The Salvation Army Thrift Store, July 2009
It’s been a longish while since I owned a good telescope, an 8″ tube with a tracker drive to allow watching deep space objects or the moon without having to constantly chase the targets. Since that time I’ve confined my star gazing to a pair of binoculars on a camera tripod unless some acquaintance owned a good one and invited me in for an evening.
But in July, 2009, I found an Orbitor 8500 Chinese tube in the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Kerrville with a sad, badly-used look to it and an unrealistic price tag. I examined it carefully, then wandered around the store pretending to look at other merchandise while watching other customers when they got near it. My thought was that if I saw someone getting too interested and likely to snag it I’d beat them to the counter and plunk down the unrealistic money with a pre-emptive strike.
After a while I moseyed back and talked to a couple of guys who were scowling at it. I shook my head about it, talking about it not having a drive, speculating how much it would cost getting eyepieces, what a shame it was the tripod was junk. We agreed a person would be a fool to take it home at any price. Likely that mirror, I pointed out, was as much a piece of junk as the rest of it.
We all wandered away, and I picked up a couple of books off the 25 cent shelf. After those two guys left I went back and made a show of frowning at it a while longer before I went over to the counter to talk it over with the lady I’d done a goodly amount of haggling with in the past who knew what to expect from me.
“Somebody’s going to be back arguing with you if you sell them that telescope and they take it home and try to use it.” I fiddled around in my pocket for change to pay for the books.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“If they don’t know what they’re paying for they’ll get it home and end up with something they can’t use. It’s a cheap Chinese-made thing to start out with, but the tripod’s broken, for starters. Someone didn’t take care of it. Probably a kid got it for Christmas and lost interest by New Year, pushed it into the corner until he broke it.”
I plunked down my money for the books. “Do you suppose the guys in back let the eyepieces get separated from it? Nobody can use it without eyepieces and they’re expensive. Might not even be able to get the right diameter ones easily. If you could find the eyepieces someone might buy it at some price.”
Eventually I agreed to haul it off for five bucks if she’d promise to try to find the eyepieces and hold them for me if they turned up. She doubted seriously they’d be found, but I had in mind to buy salvage lenses off the web and turn down something to put them into out of wood on Gale’s lathe.
But there was still the problem of the drive and the tripod. I spent the next couple of years picking up junk telescopes and parts at garage sales and other thrift stores.
Collecting parts from other stores:
- Primarily I was after a tracker drive and eyepieces but I ended up with a lot else.
Then, this summer I found this for $5:
I have a permanent position selected out in the meadow for the observatory once I’ve got something with a tracking drive put together and have hauled enough rocks and tin for walls and dome.
If I’m around long enough and if this place remains available for me to live here, I’m going to have an observatory.
Meanwhile I use StarCalc 5.73 [free download] to keep track of what’s going on in the sky, along with the Multi-Year Interactive Computer Almanac software from the US Naval Observatory for fine tuning calculations.
Swings to and fro
Digests his legions
Sucks tick tock tides
Through Paleozoic hours
Swings to and fro.
Sucks tick tock tides
Copyright 2003, NineLives Press
Choose Something Like a Star– Randall Thompson
words by Robert Frost