Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Collector

nest of a pack rat

from dictionary.com:

pack rat


pack rat

Also called trade rat. a large, bushy-tailed rodent, Neotomacinerea,  of North America, noted for carrying off small articles to store in its nest.
Informal .
a person who collects, saves, or hoards useless small items.
an old prospector or guide.

pack rat
I don't know if I'm a pack rat.  Maybe I am.  I prefer the term collector.  Has a nicer sound, don't you think?  Makes you imagine someone distinguished, maybe, instead of some blowzy, frowzy old guy living in a dilapidated house (which he never leaves), a guy who has kept every magazine and newspaper since 1958--all to accommodate his seventy-seven cats that need a place to play with the sixty-four dogs.

Besides, the definition says useless small items.  USELESS!  That's kind of a harsh word, don't you think?  My items--and many are not small, mind you!--are hardly useless.  Priceless would be a better term.  (By the way, I remember when I was a child that the word priceless always puzzled me: It seemed to me priceless ought to mean a thing with no price--so how could that mean really valuable?  Shouldn't it mean worthless?  Words like invaluable and inflammable caused me similar distress.)

Back in Enid, Oklahoma, in the early 1950s I had some friends who were ... collectors.  Jim Gritz, my friend who lived just down the street, had a collection of model airplanes he'd built from kits.  (I tried it once, realized immediately that I sucked.  And quit.)  The boy next door, Johnny Collins, had a collection of ribbons he'd won in a city-wide inter-school track and field event held each year in Enid--the Little Olympics it was called.  Johnny was fast, and he had all sorts of blue ribbons up there on his wall from the years he'd dazzled at the LO.  (Of course, Enid's schools were segregated then, so who knows how well he would have done if he'd had to race the kids from George Washington Carver school, over on the other side of Market Street?)

I was in Little Olympics just one year.  Sixth grade.  Was the first runner in a shuttle relay.  A girl from some other school beat me quite easily in my heat, and we stayed in second place the rest of the shuttle.  Everyone blamed me.

Later, in Hiram, my friend Johnny Kelker had a collection of steel pennies--the silver-looking ones from 1943 when the military needed the copper for the war effort.  He kept them in some kind of aquarium-like device.  He also collected other pennies in those little blue books that numismatists (a word Johnny taught me) use.  I tried it for a while, then spent the pennies for candy bars down at the Hub.

Johnny also taught me that the little D you see under 1943 stood for Denver--where these were minted.

I did get into stamp collecting (philately!) for a bit.  Spent all my allowance on it.  I focused on American stamps but could not tell you where that album is now if my life depended on it.  I do know, however, that I have it somewhere, for, as I'm suggesting, I'm a pack rat.  The good kind.

As my WRA students can tell you, I sort of stayed in philately.  I would buy stamps related to the writers we read in English III (American lit + Hamlet).  When we began each new writer, I would generally show a PowerPoint about the person's life--complete with images of stamps related to him/her.  I even bought mint sheets of the Old Ironsides stamp (three cents at the time of issues!) and presented a mint stamp to each student who scored 100% on the memorization quiz over Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem.  "Aye, tear her tattered ensign down!"  (Link to poem.)

TOMORROW: What's so pack-ratty about me nowadays ... at a time when the calendar tells me I ought to be "downsizing."

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