The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

American Pickers, Waitsburg Style

Terry Hofer and Karl Newell share a love of rust


November 2, 2017

Dena Martin

Karl Newell (l) and Terry Hofer relax at Hofer's farm, amid some of Newell's yard art.

WAITSBURG – Waitsburg's Terry Hofer and Karl Newell could be considered a slightly more laid back version of The History Channel's American Pickers, Mike and Frank. The pair spends several days a week visiting auctions and sales, then return to Hofer's farm just south of Waitsburg where they wait for just the right person to come along and find treasure in their trash.

Hofer has been buying and selling for more than 20 years and ran Classic Auctions with Karen Mohney for six years. Newell spent years scouring yard sales, looking mostly for gold and silver items. He started selling more seriously when he had to sell off the contents of his aunt's Tri-Cities antique store.

About six years ago, they each had separate booths at the Hometown Christmas Shopping Bag, and decided to join forces. They each have different interests, so it worked out well. Hofer is a retired wheat farmer, Newell is a retired electrician, and both are veterans.

When it comes to picking, Hofer specializes in metal yard art, barn wood benches and tables, and most things vintage and rustic. Newell tend to head straight to the old jewelry, then looks for pieces and parts, such as old tools and anything brass, that he can use to "make stuff with."

Newell is relatively new to "making stuff" and says he has been in the yard art business for two or three years now.

"I just see what I have and get an idea. There's no telling what might happen," he said. "I built that scorpion from a piece of something Jack Miller plowed up in his field and a broken ditch witch chain."

Hofer, on the other hand, keeps his eye out for unique items that can become planters. If he is going to build something, his preferred medium is wood. He makes barn wood benches and tables, attaches old photos and prints to barn wood and crafts bookends from sprockets and old wood.

Hofer's picturesque farm is an easy draw for the many travelers that travel between Montana and Portland. He just re-planted his brightly colored bed of 700 tulips that catches the eye of passers-by, as does his row of more than 75 pieces of primitive yard art planters.

Hofer says that they will easily have 200 visitors a weekend in the summer months and up to 600 people over holiday weekends like the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day.

The men recall visitors from Nevada, Southern California, Montana, North Dakota, Kansas and "lots of people from Portland." The majority of their customers are in their 20s and 30s and often arrive by the carload.

"We had this one carload of college-age girls come in here who were all excited and laid out bunches of gears, cutters, and guards before boxing them all up and taking them away," Newell said.

Hofer said his most memorable customer was a lady who pulled up in a pickup, got out and exclaimed, "I love rust!" An hour later she had her pickup full of "rusty old stuff" and was heading happily on her way.

The two men adopted her "I love rust!" exclamation as their motto and say the rustier an item is, the more they like it.

Rusty metal buckets and sections of pea combine conveyors are their hottest selling items.

"I've learned you can't tell what someone will buy based on the rig they drive up in. Whether they're in a rusty old pickup or a fancy Mercedes, they still might want the rustiest old piece of junk out here," Newell said.

Both men agree that the hobby is a good way to keep busy.

"I was afraid I'd die in my easy chair. This gets me out of it," Hofer said.

"It gives me something to do. And you can't believe the people you meet!" Newell said.

Both men have sold at events and shows but say they prefer Hofer's front yard the best.

Dena Martin

Hofer shows some of his barnwood photo frames.

"There's nothing better than sitting beneath a big old shade tree. Plus you don't have to pay for a hotel and travel expenses," Hofer said. "I get to just kick back and talk to people. I've met the nicest people from all over the world."

Hofer said many people, especially from the Midwest, are amazed at how the hills are farmed. He said he had one group from Germany stop in just to ask questions about farming.

"We definitely meet some neat people," Newell agreed. "And some weird ones too!" he added, laughing.

The men say they are always on the lookout for people who want to get rid of junk, but they aren't interested in anything new or particularly usable. Anyone with "rusty old stuff" they are ready to part with should feel free to give them a call at (509)386-3448 (Terry) or (509) 629-2032 (Karl).


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