Paul had it all. Visiting his barn reminded me of collecting stamps.
Many boys of my vintage collected stamps. My collection was modest.
Stamps were purloined from envelopes my father received from missionaries he knew. Otherwise my foreign stamps came from Mexico and Canada.
A boy in school collected arrowheads. He picked them up on his family’s property along Old River Road. While his father farmed that ground, pottery shards were abundant for the picking.
I have a friend who collects Chevrolets. I think he has eleven, heavy into 1957 models. It is a full-time job keeping them clean and rotating them out for a ride.
A man who dealt in horses and mules had a line of anvils in his office — an anvil collection. That’s all I know about it.
I’ve seen about any collection you can name; beer cans, Barbie dolls, thimbles, shot glasses, license plates, telephones, barbed wire, Elvis stuff, pickle/kraut crocks, writing instruments, slot machines, antique tools, radios, record collections, ancient oil lamps from the Middle East.
The list goes on but the collection that holds my imagination was Paul Simple’s brick collection.
I found the retired school man pawing through the ruins of an old theater.
A magnifying glass was hung by a neck string and a small hammer dangled from his belt.
He lifted a brick, studied it, tapped it, stacked it in a neat pile and went to the next one.
The building, from the middle 1800s, was made of bricks from three brick yards.
Once he figured out I wasn’t prone to steal his bricks he invited me to his place for a tour.
Paul’s barn was full of bricks, stacks of them, rows of them, cataloged and arranged.
He showed me a brick from Virginia bearing the print of a hand. He wondered about the man who made that old brick.
An ancient oddly shaped brick sat in a wooden box. Paul claimed it came from Egypt, was hand-made, sun baked, and several thousand years old.
Most towns had a brick yard at some time. Brick buildings of about the same age are made of bricks of similar color and size.
I thought of the main street of my hometown as it looked when I knew it. Paul was right.
Paul Simple got me interested in bricks. I like looking at them but don’t bring them home.
Our elongated “goodbye” migrated into the yard. He returned to the barn, then emerged with a heavy, gray object in his hand.
“You might as well have this. There are plenty of them.”
The brick, from the early 1900s, was embossed with “St. Joe” on the face, a product of the St Joe Brick Works in Pearl River, Louisiana.
I have a small collection of bricks — one.