Daddy didn't cram a ranch-ful of stuff into a twenty-eight by fifty foot shed for selfish purposes. My dad was not a hoarder. That's right, I said, "not." Hoarders are people who cling to their possessions. Hoarders seize, clutch, grasp, stockpile (don't you just love the thesaurus?) with tight fists, clenched teeth, and the determination that, like Scarlett O'Hara, they "shall neva, neva be hungry again." Daddy did not squirrel away ten years worth of Better Homes and Gardens in neatly stacked green plastic milk crates because he wanted the blue ribbon recipes for himself. No, somebody somewhere might need them someday. They might be exactly the thing that a poor decorating-challenged-recipe-deprived lady had been looking for all her life. And wouldn't you know it? TA DAH! There they would be. He always had the presence of mind to save important things like that. He hung onto everything just in case: Just in case the neighbor's old Kirby snapped a belt. Just in case a young couple was moving into a new house and needed a dishpan of mismatched flatware, or just in case a rancher friend lost his very last baling wire twisting tool. My dad was not only ready, but also eager to help.
Daddy was sentimental. Stored among the debris I found a tiny box which contained just two china plates and two china cups with a note in my dad's own handwriting that read, "Beverley and I--First Thanksgiving '49." My dad loved a good story, and better yet, he loved to tell and retell his own. The story of the little plates and cups, however, is one that I had never heard. Before their elopement in mid-November 1949, neither of my parents had lived on their own. Daddy brought Momma back to an empty house on his mother's ranch, and once there, I suppose, they must have purchased just one plate and one cup for each of them to celebrate their first holiday together alone. How special was that short note and its little sentimental treasure hidden among the stacks and piles! I rejoiced like an archaeologist unearthing a single priceless artifact in a vast desert wasteland. That china and its precious note were proof of my dad's undying love for my mother even beyond the grave. He kept lots of other sentiments, too, from our rusted-out steel school lunch pails to his grandmother's steamer trunks filled with baby clothes and bric-a-brac. Some of the things brought beloved memories to mind as we sorted between treasure and trash. Others kept their secrets, sentiments lost at our father's passing because, unlike the china plates and cups, he did not write their stories.