Friday, November 11, 2011

The Picker Hokey-Pokey

I’m not much of a dancer. My wife refuses to dance with me to anything faster than “waltz” speed.  I also dislike waltzing…not a big fan of that sort of “classic” dancing overall. I do like dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, the whole air guitar thing, rockin’ it out to 1980s hair metal, old school punk, that sort of thing. However, as I mentioned, there is a reason my wife does not want me to dance. It just looks weird, I guess…not that everyone else on the floor are potential “dance with the stars” pros, either.

In Manitoba, we have events we call ”Socials.”  The prairie social seems to be a very much mid-Canada event, and most people who grew up elsewhere tend to look puzzled when asked if they want to buy a ticket to a social.   I’m a picker, so I am very used to confused looks, which comes with insisting and trying to convince people that the “trash” in their shed is worth me taking a look at.

Socials are usually organized by a small group of people in order to raise funds for various things. Tickets are sold to the event, which normally consist of a dance and a bar (you buy tickets, and tickets are exchanged for your choice of alcohol.) Sometimes goods, gift certificates, and other prizes are donated by businesses & individuals, which are dispose of via a silent auction, random draw, etc. More money is raised via ticket sales (to attendees) for those prizes, also.

More often than not, much later in the evening, in the area of 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM,  usually some sort of food is served. Mmmmm....FOOOD......gooood....

Most of the socials I attended years ago served things in the range of cold cuts, cheese, salami, buttered bread, that sort of thing. However, the edibles served these days can vary from place to place and the choices of the organizers, whose food tendency could be based on their culture, background, ethnic roots, personal choices, known preferences of the bulk of the attendees, theme of the social, donations (think beef in ranch/farming areas, fish where fishing is the main industry, assorted meat & cheese selections at a butcher's daughter's wedding social, venison (deer meat) where hunting is an avid past time, etc, etc.)

 Wedding Socials are common here, as one of the ways to raise some money for the bride and groom. Good causes are regularly boosted in their fundraising efforts by the utilization of socials. Families who lose one or both parent(s), those whose homes succumb to flames, people in need of surgery or other medical care (those that our systems will not or can not cover)  etc, etc…basically anything you can think of that there is a need for money to be raised, a Social likely has been held in an attempt to raise money.
Really should not have gone off on that tangent….now I am hungry, and craving a rum & Coke…or even a bottle of beer…and it is only 9:50 AM.

OK, so what does the Hokey-Pokey have to do with picking?

Maybe these pics of yours truly working will give you a clue:

What am I doing? Pulling something towards me for a better look, as well as distributing my weight over a larger area. The floor just beyond my feet looks solid to the untrained eye....but it is completely rotten, and is barely holding the weight of the few things on top of it. 

Some of these make it obvious that I am referring to the motions, positions, movements, gestures, etc that are part of the way I search for "treasure".  Yes, some are quite bizarre looking, geeky, weird, the 7th from the bottom...what is with my gloved pinky finger up in the air, eh?!

Believe it or not, all these photos represent the picker hokey-pokey.....the movements, stance, balancing, etc required to pick WELL.

Take #1, as an example. This was an old blacksmith's shop, and the roof had collapsed. Sure, I am just poking my head through the window hole, no big deal, right?

If you have been following my blog, you know what is next: YES, it IS a big deal....or at least potentially could be.  Old windows that no one has touched for eons, or even those recently broken/damaged, all could well be lethal, or in the least cut your picking short while you run to the hospital for stitches.

AH, so you think you are really tough, and if you were to get cut, you would keep right on pickin'?
Figure you can use your the blood trail to find your way back through the maze of rooms in that basement?

Well, that is NOT the point. Blood stains are not something you want to have on that "barn fresh" 1920s Wrigley's gun paper poster, or all over that fantastic, minty Victorian crazy quilt you are pulling out of that old trunk in that attic.

Plus, it is hard to pick things up with blood running over your fingers, see things when it is dripping into your eyes...and it is darn distracting when it runs down your neck or when it is squishing around your toes in your boots.

Peering through any window does not mean I have just stuck my head through it without first looking closely at the situation. It means I likely have looked critically at it and observe things like chunks of broken glass, loose frame parts, glass (whole and pieces) sitting in panes above with little but gravity as their only fastener, window frames that are the only real structure holding up the top portion of a wall, etc, etc.

I also personally do not want to re-enact the scene in the Patrick Swayze flick GHOST.....ok, enough of the snickering!! I saw it when it came out, while I was out on a date, ok?!

You know the scene......

Yeah, YOU! The macho guy in the back!  YES, YOU! Don't bother even trying to act incredulous!  I know darn well you slipped your girlfriend's copy into the machine and watched it when she was away!

Yes, the scene where the villain bites it, via the window attempting to do a guillotine imitation.

Not my desire in life to be impaled on anything, thank-you.

General contortionist-esque moves are something I tend to do while I am checking out places, though as I get older, I try to examine the situation/location for less back twisting ways to access some spots. I have crawled into tight spots where I had to crawl backwards in order to get back out, duck walked through cellars with narrowing tunnels, contort into forgotten/hidden attic spaces from the more modern additions' attics, done the limbo through cellar openings whose trap doors would only open just enough to slide between it and the floor's edge....and I could go on and on and on....

The pictures really do represent what I will call the "Picker Dance.".  If you are a GREAT (and smart...and SAFE) picker, you will use your whole body when picking, brain (knowledge), eyes, ears, sense of touch, etc.  And, for things like your sense of touch, I mean pretty much all over your body, not just your hands...every step in an attic or even on what seems like solid ground should be something you are aware of.  You need to not just see, but also hear and feel the tell tale give/creaks/cracks of rotten/split/rodent-gnawed floor boards floating on nothing but 15 feet of thin air below which lies  scrap metal with spear and pike like protrusions laying about the barn floor.

Same goes for what you'd normally think was a simple, almost casual stroll through any unknown/unfamiliar/obscured patch of ground.

 That grass you just stepped on that gave a little is growing over the top of a well with nothing but a cork-like plank preventing you from plunging 20 feet  down a well. Or, that slight "give" you felt as your foot hit the ground is an old enameled steel sign flexing slightly as they do, where it has been hidden by mat of grass that has reclaimed the surface real estate.

Fences of all kinds are their own little experience. If you are male, and have ever straddled/stepped over a barb wire fence, you also may have experienced the inadvertent use of other parts of your anatomy to recognize some potential harm.

Lots of hazards out there, always need to keep your wits about you. Will leave you with some pics of  the insides and some outsides of various places I have picked.

******* NOTE OF CAUTION! *******  I am a "professional" with many years experience under my belt, and many of these places I would not have attempted entering, salvaging/picking when I first started in the business. DO NOT be fool hardy and attempt to pick  places similar to these without knowing the full extent of the obvious and, most importantly, the hidden and potentially life threatening dangers involved.

Where am I?  
In the back storage space of a walk in attic.
 What am I doing?
Pulling something towards me for a better look with a piece of wood.
I am also shifting and distributing my weight over a larger area. 
The floor just beyond my feet looks solid to the untrained eye....but it is completely rotten, and is barely holding the weight of the few things on top of it.
You see sunlight on the back right because the roof is rotted away entirely in that spot. 
 The weight of 2 chimneys diagonally across from one another, both of which were starting to crumble, did not make this area more stable, either. 
I happened to have been in this attic 15 years prior, and it was rock solid then. Mother Nature does not waste any time in her reclamation process!

View of a barn from half way between it and a road. Looked pretty intact from the road, through the trees obscuring some of the view. But, I could see it was not as it initially appeared.

DEFINITELY not as intact as it appeared from the road.  The  half-wall you see we could make sway with not much effort...when a slight breeze came up, it started to sway in a quite graceful, but menacing motion. When the breeze turned to a mild wind, we called it quits for the afternoon. Winds got much stronger in the evening, and we expected the wall to be in pieces on the ground when we came back the next day. Surprisingly it wasn't.
Main floor of same barn. No movement inside, everything still seemed "solid"...crooked, but solid.
 However, I knew to retain a heightened sense of awareness when I ventured into this area.
Closer look at the main beam reveals how poor the structure/stability of this barn actually is.
Any creaking and cracking sounds we made note of constantly!
View of roof collapsed into/onto the loft floor. Can you say "lumber landslide?"

Another barn's loft. Yes, looks solid, but between super dry and thin planks, rotten spots, and holes made in the floor by previous owners, I walked only on the spots where each beam was. Looks can be very deceiving....and definitely were in this loft

Ah-Ha! Attic entrance into a building built beside this barn!

View of my intended path for a leisurely stroll through an old, abandoned, clean looking farmyard

Ah, what is that in the grass?! Could it be TREASURE? Good thing I was looking where I was walking, I might have missed it!

Not treasure! Could have been tragedy, tho!

Another well on the same property. Within a 50' x 50' area we encountered 3 wells that were "obvious" like the two pictured. These were more "modern". I am positive there are others there, as this farm site dated to easily 1890, but have a distinct lack of interest in dying at the bottom of a well, so I had no interest in walking on top of/over/very close to the other less obvious impressions I noticed in the ground where I suspected others were.


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