By Gary Garthwait, The Creamery, Stevensville, MT
Having loved antiques since childhood, I became a picker as soon as I was able to drive my parents’ farm truck in 1965 through rural Wisconsin where small dairy farms were littered with abandoned farm relics that I could spot as I drove by. As a lifetime antique enthusiast and now an antique dealer, big old heavy things capture me the most. They have been given new names such as yard art, guy stuff, rusty junk, or rural Americana.
I am not alone with my passion. People appreciate antiques they can walk around, take photos of, sit on, and debate about whether it is practical to take them home because of the space they take. Their history, art, and technology fascinate us, but often their story is the biggest fascination. Big antiques come from big visions and ideas about designing and manufacturing them, often with simple tools. Large ideas and antiques lead us to reflect on who these people were, what drove them, and how they may be different from or similar to people today.
Examples of big antiques include railroad, mining, and farming items. Railroad cars, signs, switches, lights, and stoves may be beyond the ability of one person to lift, but they are highly sought after. Today, many farm relics have missing wood pieces and iron parts frozen in place from rust. The few remaining and complete farm gems are hidden away in dry farm sheds. If anything tops railroad and farm items for heft, it is mining items. Ore carts and buckets may require heavy equipment to take them home.
If you like the big stuff, you will eventually encounter something that’s impractical or impossible to move. What then? Do you remove pieces and parts for their association with the antique? There is a controversy between removing parts or leaving an item where it stands. That decision lies in the hands of the owner and the buyer. But always remember to consult with the Antiquities Act when dealing with items covered by this law.