Typewriter Picking in Eastern Colorado

Somewhere past Last Chance, Colorado, where there isn’t anything except abandoned farm houses and miles of yellow grass, is supposed to be a gold mine. Not really a gold, gold mine, but we got word from a country boy that there was a stock pile of 400 vintage typewriters that needed a place to go.

For my husband and I, we had visions of cases of dirty, old typewriters that we could breathe new life into – for a screaming, good deal.

We already spend a considerable amount of time driving hours in every direction from our home in Colorado Springs for just one decent typewriter. To get our hands on even 30-40 of those typewriters would save us a lot of time.

After about 2 months of texting back and forth, we finally made arrangements to drive 2.5 hours (one way) to see if we could make a deal.

VISIONS OF TYPEWRITERS DANCING IN MY HEAD

I was so excited to be privy to a typewriter treasure hoard that I was ready to max out our credit card to get all the typewriters. Even making mental plans to rent a u-Haul. This big of a score could mean we wouldn’t have to go picking for typewriters for nearly a year!

But Rob was a little more level-headed and thought we should pull back a bit, take a few hundred dollars, and just see if his stash was as good as his promised.

Withdrawing a wad of cash, we got up early and started our long drive to the middle of nowhere. And when I say nowhere…

A forgotten land: The giant windmills haven’t even made their way out here yet!

We didn’t see any gas stations.

No occupied homes.

Not even any cattle.

And certainly no data service.

This good ‘ol country boy lived so far out in the country, he didn’t even have an address. He was 1 mile past the three grain silos on such and such highway. Look for the run-down house with a semi-trailer next to it over-the-river-and-through-the-woods type thing. (Except there’s no woods out here! Just grass).

That’s comforting.

Passing the grain silos, we noticed an old barn and fresh tire tracks in the snow. Slowing down, we pulled up next to a semi-trailer and then my heart sunk. There, next to the half-standing building that was supposed to be a garage, were piles of pieces-parts of typewriters covered in snow. They obviously had been there for some time.

This is NOT what I was expecting.

My husband assured me that this man said he had typewriters in a garage and a trailer. “Certainly he didn’t mean this half-standing building in front of us was the garage” we both thought.

Yep. It was.

The garage was missing all it’s doors and windows. Huge gaps in the walls revealed the light from the outside – not to mention allowed the snow to collect on the inside.

Nails, broken glass, splintered boards, typewriter parts, and who knows what else covered every inch of the ground. But…I figured it was all part of pickin’.

Rob and I started looking through stacks and piles of typewriters, desperate to find anything that was salvageable. Yet, the more we dug, the more we realized that the years of weather had taken their toll. Every machine was missing parts or was buried in several inches of snow.

We were looking for typewriter gold and it seemed like we had struck out. This was nothing more than a junk yard of rusted-out 40-year-old leftovers from area schools.

Seeing our discouragement, the owner blurted, “Y’all are just afraid of dirt“.

I replied, “Um, no, that’s not true”.

“Then what are you wanting?!”, he retorted. Getting more annoyed as the minutes past.

“To make money”, I commented sarcastically.

“Well, there’s all kind of money to made here! Just look at this typewriter. I looked it up, you can cut those keys off and sell them for $40. That’s just the keys! You can make all kinds of money off of these machines. Obviously, you aren’t the right people if you can’t see the possibilities.”

I turned around, bit my tongue and rolled my eyes. He wouldn’t stop, insisting we buy the entire load of junk typewriters.

“I got a guy in Australia who wants it all but you guys were coming out first.”

He can have it all, I thought.

After some annoying chit-chat, the owner blurted out, “What will you give me for all of it?”

Rob chuckled. “Sir, honestly, I don’t want any of it. I wouldn’t pay you for any of this.”

About that time we noticed the white semi-trailer just a few steps from the garage. I remembered he had mentioned he had a trailer full of typewriters. We pointed to the trailer and asked to see its contents.

“Naw,” he shook his head. “I want to know what you’ll give me for this stuff out here. I’m not showing this to you if you’re not serious buyers”.

Ohhhh. Okay, he’s playing a game with us. Hiding the good stuff until we agree to buy the junk.

Yea. That’s not going to happen.

After a moment of arguing, he opened the door and we crawled up inside. Sure enough, here were the typewriters we could fix up. Underwoods, Royals, and Remingtons from the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

THIS is what we wanted.

Rob was already rummaging through the shelves in the trailer trying to find something that we could fix up. Many of the vintage pieces were that – pieces. Nearly every typewriter was missing major parts. But we were still willing to negotiate.

“Don’t you be touching those typewriters. You can look with your eyes but you can’t pull anything off the shelves or out of the bins. I’m not going to stand here while you look through everything.”

My husband replied, “You don’t have to stand here, but I want to see what you have.”

However, the seller became really agitated, “I didn’t drive all the way out here to have you go through all my typewriters. You can’t take them off the shelves!”

At this point, I’ve had enough with everything so turning on my heels I said, “Let’s get out of here. He’s wasting our time”, and I jumped out of the trailer and climbed back into the warmth of my pickup truck.

Sitting in the truck, I’m feeling frustrated. This trip is taking almost an entire day and we’ll be leaving with nothing. I stare at the light blue sky. At least it was a pretty day for a drive. As I hear the muffled sounds of Rob and the seller haggling, I stare out the window and wonder how someone who lives quite literally in the middle of nowhere could accumulate such a huge hoard of typewriters.

I’m thinking that the guy in Australia (if there’s such a person) is gonna be quite upset if he purchases this load of scrap.

Pulling out my phone, I decide to call my parents to bide the time. I realize I don’t get any service.

Figures.

So I stare off over the snow and fields, while listening in on the growing argument between my husband and the owner.

Rob is trying to pick out a few typewriters to buy. This guy won’t have any of it. Instead, he insists we have to buy the entire contents of the trailer, trailer included. My husband says, “no way” and tries to make his way to the driver’s door of our truck.

Rob trying not to show his shock at the condition of the typewriters.

Our country boy keeps engaging.

“What’ll you give me? What do you want?”

My husband finally says, “I’ll give you $30 per typewriter”.

I personally think that’s too generous. $15- $20 each based on the condition is more my comfort zone.

“Naw…I won’t do less than $40 each and you have to take them all.”

“Sir, we’re not prepared to take them all. All I have is $600. I’ll give you the $600 for 20 typewriters…but I get to pick out the 20 typewriters”, Rob offers.

“No way. I’m not letting you pick out which ones you want”, he said.

And with that, Rob ended the conversation, got in the truck and left empty-handed. We ended up laughing about it on the way home and couldn’t believe what we had just seen. But mostly, we were kicking ourselves for not requesting photographs of the typewriters for sale before we drove all the way out to nowhere!

Ah, well. Lesson learned.

As far as the guy in the middle of nowhere with a massive load of broken typewriters…I truly hope for the best and that he finds the right kind of person to haul off everything for him.

Who knows, maybe some fella in Australia will be thrilled to pay top dollar for a load of American junk.

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