Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Decoys

I'm busy working when the man, a customer, just lolly gagging around, looks up at my old decoys and then, "What 'ya asking for 'dem ducks?"

I've been here before and as I've answered many times, said, "They're not for sale."

They are old and they've been with me for most of my adult life. One doesn't sell one's arm.

Even though I'd turned my back to him and moved on, he hadn't, tried again.

"Ah, come one, everything has its price."

"I'm sorry, Bubba, the decoys are not for sale. Period." Thinking - get it.

And then, "Tell 'ya what. My Dad is a big collector of ducks like those there....and,"

Before he finished I turned back and looked him in the eyes, hard. Said, "Listen, once more, they are not for sale." Kinda loud this time.

They've moved cross country with me. The first I purchased was the beautiful Pintail. She's dressed nicely, I think, hand carved from California redwood. At the time, in my early twenties, I thought I'd become a collector of hand shaped decoys.

I've always had a thing about antiques, especially outdoor sports collectibles. Back then, in the early seventies when the earth was still fairly fresh for me and life held possibilities after the war, my young wife and I cruised the antique shops. We had a goal - to own our own, and we did in time achieve our goal.

I began with decoys. Unfortunately my timing was awful. The sporting world went gaga over Mason decoys which spread like a cancer to other sporting bird imitations. The prices went crazy...the auction houses jumped on the band wagon and before I knew what had hit me the price for a good condition Mason went five figures.

Anyway, over the years I'd find an old decoy here and there and if I could afford it, purchased it for my tiny collection. Like the old canvas Mallard on the far right of the above picture. She's sewn carefully of waxed cord, stuffed with Lord knows what material. The tiny Buffle Head between the tan Eastern Seaboard and the Mallard is shaded a flat green, and I'd not part with her for all the tea in China.

My hard headed customer tried again with -

"Tell 'ya what I'll give you a hundred dollars for that pretty one right there."

It was time to shut this down. I sighed, turned and bent forward and as nicely as possible said,

"See this Pintail," I pointed. "I'll take five thousand, cash, gold or silver."

He walked away.

How does one place a price on a lifetime of memories.