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The people who carry the things we leave behind become the caretakers of those objects - and, in a way, of our stories.
Pieces of the monumental love story of Johnny and June Carter Cash will now have a few new caretakers, as $1.5 million worth of their property goes on the auction block on Sept. 14 and 15 in New York City, courtesy of the world-famous Sotheby's auction house.
Included in the sale will be everything from the obvious - awards, instruments, gold and platinum records - to more unexpected personal belongings. Clothing the couple wore, lyrics (some unpublished) from Johnny's own hand, and even his black 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck will all go to the highest bidder.
"It is such a privilege to pay tribute to Johnny Cash and the love of his life, June Carter Cash," says Leila Dunbar of Sotheby's. "This sale presents countless opportunities for collectors, as well as fans of the Man in Black."
Johnny selected items for the auction in the months between June's death in May 2003 and his own that September, and the couple's children are helping to promote it according to his wishes. Johnny and June were notorious pack rats, and June filled nearly every corner of their home with antiques and family treasures.
These objects are the remnants of one of country's most storied romances, which began practically at the moment they first met at the Grand Ole Opry in the late 1950s. Both were married to others at the time, but the attraction was instant and undeniable - Johnny told her, "You and I are going to get married someday."
They were touring together by 1961, and the pull between them only got stronger. June chronicled her feelings - both her love for Johnny and her fear of becoming ensnared by such a dangerous, addictive personality - by co-writing "Ring of Fire," which Johnny would turn into a classic.
Over the next few years, June helped Johnny kick drugs, and they became closer still. Each finally divorced their previous mates, and the couple wed in 1968, remaining inseparable until June's death in May 2003.
They shared much of their love story with the public - in fact, Johnny proposed to June onstage in early 1968. Neither was ever shy about extolling the other's virtues, and Johnny in particular often hailed June as the woman who saved his life.
But there is still much to learn about these two fascinating characters, and there are insights to be gleaned from the objects included in the Sotheby's sale. They collected fine art, for instance - up for sale are two bronzes by 19th-century artist Frederic Remington, each expected to fetch at least $40,000. There are Tiffany silver dessert stands ($20,000), a Belgian Baroque-style carved walnut buffet ($15,000) and a Jacobean-style walnut bedstead ($6,000).
There are even more intimate keepsakes, as well - photographs, credit cards, driver's licenses, canceled checks, canes and even Johnny's collection of honorary sheriff's badges. There are more than 30 lots of handwritten lyrics, including a notebook Johnny kept in the 1950s while recording for Sun Records.
Among the musical instruments is the piano he was seen playing in the wildly popular "Hurt" video - appropriate, as that clip eerily showcased the possessions in the couple's home and the idle House of Cash museum.
And of course, no auction of items owned by the Man in Black would be complete without some seriously dark clothing. There's the black suede fringe coat he wore in the "Hurt" video, and a black leather long coat made just for him, as well as other pieces of personal attire and stage costumes.
-- Story by Chris Neal