Saturday, February 15, 2014

Old Charlie's Place

Over the years on our way to/from Yosemite on CA 140, TSG has passed the "AG Museum and Fruit Basket" just east of Merced many times, but never had the chance to go inside. (mostly because, despite the posted hours, nobody ever seemed to be at home). We've stopped and done a little photo snooping around the outside but it seemed like we'd never get a chance to pay a proper visit. The establishment had become somewhat of a roadside holy grail for us, until finally, one day, the Blue Highway Gods (just made that term up, with a nod to WLH Moon) smiled upon us.

Our visit almost ended before it began. We pulled into the once-again empty parking lot in front of the ramshackle compound, and found the front door locked. Heaving a disappointed sigh, we got back into the car...and then a big Ford Diesel Dually lumbered up and parked next to us. That's when we met Charlie Parish, the proprietor of this pickers paradise.

Turned out that Charlie had come by in search of his missing wallet.  I asked if the museum was open, and he invited me in for a quick private tour. He showed me the layout of the place and said I was free to poke around while he looked for his wallet. After about twenty minutes he hailed me and said he was off to run some errands, and could we please lock up when we leave?

We had to be moseying along as well, so we walked out with him and we talked for a little while. His museum was (as you can see) a collection of stuff that just caught his eye over the years.  He was in to old-school heavy machinery and told me about airlifting a big piece of mining equipment out of a remote valley with a Chinook helicopter. (We had seen pictures of that operation while wandering around, evidence he wasn't telling tales)The "museum" had never really gotten much past concept phase, as Charlie was always off doing something else.  What he really needed was a dedicated curator, but it was tough to find a qualified candidate in east Merced. The last guy he tried out turned out to be a "crack head", but Charlie gave him credit for doing some nice mural work.

For an exceedingly brief instant the prospect of "curating" the vast mess appealed to us, but common sense prevailed. We wished Charlie well and hit the road again, headed for Hornitos and beyond.