IBERIA — Evelyn McDaniels never met a bell she didn’t like — or want to own.
The rural Morrow County resident began collecting them about a decade ago.
“I went to the Hillbilly Flea Market in Kentucky and got 16 bells. That started it,” McDaniels said.
Today she has nearly 5,000 bells of various sizes and makes. During an interview in mid-July she said she had 4,997, meaning one more flea market trip could put her over the milestone.
“You go someplace and see so many different kinds of bells. There are none of them that are alike; maybe a few are,” said the 74-year-old former custodian at Galion High School.
Before you enter her home you see a prized possession — a 192-year-old dinner bell that she bought locally.
She had someone mount the cast iron bell on a post and put into the ground next to her front porch, where four other smaller bells sit.
“Try it. It works,” she said.
Some in her collection are made from porcelain; others glass or metal. A few have Christmas themes and one set of four are Norman Rockwell images.
She also collects spoons and salt and pepper shakers, along with 118 dinner buckets.
“I see something I like, I get it ,” she said. Asked what she’ll do when she runs out of space, she replied, “I’ll quit.”
She has a space prepared on a small coffee table where she can place a few more bells.
When visitors arrive they ask, “Where did you get all them at?”
Her son James built and erected wooden shelves to hold many of the bells. Others sit on tables in her family room.
“Bells amaze me. People I know will just give me bells,” she said.
McDaniels goes to Mansfield, Tiffin and Cardington as primary spots to find bells.
“Tiffin is the best for bells.”
At flea markets she is known to negotiate a price.
“I got a box of them. I ask, ‘How much do you want for each one? A dollar for that one or two dollars? How about $4 for the whole box?’” McDaniels said.
The widow has three dogs, Cricket, Daisy May and Buttons, and a cat Buddy.
“I love bells and I love life,” she said.
“My goal is to reach 5,000 bells. Maybe I’ll quit for a little while,” she said, pausing. “Unless I go see something I want.”