By Audrey Spencer
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS - To Ricky Smith and his nephew, Clint "Bubba" Smith, an episode of "Storage Wars: Texas" is just another day of work.
The Lampasas residents are featured in the new A&E spinoff of the "Storage Wars" series - a show that follows people who bid on abandoned storage units in the Lone Star State.
"As soon as the (storage unit) door goes up, you have five minutes to determine your move," said Ricky Smith, the veteran bidder of the duo, with a background in auctioneering. "The show is very accurate."
Ricky Smith had been in the storage war game long before A&E made it popular.
"It was back when I was about 12 years old. My mom, she was into doing estate sales and she and her husband had an auction house," he said. "We went to all kinds of bankruptcies and auctions to buy merchandise to sell."
About 20 years ago, Bubba Smith grew tired of working in cubicles, according to A&E bio information. That's when he joined his uncle in the business of bidding.
"There are tons (of storage units) you have to walk away from because the risk is too great," he said. "You have to buy hundreds of units to find the super-unit you see on TV."
Together, the duo runs Lampasas Warehouse, where they sell their best storage locker finds.
"We fill up the warehouse 'til it's packed, then have a sale, then fill it up again," said Bubba Smith. "That's basically what we do."
But not all items they procure in an auction can be sold.
"We had one unit with lots of marijuana, one with lots of stolen tools and motor parts from the government," said Ricky Smith. "We didn't buy that, we turned it back."
But what a storage locker holds can be surprising, even to seasoned bidders.
"We found a prosthetic leg once with a tennis shoe still on it. It was carbon fiber, a very expensive leg," he said. "We've had cars, boats stacked above cars, devil worshippers' stuff, just crazy stuff."
Occasionally, the former owners of lockers will discover their own items and ask for them back, said Bubba Smith, but it doesn't happen often.
"You have substantial time to pay for your unit," he said. "It's either us buying it or the facility throwing it all in the Dumpster."
Personal items, such as photographs, are a "no-brainer" to return, said Ricky Smith.
"Personal stuff, pictures, papers, checkbooks, I just give it to them," he said. "I'm in this business, but they don't want you digging in some of the skeletons in their closets."
With his years of experience, Ricky Smith can get an idea of what a locker may be worth based on its state and organization, and after going through the items, said he has a pretty good idea of what kind of people once owned them.
"Every family, generally, has something that has been passed down," he said. "It could be a coin collection, a Civil War relic, anything Uncle Bob has given you or Aunt Sally has passed down. Just about everybody has something in their family someone has passed down, and that's how a lot of stuff gets in storage."
The "Storage Wars" series has introduced many people to the world of storage locker auctions and has increased the crowd sizes at bids.
"Since the show came out in L.A., crowds went from 20 people to 100," said Ricky Smith. "Everybody thinks they're going to get a box of gold. All they got was a box of moldy clothes."
Regardless of the number of people trying to strike it rich with an abandoned locker, the Smiths have built a business around the auctions, and will continue to do so.
"I'm not a dancing chicken. I've been doing this way before most of you were born," said Ricky Smith.
"Storage Wars: Texas" airs at 9 p.m. today. The Dec. 6 season premiere attracted a record-breaking 4.1 million viewers, according to www.aetv.com.
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.