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Oh look! There’s a sign for an antique mall one mile ahead – let’s stop.” Once again, my wife Sally has dropped that dreaded line on me. “Curses,” I moan. My thought of a simple, five-hour non-stop drive to our favorite Michigan summer place is now in jeopardy. For years, this same pattern has haunted me because I never prevail – we always stop! My only solace is the Dairy Queen we enjoy later, which I guess is supposed to mollify me. Not so! The DQ tastes good, but it doesn’t make up for the “antique-ing.” My grouch ratio seems to go higher each year as we plow through another mall (ugh, they are all so alike). My total frustration point used to be Pentwater (250 miles away) but now is way down to Saugatuck (100 miles).

So we stopped. Sally heads to the china section, jewelry cases, assorted crafts or whatever. Fortuanately, more often than not, she ends up buying nothing. In the meantime, I’m looking at books, stamp collections, toy soldiers, posters – boring! Now she is perusing cookbooks, lace, glassware. This happened every year until I got wise.

On the theory that if you can’t beat them, join them, I knew I had to find my own special niche. Instead of simply wandering around, I paid attention to what piqued my interest. Old tools, their shapes, all unusual, offbeat rusty stuff – what their function could be? This intrigued me – most of it was not displayed but sat in piles rusting away. Then it hit me that old rusty tools hanging on our fences and walls in our backyard would make an unusual collection. Voila!

That inspiration has led to 100 items hanging, swinging, nailed in our yard. The common denominator is that they are rusty. Surrounded by all this “inventory,” I take pride in what it represents: ingenuity. Most importantly, we now still stop at antique stores, where I’m off to the corners, the basements, the as-yet unsorted piles. Raedle’s Rustic Rust ‘Rangement has become our raison d’etre in making our backyard our own personal museum.

–Norman W. Raedle