Garage Sale Diaries
Nov 07, 2022

Garage Sale Diaries: Marshmallows and Woodchucks

Submitted by a Colts Neck resident

Garage Sale Diaries

On our last expedition, we found ourselves in a neighborhood where, a few years ago, we bought some marshmallows from an old woman who was selling all kinds of homemade sweets. Her marshmallows were like nothing we’d ever tasted before – totally different from those horrible, tasteless and barely edible, overly sweet blobs of rubber you buy at the supermarket. The ones the lady made were among the most delicious morsels we’ve ever had. When we stuck them on a fork and held them over the flame of our kitchen stove for a few seconds, her homemade ones toasted up with a crunchy crust and a creamy, stretchy, just sweet enough center. Sadly, the old woman’s niece who answered the door of her house told us that she’d died last year, but incredibly, she actually had her aunt’s marshmallow recipe, and she made us a copy. So, we’ll try it.

A few doors down, we saw a few garage sale-type things set up on a front lawn, so we stopped and took a look. We really didn’t see anything of interest to us except for a nice mission-style side chair. There was no one around, but as we walked up to ring the doorbell, we heard some scuffling noise coming from the backyard. When we went back to take a look, we saw a heavyset man with the stub of a cigar clenched in his teeth. Though it was a cool October morning, he was sweating as he was tried to net a fat groundhog he had trapped between the shed and a low wall. In a quick maneuver, the animal faked to his left, then ran to the right and escaped. In frustration, the big guy began to utter the obligatory string of curse words, but when he saw us, he just said, “Oops” and gave a sheepish grin.

He told us that for the past few years, the area has been plagued with woodchucks. At first, some of the neighbors thought they were cute as they watched them teaching their babies survival skills on warm summer mornings. But then the guy who lived down the block discovered that some groundhogs had burrowed completely under his house, and every time it rained his basement flooded. He was afraid his foundation might be in danger of crumbling. Then a couple of other homeowners spotted tunnel openings near their foundations. Now everybody was up in arms against the little critters.

Somebody went online and got the bad news about how difficult it is to get rid of woodchucks and how extensive and complex their tunnels can be. Somebody else verified it after they called animal control and were told “Good luck,” and then heard the even worse news that when the original tunnel inhabitants leave, the skunks move in!

We sympathized with his concerns and told him about our own town’s continuing battle with the overpopulation of whitetail deer, and together we speculated as to the causes of all the animal problems.

Then we turned the conversation to our real purpose for being there: the mission chair. The man said it was one of a set of four that came with the house when he bought it, and he didn’t want to sell it; he was just using it to sit on for his garage sale. He showed us the other three, and they, like the one we first saw, were in good, unrestored condition. Each one had the number “390 1/2” stenciled on the bottom of the seat. We didn’t recognize the number and the design of the chairs was quite unusual, so we began to try to convince him to sell, being careful of course, not to let him know how eager we were to own them. He did finally relent, and we agreed on a price. We paid quite a lot, but they were so special that we felt we had to own them.

When we got the chairs home and started to clean them up, we found a small brass tag hidden underneath one of them that said “Quaint Furniture Co. Stickley Bros. Mich.” When we looked in our Stickley resource books, we couldn’t find any pictures of them, nor could we find even a remote reference to the number 390. That told us that the chairs might actually be prototypes and could possibly be unique. That, of course, changed everything, and now we estimate that our new chairs could easily be worth four or five times what we paid for them.