If the one who has the most toys at the end really wins, Earl Morris might have the gold medal.
He never threw anything away, said Barbara Ritter of Central Point, one of the treasure hunters who looked over Morris’s possessions Friday during a preview of the estate sale that begins today at 10 a.m. and continues through Sunday at 8785 Blackwell Road.
Morris, who died May 12, accumulated a vast hoard during the 60-some years he lived at Hidden Valley Ranch, an 883-acre spread that straddles Interstate 5 between Gold Hill and Central Point. Morris and his brother, LaRue (who died in 1991), collected countless antiques for the Gold Gulch tourist attraction they ran in the 1960s and 70s.
They also acquired farm implements, tractors, steam engines, firearms, saddles, and a little bit of everything else made during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The auction catalog only hints at the bounty: 23 cars and trucks; 20 railroad pocket watches; three potbellied stoves; a fire hydrant; four chrome stools from a diner; Meissen china figurines; cap-and-ball revolvers from the Civil War.
— I’ve seen a number of items I’d enjoy bidding on, said Ray Spor of Grants Pass. Some of this stuff I haven’t seen since I left the ranch. I haven’t seen a butter churn in years.
Some people came to the preview looking for one thing, only to be seduced by something else.
I heard he had some antique cars that I might buy, said Don Babb of Rogue River, admiring several antique horse buggies. I didn’t know they had these, too.
Many who came to the preview knew Morris or at least knew of him. He became something of a legendary figure around Central Point for his annual appearances in the town’s Fourth of July parade at the wheel of a 1971 Lamborghini.
He was also generous: More than 160 Crater High School seniors will get scholarships this year alone for vocational and technical education as a result of earnings from a &
36;1.6 million trust fund he established to benefit the school.
Pre-sale publicity described Morris as an eccentric millionaire. Auctioneer Chris Fain said some people questioned his choice of words, but he noted that Morris was anything but ordinary.
His water heater didn’t work for years, Fain said, but he wouldn’t buy a new one. When he wanted hot water he heated it on the stove.
Fain said he once tried to install a brighter light bulb in Morris’s house, but the old man wouldn’t trade his dim 40-watt bulb for a 100-water.
He said electricity was too expensive, Fain recalled.
Fain noted that the sale has generated interest far beyond the Rogue Valley. He said inquiries came from as far as Texas and New York about some of Morris’s more unusual possessions.
noon several hundred people had toured the sale. Several said great deals are hard to find at estate sales these days.
There are very few bargains anymore, said Ken Nelson of Rogue River. There are lots of knowledgeable people. If you can find that one unique thing, you might find a bargain.
Competition is likely to be keen, said Babb, the Rogue River car collector, who admitted to owning some 400 cars. We’re a nation of collectors.
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