I Had A Barn Find Last Night.

You’re sitt’n at a bar having a burger and start up a conversation with a guy at the bar. One thing leads to another and eventually the conversation turns into an old wood boat deal. I know a guy out in the country that has a barn full of those things your new pal says. Well, at least I did, he died a year ago… just his wife now and she is about to sell the place. Wants to move to Florida or something like that. Your mind is racing and you forget the taste of the beer, and the fact that you are in the middle of no place on the way to someplace. And right now, this second, you are in the only place you want to be. You tell the guy you would love to see the boats and he can’t make it but gives you her number. You wait… about a second after the guy leaves so as not to look to desperate, and make the call. Eghhh hi Mrs Johnson, I was talkn with Jimmy here in town and he said you might have an old boat you might want to sell….. long pause… You want that stuff? It’s just a bunch of old rotten wood out in the barn, the boys were gonna clean it out in a week and burn them…. I think one of the grand kids wants to make a bed outa one….. Dear lord you think…. I need to get out there now… But you pause.. Say, well I am going to be out that way tomorrow do you mind if I stop by… Thinking to yourself, I can be there in 10 minutes and its 40 miles away if need be…

That night you have to stay at the No Place Motel, the foam hard pillows make your neck hurt, the room smells like old smoke and toilet cleaner. On the TV is some bad local show, and a bunch of bad movies. Dinner at the bar is working its way through you and you don’t care. The clock is ticking about half the speed it normally does… you finally doze off only to wake up at 2AM. Still dreaming.. Still wondering what treasures are awaiting you tomorrow… Maybe there’s a barrel back, an old race boat.. a Gar wood… a Shilo….. yeah, 3AM… 3:02 AM you fall back asleep and before you know it its 6AM… to early?

6:15 AM Your on the road , an Egg Mcfuffin, and a cup of Joe and you are heading west, into the country…. it’s 8 AM and you pull up in front of the house. It’s an early 1900’s simple farm house, white, with green shutters, flowers in the windows and clothing out to dry in the back. She’s awake! In fact she comes to the door, after all you’re the only car on the road, and possibly have been for a day or so, no strangers travel this road. It’s way off the road from Someplace to Somewhereville. She asks you in and asks if you would like some breakfast… you think.. lady, I want to see the boats.. but you say, a cup of coffee would be great. You want to run out the door and look, but also inside you want the dream to stay alive a little longer. You have your coffee and she starts talking about her late husband, and how he loved boating back in the day. How he was always into fast boats, and they spent all there weekends on the lake, but after his accident on the lake he had just lost interest… You are thinking, fast boats, possibly some old cool stuff…. possibly junk,, with a hole in it….

Your mind is racing… it’s time, you start to walk out the back door, the slam of the heavy screen door reminds you of your childhood at your grandmothers house. It all feels just right. It’s now about 9AM and the summer heat warms your body as you walk into your field of dreams. You notice the barn off in the field, wheat is about a foot tall. And there it is. The first sign of life. The rear end of a Utility, nothing special. But it’s all there. And the site of old varnished wood is all it takes to get your motor running… You have already decided what it is, so you move indoors. It’s dark and there are all sorts of parts, machine parts, farm parts, tractor parts… then you see the shape… a familiar shape only it looks like a clump of dirt and dust in that shape. The fin is the give away, your heart is pounding so hard that you cant really tell if you are breathing or even moving. Before you know it you are next to it.. Like you floated over to it…. It’s a Chris Craft Cobra.. a 21 footer. You take your finger and stick it into the dust and underneath is the perfection of patina and varnish. it’s still sitting on its original cradle from the factory. The wife chimes in… He never used it. He wrecked the other one out back and this was the replacement…. Dear lord you think… there’s more… You ask.. lets go out back… you walk through the barn, you see two Hemi’s 4 Chris Craft Motors, A Grey Marine motor, countless tripple carb set ups, Props, cool long rudders for the Cobra….all sorts of rare stuff. This guy was into it big time… Out back there it is, under a lean to, another Cobra… only with a hole in it, and missing some chrome parts a wheel, but mostly all there.

You think to yourself… Self…. All you have is your pick up truck… And about $1,000 bucks to your name. What in the hell have you done.. You are not prepared to do anything… And she is ready to go. She asks if you want it all, says she just wants to get the stuff out of here and knows its worth something, but cant do anything with it, so its gotta go. It pains her, but honestly she has had years to say so long to this old stuff. To you it’s the holey grail…. You stall. Because there is no way in hell you can get all this stuff out of there in a week. There you sit… with two Cobras, Hemi’s and god only knows what else is in there. There you are… your dream has come true….. there… silent… wondering why this is happening to you…and then you realize, hey maybe I am not the only guy with this dream..maybe there is a place on woodyboater for such stories. A place to share other fun barn finds…. You think, if I wait til Tuesday, maybe one of those stories will actually not be a dream caused by to much Mexican food… maybe I will tune in on Tuesday… maybe……….

14 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Interesting story and lots of fun. Some points are fantasmagorical. Lost the taste of beer? Have a shot and pull yourself together. I have been in such a barn in Northeastern Penn. A nice man with PennYan's up the wazoo. He worked at the plant as a young man and never let go. Beautiful boats in great shape except the one I was there to look at. I did not buy it because it was a little further down the river than advertised. I bumped into him a couple of years later and he called me a tire kicker. It is what you have to do till you find the right boat. You have to stick with your dream since it is a major part of being a woodyboater. May you all find the barn, garage, or open field that holds your dream.

  2. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    How many times have you been told not to drink the cheap tequila?? It does funny things like that to your head. If you stay with an anejo or reposado you avoid those moments when you fail to think. THINK, THINK, THINK! You find the holy grail and it has to be gone ASAP and you failed to THINK of calling your buddy JIM! Hope the hangover gets the best of ya for that one.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Now is it the Mexican food or the Taquilla that brings on these kind of dreams? What brand and which entre? I need to have these kind of dreams. That's more intertaining than late night TV.

  4. Texx
    Texx says:

    Your driving down a secondary highway in the countryside, well off the Interstate, and you come up behind a guy who is driving just under the posted speed limit, weaving all over the road. You think to yourself, that guy must be yapping on a cell phone or texting his girlfriend – "Idiot".

    As you pass him you realize, hey it's just another one of those WoodyBoater guys checking out the barn's along the side of the road hoping to make his dream come true.

    Shhhh…. We have to keep this quiet or they will invent a new law to get WoodyBoater's off the road!

  5. Rick
    Rick says:

    Submitted for your approval. A man driving down an isloated country road when he comes apon a solitary barn filled with every year and make of pre-war Chris-Crafts. You have just entered the 'WoodyBoater Zone'.

  6. Bill Basler
    Bill Basler says:

    I am one of the lucky ones. I have found a 1942 17-Deluxe barrelback (all original, but a basketcase) upside-down in an Iowa farm field. The farmstead was at the end of a two mile gravel lane that dead-ended at the house. No one would have ever known the boat was there. Tens of thousands of dollars later, I still call myself "lucky," but honestly you have to into the romance of the hunt to stay at it. For the same $25,000 invested thus far, I could have "found" one on eBay for the same amount. I guess it's not as cool though. eBay never feels quite like the same kind of "finding."

    About four years ago, I started chasing after "an old wood boat." It was resembling an urban legend for sure. One person would call it one thing…another person would call it another. Another person still would say that it was gone years ago. After two years of chasing, I found it. And strangely, it really was "an old wood boat." And stranger yet, it was a bit older than anyone described it. A 1936 18-foot Gar Wood Utility. Original wiring, original one coat of bilge paint. Original Spanish Maroon leather interior. Lucky!

    Personally, the process is truly like hunting or fishing. Why would you go to the same old tired fishing hole? Everybody around Iowa heads straight to Clear Lake or Lake Okoboji…two great lakes with wonderful wooden boat heritage. But the problem is they are pretty well picked over. They're "fished out." Not that aren't wooden boats there…I'm sure there are. But, every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows about them.

    I like the backroads. My Gar Wood was found inside a machine shed…no windows, dirt floor…the whole deal. It was of a dozen machine sheds and barns on the property. This was the only boat—all the rest cars. But, oh the cars….Packards, Duesies, Edsels, Huppmobiles, an Auburn Boattail Speedster, Model T Pickup, and enough rare tractors to make any collector drool. They were all complete, and all old project cars….about 300 vehicles total.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    The barn is also self aware and will only admit those who are worthy. So nobody who riots at the Mariner's Museum can get in. Joe Martell is also denied just on principal.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    …but just then the old lady says…well my oldest son says I should not sell it for less than $60,000.00 because he said "one just like it sold for that much on eBay last month"!Your dream just became a nightmare!!

  9. WoodyBoater
    WoodyBoater says:

    Dear God! That brought back some very bad memories. I apologize to all the readers that were in a different place… Great, now you are in a movie theater at 4 AM drunk and just trying to get out alive… with a chunk of toast in the back of your head and water dribbling from your hair….. You had to be there to get this reference…….

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    genius. totally genius.
    Fellas, the good thing for me is its summer here in woodyboaterville New Zealand. Im doing it and youre dreamin it.
    Ive just put the final varnish coat on my Resorter. I need the Christmas break to get the chrome back on and finish the wiring then its out on the water.
    Matt, I look forward to your random heartfelt updates.
    Wish you all were here.


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