets, jewelry that we gave to our girlfriends without ever telling them where we had gotten it, books, value-meal toys, and underwear. Lots and lots of underwear. It was unusual to find a vehicle that did not contain some article of undergarment. Why people always left their underwear in a car they were going to junk, I'll never know. I guess they just couldn't think of a better way to dispose of it. Some underwear it was obvious why it had been left. The person peeled it off right after the auto accident that had convinced them that it was time to junk the car.

Now there are certain rules one needs to abide by when engaging in the act of junkyard rummaging. First, break off an antenna. This will be your "poking" stick. You use it to move things out of the way that you don't want to touch, and trust me, there will be a lot you don't want to touch. It is light, flexible, and strong and it is very useful in fending off the dog while you are climbing the fence with your new found treasures. Second, don't go by yourself. You need someone to act as lookout while you rummage. If you go it alone, every twig snap and creak of a rusty hinge will scare the crap out of you because you will be convinced it is Mr. Ledbetter out to get you, or even worse, Mr. Ledbetter's dog.
You must be careful who you choose for your accomplice. You want someone with keen hearing and eyesight, reasonably strong to help with stuck hoods and trunks, won't squeal on you if caught, and should something go wrong, cannot run as fast as you, so the dog has something to entertain her while you shoot over the fence. You will want to take a bag of some kind, preferably a backpack that is waterproof and you don't mind getting dirty. It is easier to run with a backpack, and it is a comfort to know that the oil from the parts you swiped isn't going to be running down your back, leaving you with an embarrassing and hard to explain stain. Third, wear dark or camouflaged clothing. You are trying to be sneaky, but no amount of sneaky can conceal a bright orange T-shirt among twelve acres of rust. Four, wear boots that you can run in. This place is carpeted with broken glass and sharp rusty metal. Five, don't eat any food you find. If a half-crazed junkyard rat won't eat it, it is safe to assume that it isn't going to do you any good either. Six, always check the ashtray, under the front seat, the glovebox, and trunk. The best stuff is always there. Seven, don't ever, under any circumstances, tell them I sent you.

Good luck, and keep an eye out for the dog.

P.S.- Don't miss out on the caption contest. See below.


  1. Wow, this is all very Fat Albert. Hey-buh man-buh....(my lame attempt at a Mushmouth impersonation.)

  2. This is just a wonderful piece of advice, or a great post on a slice of Americana.

    I can't decide which.

  3. Oh yeah, and about choosing the right friend, we hill folk have the same piece of advice. You don't have to outrun the cougar or bear, just your friend!

  4. Sd- There is a reason why we counrty people still say "Devil take the hindmost".


  5. gee, and all *I* did was rummage about in the woods. But I did find some interesting car parts treasures out there. Mostly I went to th' woods to live deliberately.

  6. This reminds me a lot of my childhood, Doc. Beautiful post.

  7. We didn't have a junk yard. That would've been so damned cool... (We did live near a large dump until 5th grade, which was sort of similarly interesting, but way less cool than a real junk yard.)


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