LOUISVILLE (AP) — He reaches for a particular brick on the side of his building and scrapes his fingernail across it once, twice, three times until the nail is filed to a satisfactory smoothness. The marks on the brick show his fondness for that particular stone.
Somewhere on Frankfort Avenue live dinosaurs, buffalo, long-horned cattle, steam engines and cabooses. The tattoos on his arm tell it all. On one arm is an eagle, on the other a Kewpie Doll. Jerry Lotz is a bit of both. He’s cantankerous and a softy, quickly helping those in need. Free of today’s politically correct filters, Lotz says what he wants and does what he pleases.
His mother got him started picking when he was 8-years-old. Since then his acid test has been: Is it ornery, unusual or different? He has carefully amassed and guarded his eclectic collection for all of the 55 years he has lived on the street. He complains of the steady flow of visitors, yet relishes showing his off elephant-foot trashcan and regaling in the stories behind his picks.
“Jerry’s Junk is the number one trap attraction in Louisville on the internet,” said Lotz. People come from all over the world: Germany, Australia, you name it, all hours of the day and night.”
Lotz and his collection have been showcased on the American Pickers TV show. He’s called the crew the rudest people he’s ever met. “They spent nine hours here and bought a bike. I guess they had to buy something for the show.”
The largest pick he’s ever brought home is a railroad caboose, which he paid $1,400 for in 1979.
“I was married at the time and my wife called and said, ‘your caboose is coming around the corner. People were following it by the thousands,’” said Lotz. An 80-foot crane picked it up and set on tracks in his yard. “I’ve been offered $500,000 for it, that’s pretty good money.”
He knows he doesn’t have many picking days left. One of eight kids, only Jerry and his two brothers remain. “Cancer runs in the family, everybody died of it but me and my brothers. The last time I was at the doctor he said ‘You have it too.’ I said: ‘Well I’m 77 years old. I think I lived a good life. If I go tomorrow, what the hell. I’ve been shot and stabbed and drank and I worked every day of my life.’ My girlfriend was with me and she started whining, I said, ‘That’s life in the city, cookie.’”
Lotz says he has no idea what will become of his collection when he passes. “My daughter said, ‘what a mess.’ I said, ‘Well it’s your problem.’”