Cookie's Bliss Horses Shopping

White Horses

There’s only one thing better than a thrift store, and that’s the swap shop.

Bob and I have been sleeping later each day. A month ago, we’d sleep with our bedroom door open all night, not worried about the automatic orchid lights waking us at 6:00 because we’d already be lying in bed, eyes open, telling each other about our dreams. Now, I shut the door when I get up to pee around 4:30 and don’t open my eyes again until nearly seven. Even then, the daylight pushing through the blinds is so dim that I can hardly see the white horses on our bedroom wall.

When Bob retires, I told myself, he will take back the vegetable garden and start hauling the trash. Our garden had always been Bob’s domain—he of the big, green thumb—while I tended to focus on the flower beds, but I took responsibility for the veggies a few years ago when I retired and he dove into a demanding job requiring travel.

The swimming pool that would become our vegetable garden

We had yet to buy the house before Bob and Lyle went to work transforming the ruined swimming pool into a place to grow food. When they were finished, Bob named it the Sunken Gardens of Moncure.

Trash, I’d always heard, was a man’s job, but for some reason, I never handed this chore off to Bob. In fact, I bought my Model Y mainly because it boasted seventy-two cubic feet of cargo space, nearly as much as my Subaru Outback. It also has the ground clearance to handle long gravel roads, making visiting friends and getting to the barn easy.

Swap shop guidelines and clothing

It makes me happy to round up all our paper packaging, cans, bottles, and garbage and leave it at the county collection center, that magic land of “away.” And, unless I’m in a big hurry, I take a peek into the swap shop, where people bring reusables like books and clothing. Many of our chairs and tables come from this shed of surprises, including my bedroom dresser and mirror and a giant braided carpet that covers the most damaged spots in our back porch Astroturf.

Vintage Vatne møbler chair from the swap shop

When I pointed out that new rug to Lyle, he beamed and told me how he had a hand creating the swap shops. Another score, a leather Norwegian designer chair from the ’60s, lived on our back porch for some years before we gave it to Lyle for his outdoor patio. We all agree it feels right to use cast-offs instead of buying new stuff.

Gallen, getting up after a roll

It’s been too hot and buggy to ride this past month. Buddy and Gallen hang in the shade of their loafing shed, where the ferocious horse flies are less likely to feed on their tender flesh. I now understand why local horse owners haul up to Uwharrie, an hour away, to ride in the summer.

A grey horse in Colorado

Meanwhile, my friend, Sharyl, rides with her friends all summer in Colorado, where the humidity stays below 50%. She sends me a picture of one of her friends’ new horse, who looks so much like Gallen that I feel a pang of longing for cooler fall days.

One of Chatham County’s swap shops

After Bob and I got home from the gym a couple of weeks ago, I made an impromptu trip to town, primarily to get rid of a piece of rolled, rusted fence. I had plenty of time, so I sauntered to the wooden shed for a look-see. I stood there for a moment, turned away, then walked back, picked up a large framed print, and put it in my car. I couldn’t resist, even though I thought it too big for our little walls.

My recent big score, all cleaned up

It’s called White Horses, painted by Ricardo Arenys in the ’60s, and measures 22.5′ x 29.5″, not including the frame. I cleaned it up and hung it in the garage, where it made me silly happy every time I got in a car or took out a bag of trash.

I felt like I had a secret horse in the garage, just like the white horses I imagined lived between the boxwood hedge and our rental house on City Island sixty-some years ago.

Then, Bob, bless him—after the fourth time I mentioned how much I loved this painting—said, “You could put it on this wall.” We were lying in bed, talking like we do nearly every morning. Talking is Bob’s love language. That and rubbing my body smooth. He says, “Your skin is so smooth!” Then he waits half a beat before saying, “I think it’s because I rub you so much.”

“But there’s a picture there already,” I said, and of course, he said we could move it, which—silly me—would never have occurred to me. I pulled on a dress, fetched the painting from the pole barn, hung it, and lay back beside Bob to admire my prize.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above buying new things for myself—just last week, I bought a new bra and a top-of-the-line immersible blender—but I long ago pledged to shrink my ecological footprint by recycling and reusing as much as possible. That, and the thrill of the hunt, keeps me returning to the thrift stores where I score almost new sheets, towels, and clothing.

And although I wouldn’t want to get my underwear from a thrift store or the swap shop, nothing beats a great find like the “White Horses.” Which, by the way, now hangs on our bedroom wall as if it were painted just for me.

Swap shop shoes, too good to throw away

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

2 replies on “White Horses”

I loved the swap shops when I lived in Pittsboro! It’s too bad we don’t have them in Randolph Co. They occasionally hold things aside, but it’s not the same. Enjoy your treasure!

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