The Legend of Cyclone Young


A story by Ken Ramsley

Free download available from Amazon Kindle


Made with care and dust-covered with neglect, I’ve rediscovered a 19th Century toolbox filled with 20th Century tools sitting atop a 21st Century concrete garage floor.  I have no clear memory of this box, but one thing I know for certain: This is the last item I will ever set out for sale.  “After today, there will be no more ‘garage sales’ or ‘yard sales’” I hear myself muttering, waiting for Edna’s ghost to scowl at such heresy.  But Edna was never one to dismiss the inevitable, and this afternoon I am feeling no objections from her.

With the addition of my ‘Going out of Business’ signs, and with only a few hours left in the yard-selling season, the last of the bargain-hunters stream across our front lawn before vanishing emptyhanded into a cloud of roadside dust.  I’ve been in this antiquing business for nearly fifty years and I know exactly how the old obsessions refuse to die, how the scavengers are never completely disappointed, and how they’ll drift on down the line, looping through one yard sale after the next like addicts pumping quarters into one-arm bandits looking for that one special item that everyone else missed.

For many years we drove that same sort of scavenging loop down into the smaller towns and villages of central Ohio collecting whatever we could find of value—me with Edna and a truck-full of hope.  After each expedition, we offered our most valuable discoveries through consignment shops in downtown Cleveland.  Later in the season, we set up our own tables here on the front lawn.  Indisputable junk found its way to the dump master.  Questionable items wound up collecting dust on the garage floor.  Over the years, the pile grew – until this summer – when I began to populate our yard-selling tables with long-forgotten garage-floor inventory—offered to the passing vultures until today, when, for the first time in years I cleared off the entire garage floor and set the last of it out for sale.  “Finí!  Out of business!  Done for good!” I say out loud.  Though, for a passing moment, I consider our old central Ohio scavenging loop and the lure of our life on the road.  Of course, after losing Edna this past winter, it wouldn’t be the same.


Slumped into a rocking chair that I will never sell and wrapped inside a tattered blanket that has seen better days, I watch the sky drift from blue to purple to black.  Soon an inevitable evening chill shakes me awake, leaving me staring at that old toolbox, dimly lit by the bare bulb of our front porch light – an item labeled ‘free for the taking’ with no one left to take it.  I sure did try to get rid of that old box.  Before dinnertime I offered just ten cents to a younger couple with too much caffeine in their veins.  Without any enthusiasm they mumbled something about decorating a restaurant in Pittsburg, until they pranced away.

Still in my chair, still wrapped in my tattered blanket, still perched atop the front lawn, I consider the idea of leaving that old toolbox with the dump master—the whole thing with its useless contents.  Fini!  Good riddance!  Isn’t the customer always right?  Haven’t the vultures rendered their verdicts?  And if I can’t sell something for ten cents or give it away outright – isn’t it worthless?  But I can’t do it.  Not this time.  I can’t end my antiquing career with this toolbox thrown onto the dump master’s scrap pile.

Instead, in a final act of dignity before I succumb to common sense, I find myself inspecting the surviving symbols of a carpenter’s life.  Of course, it’s a fool’s errand.  Every tool is abundantly commonplace and I can clearly see why every last bargain-hunter walked away.

Then something immensely strange and amazing happens.  Reaching down into the box for scattered items, I am about to call the job done when I find several loose floor boards.  Well now, if I haven’t discovered a false bottom and below these loose planks, a small canvas basket – though not really a basket.  Yet, sitting so far down inside the shadows, this is how I see it at first.

In better light, I resolve the ‘basket’ for what it truly is—an old-style baseball cap lying upside-down holding a pair of baseballs stained with the work of many players.  Removing the balls and hat, I discover a book set atop the genuine floor of the box.  Near as I can tell, the book contains a journal hand-inscribed more than a century ago by a boy from central Ohio.  It seems that the boy’s name is Zachariah, and what he has written is the reason why I am avoiding the dump master’s door tonight, or any notion of selling this box and its contents to the highest bidder.

After reading Zachariah’s journal entries, I see that the box, cap, baseballs, and book belong to a town we once visited – and with their permission these items should be put on public display if at all possible.  Even though it goes against the selfish dreams that keep scavengers like me full of hope, the rightful owners of this collection will have it back without any restrictions.

It took just one phone call and already a fellow I know is driving all night from New York State, calling me every hour from the Thruway, telling me on the phone not to move one inch until he gets here.  His legal team will handle the ownership details, and in the meantime they will keep the box and its contents safely stored and properly preserved.

I told him not to worry.  When somebody finds the baseball equivalent of the Holy Grail, there is no reason to be anywhere else tonight.  And I suppose until my friend pulls in from Cooperstown, perhaps you might like to see for yourself why someone might drive all night to safeguard what I have discovered.

 


Sample End

Total Length: 24 pages


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