How this Rose Collection all started.
While attending last summer’s WOLA (Western Outlaw and Lawman Association) Convention in Sierra Vista, Arizona, I participated in a collectors roundtable and was asked, “Why did you become a collector?” I told the audience of a moment on film that actually changed the course of my adult life. Having seen Raiders of the Lost Ark just after my first year of college, one scene has remained vivid to me ever since. Near the end of the movie, Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, is aiming a bazooka at the Ark of the Covenant, the greatest prize of his albeit fictitious archaeological career. Dr. Rene Belloq, the Nazi-collaborating French archaeologist portrayed by Paul Freeman, knows that his adversary really doesn’t want to go through with his threat to destroy the Ark and makes a statement that to me holds the true meaning of the value of collecting. “Indiana,” he says, “we are simply passing through history…this, this is history.” I’ll never forget the impact those words had on me, and I was surprised to hear some in the WOLA audience that night saying them along with me. I feel that same sensation to varying degrees whenever I find something that is perfect for my collection.
It was such a powerful statement, so succinctly put, albeit by a mostly unlikable character. I began to see old things on dusty shelves as possible links to bygone eras, a connection with a time and place that if not for what was left behind in photos and documents would be lost to history. Discovering these history-rich gems is like opening a window, inviting the viewer back to explore an age now gone forever. As a boy I enjoyed collecting coins; after Raiders, I knew that at some point I’d find something more involved. Having grown up next to Fort Huachuca and near Tombstone, Ariz., it was inevitable that the local history I loved would direct my collecting.
Rare antiques aren’t found at the discount chain stores, so it would be years before I could afford to really pursue collecting, as it is rarely an inexpensive calling. But nonetheless, a calling it has become. I see collecting as building a family of items that not only go together but have always belonged together, thereby bringing to life a more complete picture of a lost moment in time. There is nothing more exhilarating than bringing together two or more items that complement each other perfectly.
I never did finish college; I ran out of money and went to work. I did pursue collecting, which many times has caused me to run out of money and, in the end, continue to work.
Originally published in the August 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.