When we checked into our motel, it didn’t take long to find that the shortage of rooms was not caused by college football. The desk clerk told me that the refinery and storage area ten miles up the highway was having a lot of work done and there were a couple of hundred workers, spread out over the nearby motels. I knew the refinery. We pass it every time we come down. There’s one fifty-foot spherical tank. It used to be painted white, with stitches on it, to represent Detroit Tigers baseball. Now it’s brown, with seams, sponsored by the Detroit Pistons basketball team.
The boys had moved in and made themselves at home. There were five big ten-ton earth mover trucks parked mostly out of the way. All except for one guy, who managed to neatly back his rig sideways into a little area for five cars. One room had a barbeque outside on the grass.
When I went down to the office on Saturday morning, there were five of them having bottled beer for breakfast. Down the balcony, someone, or -ones, had constructed a fairly large web of empty beer cans. I don’t know how they got them to hang together. That might have been a Friday night construction. They weren’t loud and rowdy, and at least they didn’t empty the ice machine.
When I went to the office there was a young female hanging on the balcony rail. The thought that went through my head was, Sex in a motel room. But everybody has sex in motel rooms. Maybe someone was getting small bills to pay her off. I thought I might get propositioned. I did! Just not by her. As I headed down the stairs I saw a young slender Negro male *wandering*. It caught my attention. If motel guests aren’t in their rooms, they’re going somewhere definite. This kid was loitering.
When I came back up, he was loitering in the opposite direction, away from my room, and said something to me. Thick lips, he spoke quietly and quickly. I didn’t catch the question. The second try I heard him ask me if I was in room 251. That was the direction he was facing, but not me. I told him, no! “Are you sure you’re not in 251?” “No, my room’s down here.” As I started to walk away, he sidled closer. “Can I ask you something? Are you straight?” Yes sweetie, and I even brought my wife to prove it. The next day I told the clerk, and she said, “Oh, that’s why he hangs around. I thought he was dealing drugs.” No fuss, no complaints, there’s no reason to call the cops.
These petroleum workers are a specialized bunch, and come from all over the eastern United States. I saw licence plates from Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. There was also a three-man paramedic crew. They serve the entire five-mile square city of Taylor. Like firemen, they’re on duty 24 hours, but don’t have a firehouse to sleep in. While I was talking to one, the alarm went off and the ambulance and supervisor car quickly disappeared.
The day clerk has worked there for 26 years, and recognized the wife and me, as she does most of her long-time repeat customers. We went a mile up the road to an Outback restaurant for supper. They have traded their little flying saucer pagers for rectangular ones like TV remotes. The booking clerk told me the wait could be as much as an hour, but we got buzzed in, in about twenty minutes. The grandson liked the Blooming Onion so much, we ordered a second, and he took the leftover home to share….a little bit with his fiancée. The next morning we made a picnic lunch and headed for the knife show.
The spring knife shows we’ve attended have been in the Rock Financial Center. Rock recently sold out, and it is now known simply as the Suburban Display Center. It has five huge halls. The spring knife show is always in conjunction with a guns and ammo show. The two groups split the cost, guns at the front, knives in the back. For one admission, we get two shows. Even the wife likes to look at some of the old blunderbusses.
The fall show is held by itself in a Knights of Columbus hall, about half the size of the back end at The Rock. There were 20/25 displays, only one of whom was an actual maker. The rest were either collectors or purveyors, with one knifemaker’s-supplies vendor thrown in. Collectors and purveyors are essentially the same. They both buy knives as cheaply as they can, and hopefully sell them at a profit. The purveyor does it as a business, to support himself. The collector only sells when he has reached his monetary investment limit. He will sell older knives, to be able to afford to buy more, newer knives.
Custom knife makers laughingly call these shows “Rusty jackknife shows”, because of the presence of a lot of cheap factory-made folders. The grandson saw a good-looking folder and tried to open the blade, only to find it jammed, justifying the epithet. He did get a new, nice looking, aluminum handled knife for work for $5. One seller had a box of knives with a hand-printed sign that read: Any knife in the box for $5 $4 $3 $2 3 for $5.
The wife picked up a tiny cute folder, about two inches long, as a letter opener, for $1. She also bought a rosewood handled paring knife for $50. It’s only 6 inches long for good leverage. The handles are extra thick for better grip with her weak hands. The blade has a belly, for easy cutting and is made of 52100 type steel. This is what they make ball bearings from. It will take and keep a fine edge, but needs to have a slight coating of vegetable oil after each use.
It was a low-stress show, with a low turn-out, and all of the vendors being older folks, willing to take the time to answer all questions and socialize with us. As usual, I didn’t buy a knife, but, not as usual, I was finished and ready to leave while the wife and grandspawn were still inside, gabbing up a storm.
Tomorrow we go shopping.
The ever-busy H E Ellis has a great project going on over at her site. She’s trying to raise money, and some smiles, for all cancer patients, and one little girl patient in particular. Drop by her blog at www.heellisgoa.com and sign up to help.