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MailTribune.com
  • Memories are priceless, but yard sales will cost you

  • Following a long period of sober reflection, I have come to the regrettable conclusion that, unless you are the Grim Reaper looking for spare parts, an old scythe is not all that useful.
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  • Following a long period of sober reflection, I have come to the regrettable conclusion that, unless you are the Grim Reaper looking for spare parts, an old scythe is not all that useful.
    But after spotting it at the annual community-wide Jacksonville yard sale six years ago, I had to have it.
    Dating to the late 1800s, it has a 6-foot curved wooden handle with a 3-foot blade, one guaranteed to turn the harvester of souls green with envy.
    And for only a measly 18 bucks.
    "Why on earth would you ever want that?" an incredulous Maureen asked as she stared at the wicked-looking blade. "It gives me the shudders. Is that rust or blood on that thing?"
    "Pshaw," I responded. "It's a wonderful old farm implement that's just rusting a bit. It'll look great hanging up in our rustic abode. It's gotta have a great story."
    You guessed it. We have yet to find a safe spot for the scythe to hang. Not only is it ungainly, but there is the very real possibility for an unfortunate decapitation of anyone walking underneath, inviting an unwelcome visit of the aforementioned scythe wielder. Our old scythe is stored safely in a spare room.
    As for its provenance, we haven't the foggiest. No doubt calloused hands with brawny arms once swung the scythe back on the farm. Yet we will never, ever know its story. It has been lost to time.
    I bring this all up because, after a blissful six years without a yard-sale visit, I was dragged blubbering and pouting to another one two months ago.
    The strange thing is, while I'd rather have a root canal sans painkiller than go to a yard sale, I invariably turn into a yard sale junky when I start looking around. And I insist on buying something before we leave. I don't know why. Poor potty training perhaps.
    If you dragged me to a yard sale offering nothing but used dog food cans, I'd snap them up like a dog hoarding bones. Understandably, my wife keeps me on a short leash once we enter the forbidden zone. In this recent case, it was a multifamily yard sale in Eagle Point.
    But Maureen was the one who had to have a four-piece antique silverware set we did not need, although it contained a nifty-looking silver tea pot.
    What caught my eye was a nearby silver plate with the following etching: "MT Championship Class D 1931." The pleasant elderly lady offering the silverware said she had bought the plate at an estate sale for a Mrs. White, the mother of a local judge.
    "I bet it has an interesting story to tell," I said.
    But for once I withstood the yard-sale acquisition urge even though the starting price of $15 had been marked down to $8.
    However, as we started to walk away, the lady kindly handed me the silver plate as a gift.
    With the silly season finally behind us this past week — that would be the recent political campaign — I decided to try to track down the provenance of the 1931 silver plate. I contacted Medford resident Raymond "Ray" White, a longtime Jackson County Circuit Court judge who retired in 2010.
    Sure enough, the old trophy plate hailed from his family.
    "Dad had so many bowling and various trophies along with a whole houseful of more stuff they had accumulated that I think my mom just asked all the kids and grandkids what they wanted, and if nobody spoke up it went in the estate sale," he explained.
    As for the plate itself, he recalled seeing it.
    "I think it was for men's tennis — my dad was a very good tennis player," observed the former judge, 66, a 1964 graduate of Crater High School.
    His father, Wilton White, was a 1932 graduate of Medford Senior High School and a standout footballer in his day.
    "After high school, he played for the University of Idaho for a year but he broke his leg," recalled his son, an all-conference linebacker while at Crater.
    Wonderful. A story was beginning to form around the old plate, which he explained was actually silver plated, not pure silver.
    His mom, Carol Dodge White, was born in a house off Medford's Geneva Street. Her parents were Burdette and Sybil Dodge, owners of the Riverside Ranch, which once consisted of some 1,400 acres near Dodge Bridge spanning the Rogue River, he noted.
    His late parents had collected a lot of memorabilia over the years, he reiterated.
    "When she moved out of the big (ranch) house, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff, and I think the plate was one of them," he said.
    As a result of the experience, he is not a collector of odd things of no practical value, he is quick to observe.
    "I've got a firm rule around our house: every time you buy something, something else has to leave," he said.
    Unfortunately, the ruling from the bench was promptly ignored once it was announced, he admitted.
    In cross examination, it appears the proud University of Oregon alumnus may have collected a few things here and there.
    "When I go, I am sure my wife will be getting rid of a lot of my Oregon Duck memorabilia," he said of his wife, Star.
    That would include an item that hung in his court office for 15 years and is now propped up against the wall is his home office, he said.
    "Do you know anybody who is interested in a 131/2-inch by 5-foot, wide-angle photo of the 1995 Rose Bowl game?" he asked.
    I am a little worried that when he drops by to pick up the old silver plate, for sentimental reasons, mind you, that he may have a 5-foot-long photograph under one arm.
    Thank goodness I'll be packing an equally handy 6-foot-long scythe.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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