LITHIUM, MO (KFVS) - You can call Dave Jenkins a modern day treasure hunter, a junk collector, even a hoarder. He doesn't care.
For the last 20 years or so he's been doing what he loves: collecting and displaying anything that catches his eye.
"I collect everything," claimed the man from Lithium, Missouri.
Dave's yard caught our attention not long ago as we drove through Lithium looking for a subject for "Everybody in the Heartland has a Story." Displayed on his half-acre lot you'll find statues of all shapes and sizes, old creamers, wire, a 1964 Ford Fairlane, flags, wagon wheels, seven grills and sheds stuffed to the gills with more stuff.
"It's what I like to do," the 60-year-old said.
Originally from Puxico, Dave moved to Lithium 20 years ago, about the time he retired from the state highway department.
Like clockwork, Dave and his girlfriend Shirley, head out to flea markets every Sunday. They then look for whatever the item du jour is. For Dave right now, it's beer signs. Even though he has more than you can count displayed in his "man cave" and in his garage, Dave is always looking for more. Shirley, on the other hand, loves frogs. Despite having a shed stuffed with more than 2,000 of the amphibians, she's willing to buy more. It's a hobby the couple enjoys doing together.
"She said she liked frogs, so I started picking them up for her," he said.
Why Dave feels the need to collect things that most people would consider junk, isn't an easy question to answer. His father, Dave claimed, never wanted to run into town to get something so he made sure he had anything he needed at home. Dave is like that too.
Dave also doesn't like the idea of throwing anything away. That wire wrapped around the tree? Well, he may need that some day to fix something. The seven weed eaters? If one breaks down, he has a back up. The seven grills? Dave insisted he uses them all. Twenty propane tanks? You never run out of propane if you have 20 tanks in a shed.
Dave's collecting started with iron cookware, then to coffee pots and western novels. He grabs a lawnmower here and there, old tools, beer signs of course, and he always has room for a statue of a dog or a cat. He said he keeps his yard neat and that over the years only one neighbor has complained.
"Hoarder, junk collector," Dave said, "I don't know what they call me. They don't call it to my face."
Lithium is known around these parts for Lithium Spring. A spring that contains lithium salts, believed to help the brain. Locals tell stories of people from as far away as St. Louis coming to Lithium and filling up jugs of the water before returning home. If you go, you might want to swing by Dave's place. He's happy to show you around as he's quite proud of the collection he owns. But don't ask to buy anything. He'll occasionally trade with someone, but rarely sells.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Dave sees a lot of beauty in a lot of rusted, rundown, old things. No matter what anyone thinks, he doesn't care. He's going to the flea markets on Sunday. When he fills up the sheds he has? You know the answer to that question. He's buying another.