Louisiana and Texas were ripe for the picking, or in this case, the pickers, when Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz headed south in their white Antique Archaeology van recently.
The stars of History’s “American Pickers,” the pair’s mission is to comb the country in search of antiques, vintage memorabilia and other oddities; wheel and deal and eventually turn their finds, which some might call trash, into treasures to sell at their AA shops in LeClair, Iowa, and Nashville, Tennessee.
The “modern archaeologists,” as they call themselves, are in Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday night’s episode, and just in Louisiana on the following week’s show.
In the first episode, “The Big Bet,” the pickers meet Texan Steve Smith, who owns an old Coca-Cola bottling plant. What’s stored inside the 5,000-square-foot structure is not just Coke memorabilia, although the drink items are popular sellers back at the stores.
Old signs advertising prescriptions, peaches and Pontiacs catch their eye.
“I’m all about going to the top of the pile to see what I can see,” Wolfe says, as he climbs mounds of collectibles to get a better view of the packed building.
Heading into the Bayou State, remarking on how they’re surrounded by water as they travel, Ronnie Sanders’ place in Patterson is stop one. Sanders is a retired mailman and among his vast collections are boats, cars and, appropriately, mailboxes, including a standing gem from 1902. But Sanders isn’t backing down on his price.
“Put this in your perspective, that’s the only one in captivity. It should be in the Smithsonian, but I’m willing to sell it to you,” Sanders says.
But what’s that sitting under piles of boxes and caked with dust? A 1969 Camaro RS/SS.
“There’s people who would give their first born to have this car,” Fritz says.
“I like the thrill of the hunt, and not knowing what you’re going to find,” Sanders says.
Picking always makes the guys hungry, and in the case of their dinner at Herby-K’s in Shreveport, there’s also a bet involved. Fritz says if Wolfe can down six dozen raw oysters in one sitting, and keep them down, he’ll pay for the oysters, give Wolfe $100, and shave his beard. The gang at Herby-K’s is happy to cheer on Wolfe.
Next week’s show, titled “Great Minds Ink Alike,” visits the World’s Only Tattoo School, also in Shreveport. There, Wolfe and Fritz negoitate a “bundle” deal (Fritz’ favorite) with owner Dr. Bill Pogue on some vintage tattooing tools.
“Don’t call them (tattoo) guns. They don’t like that,” he keeps advising Wolfe.
And Fritz may want to throw in some “ink” to seal this deal.
Back on the road, the pickers head to a weathered 1887 house near a bayou (town not identified) and meet father and son Clyde and Steele . In this house and the shotgun structure next door, Clyde has amassed a varied collection heavy on antiques. A graniteware coffee pot, a Radiola 20 tube radio with speaker, an electric lawnmower, snow shoes, car hood ornaments.
A picker’s heaven, Wolfe and Fritz would say.