Tony Jennings doesn’t mind being called a “scavenger.” In fact, he’s proud of it.
“I’m a cut above a buzzard,” jokes the Watertown resident, who makes a large part of his living salvaging what others throw away.
“I enjoy collecting old stuff and turning it into art and crafts,” he says. “I take a lot of pride in the things I make.”
Jennings displayed some of his artwork and collectables at the recent tackle-and-gear show in Mt. Juliet. In addition to arts and crafts, he also featured a diverse array of rare artifacts, from arrowheads and an Indian war club to Civil War relics and porcupine-quill fishing floats.
One unique item was a wood carving of a giant fish with a rusty steel trap in its jaw. Art, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
Jennings is adept at leatherwork; he made the leather hat and vest he wore at the show.
He also makes banjos, and after they are finished, he can play them.
“Maybe not great,” he says with a grin, “but I can play.”
Jennings picks up items and oddities at yard sales, estate sales and flea markets. He also finds useable stuff in junk yards and alongside the road.
“I’m a hunter-gatherer,” he says.
Jayne, Tony’s wife of 33 years, makes jewelry and other crafts which she sells at shows around the state.
“It’s a way of life for us,” Jennings says. “We enjoy it. We don’t get rich, but we have all we need. It’s not about how much money you make, but how happy you are while you’re making it.”
Jennings’ booth was one of several dozen rented for the annual sale at Charlie Daniels Park. Proceeds from booth rentals and admission fees go to the host Percy Priest Striper Club.
The club uses the money to purchase high-protein food for raising stripers at TWRA hatcheries. The food provided by the TWRA is less expensive for an Agency limited by budget constraints.
“The fingerlings grow faster and are more robust with the high-protein food,” explains long-time club member Tommy LaCroix, who helps organize the annual event. “That means a higher survival rate when they are released. And that means more stripers for fishermen to catch in the future.”
TWRA fisheries biologist Todd St. John, who attended the sale, says the Agency appreciates the help.
“The high-protein food is a big boost for our hatchery program,” he says. “The club’s support is a big boost.”
Meanwhile, over at Tony Jennings’ booth he is showing a visitor how to rig one of his unique porcupine-quill fishing floats to catch bluegill.
How did he come by the porcupine quills?
Well, one day on his way home from a junkyard he stopped at a yard sale…