The Rat Unpacks

Up to my eyeballs in horny toad figurines and Grand Prize Beer bottle openers, I've decided to part with my collection of vintage Texana. Anybody want a Davy Crockett hanky?

I’M JUST A GIRL WHO can’t say no. To anyone who asks—male or female, rich or poor, young or old—I can barely get a “yes” out fast enough. I accommodate friends, of course, as well as the occasional total stranger. My cheeks flush, my knees quiver, and my heart starts to race anytime a person shows me, say, a San Jacinto Monument lunch box and asks, “Hey, do you want this?”

I sure do. I’ve been collecting one thing or another—and another, and another—since I was ten, and today, forty years later, I’m still hot for vintage Texana. For me, something like a Grand Prize Beer bottle opener from the thirties or a fifties Davy Crockett handkerchief is a nostalgic thrill complete with historical interest and visual appeal. I love to poke around junk stores and antiques shops on weekends, and my lust for Texas rejects and relics has resulted in a collection of at least five thousand items. We’re not talking big-ticket purchases; as a poor student and later a budget-conscious single mom, I was never able to afford anything pricey—and, truth be told, I love the commonness, the everyday nature, of my old crap. But it’s taking over. My closets and cabinets are full, and I fear I will soon appear in one of those fool-of-the-day newspaper squibs: “Rescue workers had to remove five-foot-high stacks of 1940’s San Antonio Express fashion supplements before they could reach the middle-aged woman, who apparently was gored while trying to place a cowboy hat on the Longhorn skull above her couch.”

In addition to object overload, I’m also facing the departure of both of my sons for college this month, which means astronomical tuition bills and an eventual move to a smaller place. So I’m hoping to sell my entire collection. Much as I covet that San Jacinto lunch box, you can keep it. And do me a favor: Please take these burlap feed sacks and Lone Star coasters with you when you go.

I blame my fondness for hoary, musty collectibles on having had a passel of relatives who lived on farms or in small towns and who thus owned treasure troves hidden away in barns and storage sheds. When my siblings and I—who hailed from the relatively urban confines of Pampa—visited kinfolk during the summer, we spent hour after un-air-conditioned hour exploring the outbuildings, feeling like the sleuths in our library books as we discovered ancient keys or packets of letters tied with faded ribbon. And because my parents’ generation and their elders endured the

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