The roadside recycler

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, August 16, 2014

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Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, but you’re almost certainly a redneck if you could completely furnish several houses just by picking up the furniture that’s in your own yard, your neighbors’ yards, and alongside the road you live on.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

I’m talking couches, love-seats, recliners, dining chairs, desks, high chairs, beds, stereo cabinets, TV consoles and mattresses.

Eliminate all the pieces of furniture that are:

(1) designed to be outside,

(2) out there to sell, as in a garage or yard sale, or

(3) holding up that corner of the camper where the little prop thingie broke off on that trip to the lake in ’97.

I’m talking about people who got up one morning, looked at the couch their no-good brother-in-law likes to lie on while he watches TV and cleans out the fridge, and said, “Myrtle, let’s put that thing out in the yard!”

Teenage boys are drafted, storm doors are propped open, walls are scraped and suddenly, there’s a piece of furniture outside, and everyone knows it is never, ever coming back in.

Presidents will serve and leave office, kingdoms will rise and fall, kids will grow up, get married and bear children – but this couch will never see the inside of a home again.

If you’re lucky, someone will come by and pick it up.

Chances of that are better, of course, if it’s in an actual sale. That gives prospective buyers the impression that it only recently exited a climate-controlled environment. If they think it’s been inside, well cared for, they might give you $20 ($5 if that brother-in-law is a really messy eater).

If you just put it down by the road, you have a 24- to 48-hour window. If someone is driving by and sees it, likes it, needs it, has a pickup – and they drive that way every day and it wasn’t there the day before, they may grab it.

If it doesn’t go in that brief window, it will never go.

After it sits there a few days, drivers-by know how long it’s been there. They’re no longer interested. A couple of rainstorms, some hot summer days, a few freeze-thaw cycles, and I’m sorry. No one is ever going to bring that thing into their house.

The big reason is obvious: they don’t know what kind of wildlife has taken up residence in those cushions.

Are flea-bitten tomcats sleeping their days away there? Have fire ants mounded up in the springs? Is it a bird sanctuary, a place for illicit coyote trysts, a scorpion hatchery, a snake incubator?

The possibility that one day Grandma sits down on your new, roadside couch and a lizard slithers across her lap is a risk you just can’t take.

I see this furniture circle of life play out every day as I drive to work (hint: I do not live in Southlake).

In the morning I see stuff I didn’t see the day before, and sometimes it looks pretty good. And that evening, it’s gone.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are couches now, in the bar ditch, that seem like old friends because I’ve driven past them so many times. They’re slowly returning to nature, assuming nature is where foam rubber and naugahyde came from.

But alas, I too have joined the ranks of those who have furniture in the yard.

Ours is an oversized recliner, handed down from my sister, who will lament this column because she would NEVER be a yard-furniture hillbilly.

It was a very nice chair at one time – the kind you curl up and take a nap in on Sunday afternoon while the Cowboys were getting whupped. Big padded armrests, plush upholstery – some of my kids’ smaller friends have disappeared into this chair for days.

But the back broke and we started having to place it against a wall. Not being able to recline was a huge downer, since no one seeks out a chair like that with good posture in mind.

Finally, we got better chairs and it went to a back bedroom. Kids moved out, but no one wanted it. One day it was just, “It’s gotta go outside.”

We almost had to take a door off its hinges, but we got it out. I’m certain it will never be in again – my house or anyone else’s. It sits under the eaves on the back patio, but who are we kidding? It has experienced rain, dirt, leaves, dog hair and untold squirrel frolics.

It’s a yard-chair now, a wildlife refuge, slowly returning to nature. And I am a fully-vested redneck.

Maybe while the boys are home, we can move it to the bar ditch. Who knows? Someone may drive by…

Bob Buckel is editorial director for the Messenger.

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