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WILD File: Yard Sale Blues


We have decided to become minimalists. Now, the definition of minimalism will differ depending on how committed a person is to the concept. There are some that say you must have only 50 possessions. I have that many things on my bed side table. Maybe our definition should be that we can see the basement floor.

A yard sale was the next obvious step. The day of the sale can be fun but the preparation is daunting. I found things in the garage that I had not laid eyes on for 25 years. Then there is the mental task of letting go of this stuff. I thought these things to be cool or potentially useful when I stashed them all those years ago. Every room in the house was subjected to this cleansing.

Weeks later we were ready to rock. We had tents, tables, signs, advertisements, friends helping and things priced low. Friday night, the long haired one and I were tying a rope along the fir hedge to serve as a hanger for clothes and objects d’ arte. As I reached into the hedge for a strong branch to tie off one end, a pair of white crowned sparrows (you wondered when birds were going to appear) sat inches from my hands chipping furiously in the same tone of voice that they use on the cat.

White-crowned Sparrow. Photo: Bruce Whittington

As we tied the rope along the hedge, they followed us, warning of the consequences of disturbing the nest that was obviously very close.

These small birds with a white crown bordered by black stripes are very prolific. Almost everybody will have a family of these in their back yard. They have a lovely song that can vary depending on where they live. In Ladysmith and area they have a seven note song that is repeated over and over. If they nest near your bedroom you will hear it all night long. I have heard a similar but shorter version in the Chilcotin. This year we have one that only sings half the usual refrain. Not well brought up. Lazy.

Saturday was a gong show. We were warned about early birds (the first one came at 11am the day before) so we started setting up at 6:30. The white crowns were freaking out but I paid very little attention to them except to tell them to deal with it. By 7:30 business was good. Now, we wanted this stuff gone, so if anyone expressed any interest in anything, they were almost bullied into making a deal and at times, given the item, I had a 50 cent , $1 and $2 box that were pretty picked over by noon so I moved it all to the free section. Now stuff started to disappear. I sat back and watched a guy that arrived on a motorcycle, sheepishly stuff his saddle bags with strings of Christmas lights and arm loads from the free pile. The sparrows were accustomed to us by now and we could hear the racket of a healthy bunch of babies being fed inches from our heads.

We held on until about 3 o’clock and were very pleased with the result. A mountain of stuff was gone. There were only six boxes for the Hospital Auxiliary. My only sadness was the chain saw. I had spiffied it up, given it fresh gas and cleaned the plug. The day before it started like drug enhanced Tour de France rider. It always started for me even after being ignored for years. A fellow whispered to his wife that he was going to make me an offer. “Does it work?” he asked. I flooded it and pulled on that cord until sweat stood out on my brow. The potential buyer backed slowly towards his car as others laughed and offered me 5 bucks for it. It started the next day. I guess it doesn’t want to leave me. (Psst! It’s still for sale.)

Our overweight, rat-breathed cat dragged itself from one of its many snoozing spots and came to see what was happening. She flirted shamelessly with men pawing through boxes until she heard the baby sparrows feeding. I grabbed her as she bolted past and carried her to the house. Thankfully she seemed content to forget them. Who knows what goes on in that alien brain. The sparrows ignored us as we cleaned up. Two days later they had flown the coop.

Our sale was a success but I have come to believe that the minimalism concept is unworkable for most people in our society. We are consumers and collectors. When some have too much stuff, they rent a storage unit. I can now see the basement floor but open my bedside table drawer and … oops, never mind.



About the author: Rob Pinkerton

Rob Pinkerton