Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Funny Story, Because We Need It

I’m currently in the middle of making cookies (dough’s chilling in the fridge) because it was that kind of week. The kind that really needs no explanation.

As this week has demonstrated, every day you wake up, everything you think you know about the world could be completely turned on its head. It was the "every day, for a week" part that finally made me retreat to the kitchen.

(Raspberry Jam Thumbprints. New recipe, looks good. Taking them to work Monday morning, because it looks like a rough week ahead too, and cookies always help.)

The next "big thing" that I’m working on will have to wait a little longer to be revealed, since it now appears that a road trip might be involved. All I can say about it at this point is that it is (a) model horse related, (b) involves some hobby history type stuff, and (c) more people will be able to participate.

And also: no Decorator Belgian will be involved. I think.

Some follow up posts about will also be involved, but more about the philosophical issues related to it than the actual history-and-minutiae part. But there might be some of that, too; I’m just not sure about the status of the whole situation either, at this point.

Trying to think of happier thoughts…

The flea market opens tomorrow! It’s going to be cold as heck, but as long as it isn’t windy and isn’t snowing, I’ll be there. Don’t care if I’ll find anything, though a body or two would be nice. Maybe some minis, too.

In honor of "opening day", I’ll relate that funny story about the Hagen-Renaker Cutting Horse. It’s not directly Breyer-related, but I think many of you will relate, nonetheless. It’s a little long, but it’s got a great finish.

I don’t go out of my way to collect H-Rs or chinas of any kind, but if the opportunity arises, I’m going to take it. (A nearly perfect Glossy Brown Heather, for ten bucks? SOLD!) Alas, the area I live in was once populated by some China-collecting hobby titans so those opportunities, until recently, were relatively rare.

One day, about twenty years ago, a very peculiar character came to the flea market. If you’ve heard or read my stories before about my flea marketing adventures, you know that it takes a certain level of oddness to stand out in the crowds that hang out in my particular haunts.

Anyway, this lady had a large assortment of vintage china pieces from the 1950s and 1960s on her table, including some Hagen-Renakers. Everything was in various states of disrepair - minor things like glaze flakes, major things like leg breaks - and contained in those little plastic containers that bakeries use to house cake and pie slices. And all the really noticeable damage? Touched up, very sloppily, with what looked like housepaint.

Yeah, really.

I managed to buy a few H-R dogs from her, including the beautiful Weimaraner Blue Boy. She explained to me that she had a gift shop back then, and that Hagen-Renakers were "very good quality", and "very expensive, at the time". Sensing my opportunity, I mentioned to her that I mainly collected horses. "Oh, I have some of those too. They’re all broken, though."

She then described that she had one with a Cowboy on it, and that’s when I almost lost my cool. Dang, she’s got a Cutter. I still hadn’t acquired any Monrovia H-R horses at that point, and good gravy, a Cutting Horse and Cowboy was almost within my reach!

I told her that one sounded especially neat, and I would love to have it.

"It has a broken leg, though. You wouldn’t want the broken ones."

I know, it didn't make a lick of sense, since I had just bought a bunch of broken dogs from her. I guess she thought the housepaint and rubber cement she used counted as "professional restoration" or something.

I then proceeded to explain to her that I didn’t care. I’d take whatever she had, broken or not. Didn’t even have to have all the parts or anything. I just liked horses.

She then told me she had plastic ones, too. From a business trip she took to New York City, once.

You think I almost lost it before? That’s when I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from hyperventilating. "Oh, I’d be interested in those, too."

It took me a while to convince her I was serious. Her clearly exasperated husband was in the background, shaking his head and muttering to himself. From the contents - and condition - of the van they traveled in, they had a lot of stuff to get rid of. (This was well before the TV shows about hoarders, but I was already familiar with the type.)

She promised to get back in contact with me. I haunted the flea market for weeks afterwards, but it was a considerable length of time before I saw them again.

I was excited when I did, though the length of time that had passed had disturbed me, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that (a) she barely remembered me, and (b) then told me that she had sold the entire collection for a considerable sum to someone else.

I was too mad to continue shopping, so I went straight home after that.

All that effort, and someone else profited.
I had my suspicions who, but what could I do? I had done everything I could have done. She had taken a sampling of her nonhorse H-Rs to another flea market, and someone else had the same conversation I did. They just happened to catch her during a more lucid - or more desperate - moment, and succeeded where I had failed.

It still bugged me for years because … well, because. I don’t think I need to explain that to you guys. Most of you have been down that road.

Anyway, several years later, I was ferrying another local hobbyist down to BreyerFest with me. She needed a ride, and I liked the company. She was a little bit more of a Chinahead than me, but I know enough about "Clinkies" to hold my own on the topic. The commute was wonderful: the hours flew by like minutes, and involved a hilarious stop at the "World’s Most Redneck McDonald’s", but that’s whole 'nother story.

So we were in the middle of Ohio, regaling each other with some of our most interesting flea market adventures, when she started talking about this time that she picked up some H-Rs from this really weird old lady. With a totally trashed van, and the models were touched up with gloppy paint…

My jaw dropped. I turned to her and said. "Oh. My. God. You have my Cutter!"

I told her my story.

Then we laughed. Because it turned out, she did.

She hadn’t been one of my "suspects" and enough time had passed that the story had become more wistful than painful. And now it had become hilariously absurd.

As "big" as the hobby gets, it’s still so very small and intimate. It was a lovely reminder of that.

So, now you know why that Cutting Horse was so big a deal to me.

I picked up the Steer that goes with it a few years ago, so I know I’m gonna catch up with one sooner or later. I doubt the ending will be half as funny as the rest of the story, but who knows? The world could go all upside down tomorrow, again. I'll just have to roll with it, and see where it takes me.


Alice in Ponyland said...

Life is a Wheel!

Quantum Horse Ranch Studio said...

Not the same topic at all, but have you seen the glossy chalky dapple gray shire on Ebay for 6k right now? I'm curious as to whether the sellers claims are true. Apparently only 6 of these guys exist...