For area fans of the History Channel series American Pickers, the Dec. 4 show brought a huge surprise as the indomitable pickers pulled up to Schurman’s Iron Ranch on 10th Ave. in Ridgefield.
The Reflector Newspaper reached owner Alan Schurman at his winter home in Arizona by phone the day after the program aired to get his response to the show.
Known to many area as a wondrous collection of antique gas and steam engines, tractors, old logging equipment and tons of other antique cars, machines, tools, toys, bicycles and motorcycles, Schurman’s delighted the American Pickers’ team, who were amazed at the volume of “great stuff” Schurman has amassed on his 30-acre property.
For those not familiar with the program, it involves subjects Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz roaming the country visiting junkyards, old barns, basements and attics searching for what they call “hidden gems.”
The producer describes the series thusly: “Hitting back roads from coast to coast, the two men earn a living by restoring forgotten relics to their former glory, transforming one person’s trash into another’s treasure. American Pickers follows them as they scour the country for hidden gems in junkyards, basements, garages and barns, meeting quirky characters and hearing their amazing stories.”
The “Full Head of Steam” episode featured visits to three locations in Washington State, but the lead story focused on Ridgefield’s Schurman and his “boneyard” of antique everything. He had asked that they not put in his address and they only call him Alan to preserve a bit of anonymity, and they gladly agreed.
But instead of Fritz, who was ill when the episode was filmed this past June, co-star Mike Wolfe brought his brother Robbie along, to explore the vast outdoor piles and some of the ranch’s eight buildings at the Schurman property.
“They spent a whole day here,” Alan says. “They arrived about 8 a.m. in a motor home, a couple of cars and a U-Haul truck. It was quite a motorcade.
“A producer had called me several weeks before telling me about the show and that they were interested in coming here,’’ Schurman said. “When I asked how they knew about me I learned that someone in Battle Ground, an antique motorcycle collector, had told them about me. Then one of their scouts came by with the guy who tipped them off. So I said, sure, come on by.”
The Pickers’ crew, cameramen, director, lighting and sound technicians and assistants quickly set up their gear and then Robbie and Mike headed into the boneyard to look for collectibles, wandering around and finding an antique tricycle, a church cupola, and some old lights. Then, the duo went inside several of the warehouses to wade through literally hundreds of items.
After much searching and delays to change camera positions, adjust lighting and sound equipment, the pair ended up purchasing a neon clock from a dairy, another clock, a 100-year-old motorcycle engine, and a couple of signs.
At one point the cameraman, director and Robbie conspired and set up Mike by ringing an antique bell, much to Mike’s annoyance.
“Fritz wouldn’t do that,” he exclaimed. “Stop touching everything.” But the conspirators got the last laugh when Mike learned he’d been punked, as the camera recorded the outburst.
The brothers particularly enjoyed riding in and driving the antique steam tractor. Robbie especially loved tooting the steam whistle.
“That’s something I like to let people drive once it gets fired up, they all seem to love it, even the gals who want to try their hand,” Alan said.
“The whole day was fun, they roamed all over and pulled out stuff, they made offers, I made counter-offers, and they agreed to buy my stuff, and then they carried it out to their van. But as they were loading it in the back of the van for the cameras, some of their ‘gophers’ were taking it out the side door away from the camera and putting it in the U-Haul truck.”
The Wolfe brothers ended up spending over $6,000 on their purchases, enriching what Schurman jokingly calls his “retirement fund.”
“We didn’t know what to expect, but I think we came across pretty good, we were pleased with what they did here,” he said.