The burden of being Keeper of the Cans
“A thousand beer cans all over the place … a thousand beer cans for me!” husband-head sang loudly in the garage, which is used as his personal playhouse.I looked around in horror.There were empty beer cans on the pool table, the air hockey table, the bar and every available space in the room.”What in the WORLD are you going to do with all these?” I asked incredulously. “I’ve never seen so many beer cans in my life!””I am the KEEPER OF THE CANS!” he said proudly and I half expected him to beat on his chest with his fists.Husband-head had just returned from a week-long trip to Wisconsin to help celebrate his dad’s 80th birthday. And he had returned with the inside of his car piled to the roof with empty beer cans, not to mention the ones that filled the trunk.”You are SO lucky you didn’t get pulled over,” I said when I saw the can-laden car. “That would’ve been a fun one to explain.”But his dad bestowed on husband-head his prize beer can collection that went back to the 1930s.”It took us all DAY to get the cans out of my parents’ attic in the garage,” husband-head informed me, as if it was a feat to be recognized. “I’ll bet I have the biggest beer can collection now in the western part of the state.”I’d say probably on the Western Hemisphere.There were beers from the United States and all over the world, most of them from breweries I’d never heard of.”What’s this?” I asked, picking up an Old Dutch can with the slogan, “The Good Beer.””That’s opposed to the crappy beer,” husband-head explained.There was Schell’s “It’s a Grand Old Beer,” a Schmidt beer that claimed “The Brew that Grew with the Great Northwest,” Harley Davidson beer and Walter’s 1985 St. Patrick’s Day beer.”What’s your favorite?” I asked husband-head curiously.”I think it’s this one,” he said, handing me a black and white Olde Frothingslosh can with a picture of a 300-pound woman in a bathing suit on it as “Miss Olde Frothingslosh.”There were thousands of cans and it would take hours to look at all of them.”Oh, and this is only one-third of the collection,” husband-head advised me. “There are two more loads being shipped here.”My eyes got real big.”Did your dad actually DRINK all these beers?” I wanted to know. “It’s a wonder he’s not on dialysis.””No, no,” husband-head assured me. “His buddies helped him by saving their beer cans as well. Everyone contributed to the collection.”Turns out there were even stories of his parents traveling through Europe during which his father would fish out foreign cans from local dumpsters.”People would see him and ask if he was hungry or something,” husband-head said with a laugh. “And you know how fathers and sons play ball together? My dad and I would go out looking for beer cans.”That explained a lot.Actually, when husband-head was growing up, the beer can collection was kept in his bedroom.”Other kids had toys and games and stuff in their rooms – I had a cool beer can collection,” he boasted. “I grew up with these cans.”I remembered one time he told me his mom also let him pick out the carpeting for his bedroom and he chose a red shag number. I prayed it wouldn’t show up at our house as well.But still overwhelmed by the can collection I decided right then and there to make a phone call.”Thanks a LOT!” I said when my mother-in-law answered the phone.She started laughing and I didn’t even have to explain what I was talking about.”My garage is CLEAN!” she chortled. “It’s YOUR problem now!” Very funny.”And that’s not even HALF of it!” she continued laughing.At least it wasn’t inside the house. But I wondered what in the world husband-head was going to do with it all … along with what was still coming.”I’m going to build some shelves,” husband-head said as he surveyed his cache of cans. “I’m going to clean each one with a soft toothbrush and then put them on the shelves in alphabetical order.”It sounded like something a person would be institutionalized for, but those are the duties when one is the “keeper of the cans.”Heidi Rice is a staff reporter for the Post Independent. Her column runs every Friday. Visit her newly revamped Web site at http://www.heidirice.com.
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