REDMOND, Ore. — Brad Carrell is a man in recovery.
He’s a little vague about the details. Has it been a week? A month? But he’s firm on what he wants.
Carrell wants to say he’s no longer a junkyard dog.
“I go to swap meets and auctions and I see them, guys I’ve known forever shuffling around with their walkers. I don’t want that to be me,” he says. “Suddenly you realize you’re getting old and you want to have more time.”
Carrell’s collecting addiction started decades ago when he owned an auto body shop and wrecking yard and began restoring cars. Before he knew what happened, he was into the hard stuff: the rustic “Americana” world of old tractors, homesteader cabins and kerosene lanterns.
Eventually, Carrell, 68, bought 50-plus acres west of Redmond, plenty of room for what he calls his “plunder.” He set a few items out in a meadow close to state Highway 126 and in no time that grew to a full-fledged town resembling a Western movie set without actors, a ghost town of wagons, old tin signs and railway tracks.
“I don’t know what got into me. I never thought of myself as a history buff, but I got hooked,” Carrell says.
The pirate’s booty — he actually created a ship for his grandchildren that sits next to his man-made lake — spills over all 58 acres: shacks hauled from remote Central Oregon forests and farms, a wooden horse trailer and water wagon, A-frame cabins from Rajneeshpuram, water barrels and mining equipment, and vintage trailers in various states of restoration.
But that was before. Today, Carrell wants out.
He wants to carve out more time for his kids and grandkids, his love of endurance fitness competitions and tinkering around his shop on smaller, more rewarding projects.
“I never make much money on it,” Carrell says. “It was mainly for fun.”
Trouble is, selling his property or his collection — or both — comes with a catch: If he sells his collection, then passers-by will miss the roadside attraction, and if he sells the place, the new owner might remove the displays. Either way, people miss out, and Carrell can’t stand that idea.
Every day, people stop to gawk and take photos. Some days, it’s a lot of people.
“I’ve had groups come from all over the country to take photos,” Carrell says. “They call me to schedule a time or just drop by. People come from all around. I don’t really understand it, and I didn’t mean to set it up that way. But I meet a lot of nice people and most are respectful (of the property). I’m actually surprised more things don’t go missing, given how many people stop to look around.”
The property — Carrell calls it Bearly There Ranch — is astonishingly big in comparison with the little wedge visible from the highway. There are two homes, one a little ranch house with a barn, plus Carrell’s bachelor pad he built above his massive shop when he divorced shortly after buying the property. Originally, the plan was to build a home on an outcropping facing the Cascade Range, but Carrell decided he didn’t need that much room for just himself. Instead, he concentrated on building a large garage and his shop, necessary tools for his collecting and refurbishment passion.
Things are aren’t all Carrell collects. Living on the ranch with him are a variety of dogs, a cat he rescued while on his way to a farm auction and Old Joe, a senior who needed a place to stay and someone to keep an eye on him. Joe lives in a trailer on the place, gets the mail and waters the plants. The cat keeps the dogs in line. Carrell manages the collection.
“When I bought it, I thought I’d be here forever, but it’s too big,” he says. “It’s time to scale down.”