Hutchinson man finds gifts in places others won't look

HUTCHINSON — Danny Pinkston has a story to tell about how he prepared for Christmas.

While other people hopped into cars and drove to the mall to look for the perfect gifts, Pinkston took a different route.

On a gray Sears Craftsman riding lawn mower, with a small cart hitched to it, he slowly moved along Hutchinson's alleyways, stopping at large trash bins to explore what might have been tossed since he last checked.

"Most the time I find things I can work on, fix and sell," Pinkston said. "But it's Christmas, so I try to find gifts to give a child. I came across a case of softballs for all the boys at my church, and I found books and Christian tapes for the girls."

He hauled the loot in the trailer. While it's a slow form of transportation, he's pleased he can haul things with it.

"It fell from the sky," he said, joking about how he acquired the riding lawn mower. "But I am paying back my dad, who put a $750 engine in it."

It's cheaper to operate than a truck, he said. Though he has a problem with the battery running down, generally he can get it charged and head off on a slow crawl.

"This trailer will hold up to 500 pounds, even with a flat tire," Pinkston said.

He has hauled home an eclectic assortment of tables and chairs, which he has set up in his backyard, next to the horseshoe pit, giving it the appearance of a park. Two recycled grills are also neatly placed by the back door.

"I like to have a barbecue on the Fourth of July," he said. Three flags are hooked onto the trailer of the mower, and a flag flies outside his home.

"I've got plenty of flags everywhere. I'm an American," Pinkston said proudly.

"I never pass up stuff, like this glass," he said, pointing to his collection of glass that will come in handy someday for Pinkston, his family or friends.

At 48, Pinkston lives on a disability pension. He said he was told he had paranoia and schizophrenia. At one point in his life he was homeless, living under the bridges around Reno County. He was afraid to get help for his mental condition. But he realized his fears were unnecessary and now he has a warm home to live in across the street from his parents.

With Christmas on his mind, days are spent checking out the trash bins.

"I do this," he said, fighting back emotion about to well over, "because I know what it's like to be without."