Packrat Confessions

Guns, Stories, Cool Guy-Stuff

By Will Dabbs, MD

The technical appellation is Neotoma lepida. The debris piles they construct are called middens. Some can be the size of an institutional refrigerator and be astronomically old, having been occupied for countless generations. In the vulgar tongue these industrious little vermin are called “packrats.”

I have the packrat gene. It makes you unable to throw away a camera that uses film nobody makes any more. Your attic sags underneath the weight of crates of gun magazines dating back to the days of Moses. But among all this clutter, there resides some seriously cool stuff.

Cherished artifacts: These tools came from Will’s grandfather’s toolboxes. The leather sleeve that holds the pliers is hand-made.

Military Midden

GunBroker and eBay are the packrat’s kryptonite. I was shaved and prepped to donate a kidney a couple times if that’s what it would’ve taken to seal the deal (why else would God have blessed me with a spare?).

Derelict German helmets are both serious crowd pleasers and not terribly expensive. One blown-to-smithereens SS helmet hails from the Kurland Pocket. A rusty specimen with matching barbed wire flourish came from Stalingrad. A high-mileage Luftwaffe lid sports an unsettling line of .30-caliber holes and was dug out in Latvia. Each represents a tantalizing story.

Deactivated German hand grenades and 20mm rounds ship straight to your door from Eastern Europe. An inert 88mm Flak round still carries its clockwork fuse. Spent Russian antitank rockets add flair to any respectable man-space.

Provenance Unknown

My beloved Vietnam Chicom Type 54 bring-back came with the most curious holster. The gun is shopworn, but the holster is lined with blue corduroy. Oddly, this was not atypical for this particular gun.

WW II-vintage Axis pistols all embody a bit of melancholia. Each was taken by some GI in combat and then brought home as a souvenir of the most exciting time in his young life. Eventually the exigencies of life drove the guy to sell the gun when he needed money for diapers or baby formula.

Or perhaps he simply grew weary of the tangible reminder of something that was — likely — unimaginably unpleasant. If not that, then some subsequent generation lost interest and liquidated these treasures after the vet was gone. I cherish such stuff for the holy things they are. It seems the least I can do.

This German helmet was lost during the Battle of Stalingrad. Its original owner customized it with barbed wire.

Miscellaneous Fill

The thumb-sized chunk of iron and nickel fell to earth from outer space. There is, quite literally, no telling where it’s been. The Trinity Glass was formed underneath the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The searing heat from the world’s first nuclear blast slagged the nearby sand into glass. I suppose it’s no longer radioactive. I hope it’s no longer radioactive.

The Indian spear points came from our backyard and speak to the industry of my rural Mississippi farm’s previous tenants. The mammoth ivory once graced an extinct creature, as did the dinosaur bones and sharks’ teeth. That alone makes them cool.

The 1930 soda bottle was something my grandfather used as a doorstop. It’s worth maybe a 10-spot at an antique store. It’s priceless to me because, as I said, my grandfather used it as a doorstop.

The modest hammer and compact pliers I keep in my gunroom for little maintenance tasks came from my grandfather’s toolboxes. I have two wood lathes. One came from a store. The other my grandfather built from scratch. The store-bought version is the larger and more capable of the two. I haven’t touched it in a decade. I prefer to build things using the one my grandfather built.

The Roman Tenth Legion billeted in Palestine minted the antique copper coin two millennia ago. It bears the image of some narcissistic despot long dead. Chances are it was not in the purse that hung from the belt of the legionnaire at the base of the cross when Christ took the nails, but it could’ve been.

The lining on the holster that accompanied this Chicom Type 54 bring-back was blue corduroy. At first, Will thought
the holster was a fake. He later found out these holsters were frequently lined with the stuff.

The Most Toys Wins!

The human male is physiologically incapable of seeing dust and clutter. It’s not our fault. Think of it more like a disability. We should be pitied, not castigated, by our long-suffering brides.

Someday my wife and children will hold the Mother of All Estate Sales and make a lot of younger packrats very, very happy. I’m hoping my family uses the money to vacation in Australia or pay off somebody’s mortgage.

Should any of you happen to be at that sale, I hope you enjoy this stuff as much as I have.

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