My well planned schedule for the Route 66 encyclopedia went out the window sometime around early December. After the writing of six books and countless feature articles I fully understand that a rigid schedule is a lot like the land of Oz or organization, they look pretty but everyone knows they are fictional.
It wasn’t pretty. About two hours into the project, and some twenty feet from the entrance with thick, choking clouds of dust swirling around me, I flashed back to the old days working as a jack leg operator in a silver mine up in the Cerbat Mountains. The biggest difference was I knew that the satisfaction of sticking dynamite in the holes and making a big boom wasn’t going to be the reward for this hard work.
Scattered here and there were just enough tantalizing gems to keep me from going mad and taking up smoking while sitting on gas cans perched on kegs of black powder. A 1940s Spartan radio tops the list but scattered amongst the empty mayonnaise and pickle jars I have found a turn of the century apothecary jar and a forbidding brown glass, triangular bottle with the word poison embossed on the side.
That bottle, the sandy floor, and the discovery of this secret side of Ma had me thinking about that classic film Arsenic and Old Lace. What else was under the floor?
Without exaggeration, I moved an entire truck load of empty plastic containers, rats nest camping mattresses, suitcases filled with cancelled checks from the 1970s, home made signs from Ma’s little gift shop that closed in the 1980s, bent motorcycle exhaust systems, several boxes of empty glass jars, and what seemed like two hundred boxes of paper back books that the dry air has turned into confetti.
Here is the really neat part. This was day two of operation clean up and there is at least one more day to go – before starting on the shed!
All of this has convinced me that ma was a closet hoarder, something long suspected. Her little house was always neat and orderly but underneath, literally, she was able to indulge her hoarding away from prying eyes.
If I sound a bit titched in the head please consider I spent the weekend eating at least 75 pounds of dirt while spider webs and their occupants danced around the rim of my hat as I worked on imitating a hunchback in the sewers of Paris just to move a box of phone books, some thirty years old, a small trunk filled with Christmas wrapping paper, and another filled with assorted flashlights.
Isn’t America grand! If we have a garage it is filled with the items we will most likely sell at a garage sale, or leave as some insidious means of revenge on our children for a particularly harsh and lengthy labor at birth, after paying full retail but never using while the $50,000 car sits outside.
So, with at least the next few weekends preplanned, I will be working on the encyclopedia at night, and dreaming of Amarillo this June by day. And in my troubled sleep, I will dream of scaling mountains of old phone books as swirling reams of old paper blind me to the fact that spiders are encircling me with their webs.