COMMENTARY: Beauty in the junkyard
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COMMENTARY: Beauty in the junkyard

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One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. It’s true. We live in a throwaway society and junkyard junkies seek bargains. Making use of discards is frugal. My late Uncle Joe found many a use for things others sold for scrap. Dad liked junkyards too. Mom said he usually came back with more stuff than he threw away.

As for me, I find emotions and a strange beauty live in junkyards. I visited one knowing I’d see opportunities for unique photos among the hodgepodge of implements, appliances, scrap metal, and recyclable items. A burnt-out car … was I witnessing someone’s fiery tomb? Then just like that a sight raised my spirits, a bicycle built for two. Standing among daisy-like flowers it brought to mind that little ditty, “Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle made for two.”

Other disposed items caught my eye. As I looked over the wreckage I got a feeling I was looking at my future. Attrition takes its toll. Wear and tear, neglect, abuse, and changing times lay waste to stuff just as attrition and time do us in.

We pass on but one way or another we leave a record. Coastal Indians had shell middens and we have junkyards. In some far-flung time archaeologists will pour over and through our junk seeking explanations. Even now evidence of stories exists. To spend fifteen minutes in a junkyard is to walk through lives, many, many years, and Lord knows what else. What might you see? Appliances out of vogue, mangled trucks, crushed cars, burnt cars, bicycles as we’ve seen, boats, and riding lawnmowers. All came with stories.

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Questions pop up like junkyard weeds. That avocado green range. Who cooked upon it? Where is the child that rode that bike with the training wheels? That white Freightliner? Where’s the trucker who drove it cross-country? Where is the home that shiny ceiling fan cooled? That pickup truck with the shattered windshield sparkling like rhinestones? What’s its story?

I saw conveyances that once moved people hither and thither. I did not see any trains or airplanes but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there buried under a chaotic mound of civilization’s discards. It looks like big piles of pandemonium but the owner knows where everything is. Need a 1953 dog dish Ford hubcap. He knows right where it hides.

Yes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure but it’s also a woman’s diary and a child’s memory and one man knows their tale, the junkman who gave it what may be its final resting place. And that’s why something else catches my eye among the heaps of rusted iron, tangled cables, fans, tin, rusted steel, and wheels of every sort. Flowers. No cemetery is complete without flowers. Here where you can smell the rust, grease, and rubber, flowers add their contribution to the unexpected allure junkyards possess.

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Tom Poland is the author of 12 books and more than 1,000 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. The University of South Carolina Press released his book, “Georgialina, A Southland As We Knew It,” in November 2015 and his and Robert Clark’s “Reflections Of South Carolina, Vol. II” in 2014. His new book is "The Last Sunday Drive -- Vanishing Southland."

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