Attempting to close down a garage sale can be as difficult as promoting it. Or so was the impression given recently as the sun set on another of Bud Grant’s commercial meet-and-greets, with stragglers ambling up the old coach’s Bloomington driveway well after closing time, hoping for an autograph or maybe a deal on a decoy, a shotgun or, who knows, perhaps a helmet from Bud’s days as a Gopher.
This had been the third and final day of Bud’s last-ever garage sale, and when I arrived, Bud had retreated from the madding crowd to the kitchen of the home he has lived in since moving to the Twin Cities from Winnipeg to coach the Vikings in 1967.
With enough bedrooms for each of the six children born to him and his late wife, Pat, and located close enough to the Vikings offices, and with a yard big enough for Grant’s Labradors, the home had immediate appeal, and still does.
“Well, another sale is over and done,” Grant said, exhaling while settling into an overstuffed wingback chair in the home’s living room.
From this vantage point, through a large picture window, garage-sale latecomers could be seen scouring the place urgently, as if exchanging the wad of greenbacks stuffed in their pockets for a leftover souvenir or memento was the most important thing to them, ever.
Having spent the day horseback in southern Minnesota trying not to lose too much of my own money, I had stopped to visit Bud while also escaping the white-knuckle free-for-all that is I-494 during rush hour.
“How’d the bobbleheads go?” I asked.
“Great,” Bud said.
Over the years, Bud has been asked to “do” a bobblehead many times. But he has demurred.
“Why would I do a bobblehead?” he would say.
He had a point. Ultimately one-dimensional, bobbleheads are caricatures. Baseball players brandish bats. Football players grip pigskin. Sid Hartman, all 97 years of him, is reduced to pen and notepad.
Bud, by contrast, is a lifetime hunter, fisherman and layman naturalist who also happened to be an athlete and coach.
So when he finally conceded after last year’s Super Bowl to have his likeness plastered on a plastic statuette, he told his bobblehead promoter guy (apparently there are such people), “I get to design it.”
The result, which debuted at this year’s garage sale, is a sort-of split personality figurine featuring Bud in Vikings apparel, as well as Boom, his Labrador that died recently, and a mallard duck whose neck is firmly in the grip of Bobblehead Bud’s right hand.
“I also wanted a shotgun in the bobblehead, but the NFL wouldn’t allow it,” Bud said. “I went round and round with a league lawyer in New York before finally saying, ‘OK, no gun. But I’ll have a duck.’
“ ‘A duck?’ the guy said. ‘What are you going to do with a duck? You mean a live duck?’ ”
“ ‘No, I said, ‘a dead duck. I’ve got a dog in the bobblehead, and I need a duck, a dead duck.’ ”
As Bud spoke, his black Labrador Deuce rested out back. Referred to by Bud as “a high first-round draft choice” to replace his beloved Boom, Deuce nonetheless remains for the time being on the practice squad, hoping in the near future to make the first team and become Bud’s full-time companion.
Rolling a Bobblehead Bud through my fingers, and for kicks whacking its little noggin side to side, I threw in my two cents worth.
“I like it,” I said. “But one thing I don’t get. Why is your hand in the air with one finger pointed to the sky? I’ve never seen you do that.”
“Exactly,” Bud said. “My arm and hand were supposed to be in front of Boom’s nose, as if I were sending him on a retrieve. But the Chinese manufacturer couldn’t make it that way. So they stuck my arm in the air.”
As Bud spoke, he was one day shy of his 90th birthday, a transition that would be made ever more comfortable, thanks to his godsend companion, Pat Smith — a woman to whom, by the by, the words “garage sale” should not be mentioned anytime soon.
“Next year,” Bud said, warming to the public’s fascination with minutiae, “if I do another bobblehead, maybe I’ll be holding a rod and reel and a fish.”
Or, perhaps, I said, a double bobblehead is in order featuring Bud and his hunting and fishing pal, retired state Sen. Bob Lessard, aka “The Old Trapper. ”
“The two of you could appear on the bobblehead as if you were at Bob’s Ontario fishing camp,” I said. “You could hold a walleye, and Bob could hold a martini.”
So it went on the last day of Bud’s last-ever garage sale.
Until next year.