LOCAL FOLKS: Collector Lindy Gambrell fills his life with treasures

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – If you meet Lindy Gambrell, he might be tempted to poor-mouth his menagerie of odds and ends.
“I’m proud of my junk,” he said.
Don’t listen to his “junk’ talk because Gambrell’s collection of mason jars, comedy albums, vacuum cleaners, tin signs, cotton sacks, whiskey jugs, marbles, smithing tools, farm implements and so much more should be described properly: Treasure.
“The age I’ve gotten to, it’s better to sell than to buy,” the 72-year-old Tupelo resident said, then he pretended to open a make-believe wallet. “But if I sold it all, all of them 20 dollar bills would look the same. They all look different on the shelves.”
Several barns and sheds protect his antiques and oddities, but one special item remains in the open, right where his daddy left it about 60 years ago.
It’s a rusted mule rake, a machine used to harvest hay in days gone by. Two steel wheels are about 5-feet-tall and 10 feet apart. Between them are 28 tines for gathering up hay.
Mules pulled it until the elder Gambrell bought a tractor and retired his mules. The device was leaned against a sycamore tree, where it stayed for six decades.
“The tree’s grown over it. The roots, too,” Gambrell said. “It’s been swallowed.”
Not long ago, his son-in-law suggested cutting the tree down.
“I said, ‘Hold on, Ron. I’m kind of fond of it,'” Gambrell said.
The sycamore once grew 50 or 60 feet into the air – “Maybe higher. That was a huge tree,” he said – but no more. It’s about 15 feet tall now.
Last year, green leaves grew on a few thin sprouts, but there’s no trace of green this year. Bark peels away as easily as wrapping paper.
“I don’t know what to do with it,” Gambrell said. “It can’t last too much longer.”
His 10-year-old grandson, Jordan Browning, said, “It’s doing all right tearing up all by itself, Pop.”
Gambrell nodded.
While nature has its way, a single limb Gambrell used to climb when he was Jordan’s age remains. There’s no rush to say good-bye.
He has his other passions, of course. Gambrell is a regular at flea markets in Northeast Mississippi. He actually sells some of his things. For instance, he’s been reducing his marble holdings.
But certain dealers in rare, old-fashioned wares love it when Gambrell walks their way with his real wallet at the ready. It’s regular to see his truck overflowing with tin signs, used books, rare tools and other finds.
“I like old stuff. I guess you can tell that,” he said, smiling and wiping the sweat from under his Tupelo Hardware hat. “I’ve got tons and tons. I don’t know why.”
He might joke around and say it’s all junk, but anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen will recognize his treasure for what it is.
scott.morris@journalinc.com