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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow So long, Lemon Yard

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So long, Lemon Yard

The Lemon Yard is being crushed, baled and hauled away for recycling by John Smith of Treasure Valley Metal of Caldwell, Idaho. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
The Lemon Yard is being crushed, baled and hauled away for recycling by John Smith of Treasure Valley Metal of Caldwell, Idaho. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Lee McCord gingerly lifts a rectangular frame from her wall and runs a hand over the glass to dislodge a layer of dust.

The yellowed slip of paper encased inside — a state business license — is the only evidence left of the McCord's Lemon Yard, a plot of land on their ranch that became the finally resting place for rows of unwanted appliances and automobiles.

"New and used merchandise — and junk, that's what it says," Lee chuckles.

Lee, 78, and Ken, 83, have sold their 196-acre ranch on Lindley Road — where he's lived for 67 years — and are moving to a house in Baker City.

"Now we're gonna be city folk," Lee says.

That move also means the end of the Lemon Yard.

To remove the mounds of metal, Treasure Valley Metal came in from Payette to crush and bale everything into manageable chunks of scrap iron.

They hauled away four loads — at 26 tons apiece — to Schnitzer Steel in Portland.

But the McCords still have the license.

"I'd forgotten all about that. That's something we should keep, I think," Lee smiles, setting the frame on a stack of moving boxes.

Though Lee can't quite recall when the Lemon Yard began, she does know it all started with a single appliance.

"A guy came out and asked if he could store it for a while," Lee says. "A while went into a while longer."

The pile of seemingly useless items began to accumulate as more and more people decided to drop off their stoves instead of haul them to the dump.

Soon the land became a final resting place for washers and dryers, old cars and refrigerators — minus the freon, Lee says.

"I'd just tell them to put it back that way," she says, pointing to the field north of their house.

Ken inadvertently named the hodge-podge collection.

"Ken said, ‘There's sure a bunch of lemons out there,'" Lee says.

They never charged people to drop off their machines.

But soon, Lee says, those worn out appliances proved to be a welcome income.

The McCords were married in 1954.

"Farming never made much money, and (Ken) finally went to work as a janitor when the kids were little," Lee says.

"Things got just a little bit tight."

As the appliances piled up, people began showing up to search for replacement parts.

"They'd come and get maybe a burner for their stove or an element for their oven. Maybe a handle for their oven," Lee says.

The McCords didn't set specific prices for the parts.

"If they needed a part, we'd just send them out, then if they found it they'd pay us a little bit," Lee says.

The price depended on the condition.

"There was no way of testing the parts til they went home," she says.

Every little bit helped.

"It kept us going, got the kids through school," Lee says. "You know how life is — sometimes you have to find a way to support yourself."

Suddenly she points to a corkboard suspended on a wall.

A dollar bill — folded into the shape of a cowboy boot — is secured by a pushpin.

"A man came and got a part, paid me for it, and said, ‘Here's an extra dollar.' I thought it was so cute," Lee smiles.

"I put it up there, and now I'll never be broke."

This was the fourth — and final — clean up for the Lemon Yard.

"One time when they came, they took out four truckloads," Lee says.

This time it took three days to haul out about 500 appliances and 50 autos.

She smiles at the memories built on years of scrap metal.

"It's been a lot of fun," she says.

They never had any problems with theft or vandalism.

"There wasn't really a lot anybody needed to do. You just had to trust them, that's all," she says.

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