Yard Art? or Yard Sale?
A yard sale could be defined as an informal event for the sale of used goods. It usually happens in someone’s yard. No dress code. It can happen in the city or the country.
Maybe such sales exist to keep us adding this and that to our homes, not letting the furniture, bedding, pots and pans become mundane. Something old but new to us.
In high school, I would never have guessed I’d be attracted to iron gates, birdbaths, bicycles, flower pots, colorful bowling balls. But here I am, with a sister-in-law, walking around Vern’s yard, looking at such curiosities. Almost like yard art.
I’d never met Vern Osterhus before, but I’d noticed his yard many times at 11828 Highway 201 South, about twenty minutes south of Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Last week, I spotted a birdbath from the highway as I drove past. I thought I might be interested in it since my birdbath bowl had broken off its pedestal. I was telling my sister-in-law about the yard sale place as we climbed the hill where it was located. She said, “Well, turn right, turn right!” So there we were, five minutes later, walking among his treasures.
After we parked, Vern appeared.
He’s a low-pressure salesman, giving us space to look and talk and walk. Vern was more of a presence than a salesman. No demands, no holds, no serious thoughts. We ambled around among his lawn ornaments. Much to behold, all gathered in lines and sections to be sold.
I’ve been to many garage sales where things were on tables ready for hands to touch and pass over. This was not like that.
On close inspection, there were some interesting pieces. Items like a bowling ball bush, a hand-painted platter from Italy, Radio Flyer wagons, ironwork with small flower pots (which pulled my sister-in-law’s eye), bedsteads, benches, statues. Things you won’t find in local stores.
As I gaze on the Radio Flyer wagons, I am catapulted backward seven decades to my brother and his red wagon. A good moment.
I didn’t hear Vern call them "treasures" or "tokens from the past," but he did say, “My wife added the plants and made suggestions.” He lovingly gave her credit for the order and feminine touches found throughout the yard.
On looking at a coffee pot, I thought, Someone probably made cowboy coffee in this pot. It made me recall another coffee pot when I was five years old. I was also drawn to a garden gate which kept whispering, You need me. I couldn’t disagree.
No purchase, yet. Still thinking on it. Vern had ironwork galore, and he’d created a fence from bedsteads and gates. If he sold a gate, it meant readjusting his fence. Brilliant and orderly.
His items are intact and the prices, reduced. Surely someone once loved these pieces. The question I kept asking myself, Could I love it, too? It’s a place my husband might need to meander through, but it’s unlike Walmart or Lowe’s.
Back to the birdbath. With greenery in the bowl, it looked like hair! Clever how Vern or his wife had repurposed it. Maybe I could do the same with my broken birdbath. A thought to hold on to.
Vern’s yard. Full of collectables. Said he’d lived there 40 years. Guess I’ve been driving past his yard of art 20 years. I thought it’d be full of plows and hardware. Far more, far different from that.
When someone moves away, Vern said, they will often ask him to clean up their property, take whatever he wants, and get rid of the rest. (That’s what he does.) Thus, he has become a collector of interesting things.
Items outlasted some owners. You don’t see the years of faithfulness and loyalty of the pieces, but you know it’s there. You might see a good bit of rust. Of course, everything is sold just as is.
Come ready to talk to Vern, to ask his price. Nothing is marked anywhere, so give up your pride, put on your humble hat, and ask the price.
No computers here. It’s historical—ironwork, steel, ceramic. It’s a yard sale or maybe an art sale.
Vern is keeping it real.
Vern Osterhus and his collectables on Highway 201, South of Mountain Home, Arkansas. Photo taken May 2021.
Books by Pat Durmon