It’s hard to tell which you first recognize upon meeting Stoney Kersh.
But two things stand out like holiday displays in Interlochen: The enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning when talking about his favorite NFL football team, and the holy place he has erected within the walls of his Arlington home.
Fanaticism isn’t unique, but the monument that serves as a hearty pledge of homage to the Dallas Cowboys certainly is.
It’s equal parts shrine dedicated to Cowboys worship and Smithsonian, a museum of sorts that would take days to go through to actually see and study each piece.
In fact, he doesn’t have room for everything.
From ceiling to floor and on every wall of every room (including the master bedroom), to cupboards, shower, toilet — yes, toilet — his front and back yards, upward to the attic, and outside the bounds of his property to a storage facility, Kersh has Cowboys stuff, estimated (he doesn’t know) to number in the hundreds of thousands.
Since he was 4 to today as a 47-year-old man, Kersh has scoured garage sales, flea markets, estate sales and Craigslist, his eyes focused on the colors of blue, white or silver.
“It’s a working man’s or blue-collar collection,” Kersh said. “It’s not a bunch of autographed jerseys or helmets. Anybody can go to the [Cowboys]Pro Shop and buy that stuff.
“This is stuff I’ve hunted my whole life.”
▪ There is just about anything that has included a Cowboys player’s image. Those include cereal boxes, Zippo lighters, telephones, trading cards, stamps, fishing lures, radios, alarm clocks, drink coasters, knives and watches, key chains, bottles and bottle caps, commemorative cups, a pencil set with Darren Woodson’s image, and even a Tony Dorsett Texas Lotto scratch-off ticket. “You name it ...,” he said with conviction.
▪ Old electronic football games, the most memorable of his collection is one that featured Bob Lilly on the box; Tom Landry’s rookie cards with the New York Giants, and talking action figures. “It was the first game of the 1995 season against the New York Giants on MNF,” a recorded Emmitt Smith recalls. “My very first carry of the ’95 season is a play right down the pipe ... up the middle 66 yards for a touchdown. It was a great feeling.”
▪ He has his all of his Cowboys lunch boxes when he was a mere stripling, Cowboys trash cans, plates and pennants and a Landry bust he bought at a convenience store in Weatherford.
▪ His media room includes all but a few Sports Illustrated covers featuring Cowboys, and volumes of Dallas Cowboys Weekly.
▪ A seatback from Texas Stadium provides comfort for toilet users in the guest bathroom. Kersh also has a turnstile from the Cowboys’ old home.
That doesn’t even scratch the surface of his holdings, which are neatly organized. Open a drawer and you’ll likely find a replica Super Bowl ring or pin or football card. The master bedroom shower floor includes a tiled blue star.
Kersh has dozens of autographed photos and a Dez Bryant jersey signed by No. 88. Kersh found that in an estate sale for a bargain. A friend donated game-worn gloves tossed to him by Emmitt Smith.
In the front is a large cabinet featuring hundreds of bobble-head dolls and figurines going back to the 1960s.
“There’s stories behind all of them,” Kersh said of his connection to each piece. “I really can’t tell you [a favorite piece]because I love the Cowboys. I love their team, their history. Growing up here, my dad instilled that in me and I instilled it in my two boys. It’s a big deal.”
Kersh is also handy with the industrious mind of an engineer.
As part of his job with Smucker Foodservice, Kersh installs coffee machines in the concessions at AT&T Stadium. (That led to acquiring a large piece of turf headed to a trash bin.)
He has rewired medicine cabinets and installed switches and motors from outdated machines at work to help display his collection. He used a battery from a talking Hallmark card for a minor enhancement to his Cowboys van, which he uses to shuttle fans — family friends or otherwise — to games from his home near Davis and Randol Mill Road.
The “grand finale” of a tour of the house is “Cowboys City” in converted garage that includes a pool table and TVs.
He flipped a switch and what descended from the rafters over the pool table baffled two visitors. A board that almost doubled the size of the pool table with a replica AT&T Stadium that he, his wife and a neighbor constructed. Surrounding the stadium was a train track and racetrack, symbolic of fans attending a game.
He has a national anthem wired in and a flyover, tiny planes that run across the city by wires affixed to each end of the “city.” There is even a blimp that can fly around the stadium.
A Hot Wheels van identical to his Cowboys van sits in front of the stadium.
These are part of bigger projects Kersh and Co. work on during the off-season. Another from years past is the backyard patio, now a replica painted field of AT&T Stadium, with first-down chains and the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Kersh and his wife, Diana, welcome visitors to see the collection. On any given Sunday, anywhere from 25 to 100 people will come by to go through it, said Kersh, who asks all to simply sign a guest book.
Donations are accepted, but not required. Everything he makes on a Sunday goes back into the museum.
Perhaps more impressive than the collection is that Kersh is married. There are realities in this world and one truth few dispute is that it’s a rare spouse who would or could embrace this hobby, but, Kersh said, Diana “is right there with me all the way.”
“I thought it was incredible,” Diana Kersh said. “I grew up with the Cowboys. I’ve always been crazy about them.
“I thought I had died and gone to Cowboy heaven [when she met Kersh eight years ago]. You can’t change a man anyways. In fact, I did make one attempt. I had a house down the street ... it’s bigger and with a lot more wall space. I thought, ‘You know, why don’t we move in down there?’ And he said, ‘Can you imagine moving all this stuff?’ ”
Stoney Kersh has no idea the value of his collection, and he doesn’t much care. Diana made an extremely valuable contribution to the collection: insurance.
“When I first met him, he didn’t have any” insurance on it, Diana said. “I thought, ‘You’re kidding! This is your life; you’ve put your entire life into this.’ ”
To Kersh, there is no amount of money that could replace his collection. Nothing is for sale, and he’d gladly lose body parts or some such before parting with any of it.
As for the Cowboys, spokesman Rich Dalrymple said the team didn’t specifically know of Kersh’s house of reverence, though he said the team is aware of such expressions of love. He added that, as it concerned Kersh, with tongue in cheek, “We appreciate those fans who alter the interior design of their home with Cowboys memorabilia.”
Only one current or former Cowboys player has come through the home. Mel Renfro was treated with a tour six or seven years ago. He promised to bring his family back.
Every Cowboy has an open invitation.
Kersh will on occasion camp out for autographs at games. It’s there that he tells players they should come over.
“They don’t know me from a man on the moon,” Kersh said. To them, “I’m just another crazy fan, as far as they know. And I am, but a normal crazy fan.”