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Giant teal birdcage not for sale

By Jessica Lee

Tuesday October 23, 2001
Headline Photo

Jessica Lee

Adventure Saturday is what I called it.

Well, let me back up. A few months ago, I was returning from Flagstaff when I noticed Family Fun World, between Phoenix and Tucson, was going to have an auction. You know the place - where pink and teal birdcage structures are silhouetted by the mountains, a huge metal racecar sits on a hill and a dinosaur made from old farm equipment crawls out from the desert.

So anyway, my boyfriend and I ventured outside of Tucson and headed to our destination - Eloy. It was a beautiful morning as we drove along the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway - more commonly called I-10 - into the strange realm that exists outside of Tucson. Scattered along the road was an ugly Portland cement factory, miles of cotton fields that shouldn't be grown in an arid desert, the Pima Air Park, a huge Budweiser billboard, a huge motor home named "American Dream" and an ostrich farm.

Eventually we got off the highway at Exit 208 and made a right turn in front of the Cookerie Truck Stop Restaurant. The road immediately turned to dirt, and we saw what we were about to get ourselves into.

To our surprise, a huge hand-painted sign leaning against a barbed wire fence read, "Auction closed to the public." We gulped and turned in.

An old cowboy wearing an ancient blue shirt and jeans, hat and all, stopped us at the gate. Using my facade, you know the line we all use at the Wildcat to land a date, "Hi, I am a columnist for the Arizona Daily Wildcat at the university. We were hoping we could observe your auction."

With a box of Marlboro cigs in his front shirt pocket, the sturdy guard's sun-wrinkled face turned defensive as he responded, "I don't want to buy nothing, and don't put my name in no newspaper."

Whoa, cowboy. "Sir, I don't know your name." Though his silver belt buckle did read "Vic."

He let us in. We proceeded toward the parking lot as we read the sign, "Enter at own risk." I started to wonder if the Wildcat offered health insurance.

The way this auction worked was the owner of Family Fun World, Richard Songers, would sit at the table with the auctioneer (you know the guys that talk really fast) on the back of a red pickup. From item to item, the truck would drive and the crowd would follow.

Some of the items up for auction included a couple of oil rigs from the heart of Texas, old fire trucks that no longer worked, a set of kiddy carnival rides and - last but not least - three painted trailers portraying an old, western town. The buyers were interested, but he wanted too much, although he was willing to "give a hell of a deal for all his good junk." The kiddy carnival rides did go for $5,000. Ouch.

I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to see a vicious battle between two buyers for a birdcage. The flick of an ear signaling $200, a nod of a head raising to $250. I should stress that the auctioneer wanted it to be very clear to me that this was not a typical auction. His business, the Frontier Auction Company, will be on stage in full glory at the next real auction at the morning of Nov. 3 at the Pinal County Fair Grounds. Be there.

At least I found out what the darn birdcage things were. They used to be part of a Magic Mountain gondola ride before they reached their current state, attached to a tall steel pole and painted cheesy colors.

Songers - a solid, hard-working construction man from Michigan - had a dream. He wanted to turn the land he bought in 1995 for $165,000 into a scrap-metal-bedecked amusement park and drive-thru, wild-animal zoo with a drop-off water ride, a race car track and a concert stage - you know, where the rave music would play. (That's what I was told.)

Only one problem - he ran out of money. In fact, if he hadn't sold the kiddy ride, he wouldn't have had enough to pay the auctioneer.

We left Family Fun World just being glad that it wasn't a 500-home resort development with a golf course.

As residents of the Old Pueblo, you should feel obligated to get out of the house on a Saturday and check out what's going on outside the city. I've heard that feeding ostriches is the best way to kick a hangover. I dare you to venture to the auction.


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