FORT KENT, Maine — Before there was a Craigslist or an eBay or an or anything-dot-com, there was Uncle Henry’s, that repository of so many things in Maine bought, sold or traded.

Described by the website as a classified magazine roughly the size of the TV Guide, “but not nearly as colorful or pretty,” Uncle Henry’s was founded by Henry Faller in Rockland in 1969.

Over the ensuing four decades, countless Mainers have bought, sold or swapped items ranging from pet pythons to vintage cars to fur coats from one end of the state to the other.

Published every Thursday, the magazine was a weekly must-read at our house, where my late husband would spend hours perusing the tractor, farm truck and “free for the taking” categories.

It wasn’t so much that he was actually shopping for a tractor, farm truck or anything for free — though it does go a long way in explaining the five tractors, half-dozen farm trucks and other rusty hulks that appeared over the years.

Nope, at our house Uncle Henry’s was sort of a modern day, classified-laden version of the classic adventure novel; a “Treasure Island” or “The Odyssey” in newsprint.

Of course, this is the modern age and the publication is available online, but where’s the fun in that?

Nine times out of 10 our aim was not to buy anything. Rather, the point was to track down an item’s whereabouts — using that other Maine-based must-read, The DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer — and speculate as to why the seller was relinquishing the treasure and just how much we could negotiate down the price.

On several memorable times we actually put action to our speculation and went in pursuit of an advertised item, like the soapstone stove we purchased from a home renovator along the coast, or the old wringer-washer bought from an elderly couple in central Maine, which Patrick had always hoped to transform into something he called “a parts washer.”

But the hands down favorite had to be the 1976 Mercedes Unimog Belgian Troop Carrier we traveled five hours — one way — to St. Stephens, New Brunswick, to scope out and ultimately purchase.

That was also the trip on which Patrick learned when it comes to negotiating a better deal, I should stay home.

While taking the green beast for a test drive with the owner, Patrick managed to talk him down several hundred dollars off the purchase price.

Meanwhile, I was having a cup of coffee with the owner’s wife and learning about their family’s string of misfortunes — including a visibly ill infant and the recent loss of her husband’s job.

Patrick had barely stepped out of the truck upon their return before I dragged him aside and told him in no uncertain terms that if he was going to buy the Unimog, he was going to pay the full asking price as this young couple needed every cent they could find.

Surprisingly, I was not banned from future Uncle Henry’s-inspired expeditions, just silenced. And yes, he did pay full price for the Unimog.

Both the Unimog and Patrick are gone now, and with him went most of the fun of reading Uncle Henry’s.

But spurred on last week by the need for a used freezer in which to store treats and food for my growing sled dog kennel, I bought my first Uncle Henry’s in about three years.

Guess what? It’s still fun.

And even though I struck out on a freezer, in that issue at least, the entertainment value was more than worth the magazine’s $2 cover price.

In the pets category, someone downstate is selling a year-old bearded dragon complete with tank, lighting, hammock, basking trees, faux plants, carpets and climbing logs.

Heck, that set-up sounded nicer than my house.

Remember when puppies produced by two different breeds were “mutts”?

Thanks to Uncle Henry’s I’ve come to learn that if those two different breeds’ names can be combined into a cute-sounding moniker those “mutts” suddenly have a pretty good sticker price.

Labradoodles, Puggles and Bullador pups were advertised for anywhere from $200 to $500 each.

Looking for a barbarian sword? Uncle H has that covered. Or maybe a set of Ross Perot campaign buttons, in mint condition, no less.

Summer’s coming, so why not pick up a good used hot tub?

There’s one available, “great for two and OK for four.” Has everything needed to start soaking — including a family of mice who had taken up residence in the tub’s motor installation. I wonder if they count toward the tub’s occupancy rate?

People do their research before selling. Like the person advertising a 6-by-11-foot trailer that will “hold 60 bales of hay or a (small) car.”

I wonder if it would thus hold 30 bales of hay and a motorcycle?

There was a brand new, never worn wedding dress — you know there’s a story there — beanie babies, Hummel figurines, comic books and even airplanes.

Just no freezers.

So, next Thursday I’ll pony up my $2 and try again.

Freezer or no, it will be more than worth the price.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.