By Barbara Walters.

PAW PAW, MI (AP)--Leaving the city behind and heading west toward the big lake, Michigan 43 narrows to its two-lane country roots.

The strip malls and superstores give way to old barns, fields and a quirky mixture of past and present. And you come, before long, to the farmstead of Garret Veld.

Stacked against Veld's new split-rail fence are a laundry sink, the wheel rim from an Allis-Chalmers tractor, and a rusty disc, at least 6 feet in diameter, that was once part of an old bakery oven. It's all for sale, along with a nearly new rototiller and part of an old stovepipe marked "1897."

Veld ambles out of his century-old farmhouse in overalls, wearing a hat marked "antique person." As if the point weren't already obvious, he says, "People are different."

Actually, he's talking not about him self, but about those who stop to look over his wares. "Some want this and some want that," he says.

Set against the chicken coop is a toilet, brimming with flowers.

"Belonged to an old buddy of mine," Veld says. "He and his wife passed away. I'll always remember him by that."

Veld's farm sits just west of the Van Buren County line, across the road from a blueberry farm and just down the road from a personal-computer repair shop.

"This is Paw Paw," he says. "The town they liked so much they named it twice."

He stoops to enter the chicken coop, where only a faint, sweet-sour scent lingers from the years when a child could reach into the straw and close her palm softly around a warm egg. Bright, thin lines of sunlight stream in between the boards.

Veld rummages around in the jumble and pulls out an old railroad jack, left over from the days when busy tracks crisscrossed this area. There's a log skinner he used on his split-rail fence, old road signs and stacks of chairs.

An ornate velvet chair sits on a table next to a 1950 Ferguson tractor.

"If I sold all the junk, I could retire." he says, eyes twinkling. He obviously likes shooting off one-liners that, on one level are not quite true but on another level, are. He's been retired for years, after 46 years at Checker Motors as an electrician. "Started there when I was 18," he says. "Pushed a broom for about two weeks. Then they showed me a pile of engines. I fixed 'em all up, got 'em all running."

"Don't know a thing about cars today though," he says. "Gotta have a computer today to do anything."

What Veld does know about is the ingenuity of the people who lived here along M-43 before he did. He can tell you all about the heavy, rusting tools leaning against the big weathered barn. They look like headboards for old beds. Called "dead heads," they were hitched to teams of horses to lift hay into lofts.

Veld has made plant holders out of deadhead parts he's found lying around the farm, as if to give them the dignity of still being useful.

Inside the barn, the light sifting through the haylofts is subdued, church-like. "See that?" he says, pointing up to a hand-hewn beam 40 feet or more high. It's the "car," part of a pulley system farmers used to lift hay into the lofts.

All the stuff in Veld's barn conjures up ghosts of the people and animals that lived along this road, and how they worked and played. There are old cattle scansions, shells of big snapping turtles stacked like salad bowls and a handmade child's sled with high wooden sides to bundle up in. He pulls out a single narrow rod, rust-encrusted. It was an ice skate that glided across some frozen local lake of a long-lost winter.

"Can you imagine skating on these?" he asks with wonder.

But it's junk, he keeps saying, all junk. Even the barn will someday be gone, he says, and with it the farm. "It'll be all houses, like it is everywhere else, I imagine," he says without a trace of bitterness.

"Well, I guess it won't make any difference," he says. "Everybody these days wants to save everything." Now it looks as if he's arguing with himself.

"But if they saved dinosaurs, they would have ate the people."

The quip lacks the snap and sureness of his others.

Veld knows he and his world are a vanishing species along American roadways.

His wife, Shirley, makes the point herself. "You know what M-43 needs out our way?" she asks. "A McDonald's or a Burger King."

Veld doesn't disagree. But later he admits he just can't get rid of his stuff. It's as if when he picks up an old dead head he can see a farmer sweating and swatting flies here, years ago,.

"Me, when I take a load to the junkyard, first thing I do is go look for it," he says.

After all, who knows might want it someday, down the road?

As Veld says, people are different. Some want this, and some want that.

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