Monday, June 29, 2009

The Deal Maker

He would trade or sell anything he owned. His wife would leave their house and return to find pieces of furniture, rugs, pictures or kitchen items missing and learn that someone had visited, indicated a liking for the particular and her husband had sold it.

I only knew him for three or four years and I have no idea where he is now. But I found his idiosyncrasies quite fascinating.

Prior to our meeting he had read an ad in a New York City newspaper placed by a munitions company famous the world over. They had closed their operations, sold most of their stock and were advertising that anyone with a truck and twenty four dollars could visit their New York location, load their truck with whatever they could find there and carry it away. So he, I shall call him Carl, hired a truck, persuaded a friend to join him and drove to New York City.

Upon arrival, he found that the offer was legimate and he began to walk through the debris and items scattered about. there were several levels above ground, a basement and two sub-basements. He was disappointed. Very little of value was left.

Then he came to a small locked door barring the space created by a staircase running over it. Not being a respecter of locks he managed to open the door and at last found something to justify his trip - a roll top desk. There were two small paintings hanging over the desk and these he took as well.

After loading his prizes he returned to his foraging. Nothing else took his eye until he found twelve or thirteen cases in a dark corner of the lowest sub-basement. They were about two feet wide and six feet long. They were securely packaged with iron straps and Carl had no tools with him. He had room in his truck, so he decided to take them sight unseen. He and his friends struggled with the cases up the stairs to the truck, loaded them on and drove off after paying their twenty four dollars.

Curiosity gnawed at him once he was home so he got a crowbar, hammer and flashlight and began to unseal one of the boxes late at night. He pried the lid open and found something wrapped in oil impregnated material. He worked at unwinding the wrapping and exposed a rounded piece of metal. He continued to work until the whole length was exposed. As he stared, the realization of what he had bought thundered down upon him. Carl had procured, for twenty four dollars, more than a dozen items that were the central props in many a Western movie; mint condition Gatling guns.

He was consumed by his purchase and dove into research on Gatling guns. He became an expert on the origin, use and history of them and eventually wrote and published a book on the subject.

The roll top desk was as it appeared, but one of the two pictures acquired with it proved to be an oil painting by a minor Italian master.

Carl had made a very good deal.

The only deal Carl ever regretted, as far as I know, was when he sold his bear. Carl enjoyed collecting guns and he enjoyed hunting. One of his desires was to go to Kodiak Island, Alaska and bag a brown bear. Eventually he went, encountered a brown bear, rendered the bear hors-de-combat and had it skinned. He brought the skin back whole and had it stuff a la Teddy Roosevelt in the film "The Wind and the Lion". That is to stay, erect, on its back feet and looking thoroughly threatening.

One fateful day a visitor to his home expressed a deep interest in the stuffed bear. Carl immediately shifted into selling mode, negotiated a price and sold the bear.

But the ensuing months brought a strange feeling - he missed his bear. He fervently wished that he had not sold it. It became such an obsession that he contacted the bear's new owner and announced that he wanted to buy it back. The new owner shifted into selling mode, negotiated a price and Carl redeemed his bear. He would never discuss the transaction, but one got the impression that the reversal of that transaction had left a very severe dent in Carl's will to deal.

NOTE: I remember that bear when I was a kid. He was damned impressive and nothing could induce me to walk by him in the dark. S