Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 23, 2005

Time to flea!

I used to be a garage sale nut. But when I filled the nooks and crannies of our home with planters shaped like pigs, cup-less saucers, saucer-less cups, salt shakers without their pepper mates and other orphaned items, I decided it was time to stop.

That doesn't mean I've kicked the habit. Instead, I've turned my attention to a larger, more entertaining venue -- the flea market, a regularly-scheduled sale with many vendors in a single location.

I've never been to a flea market in Kansas. I'm not even sure if there are that many, if any, in our state. But in Wisconsin, the flea market is as much a part of the culture as beer, cheese and the Packers.

In Three Lakes, where we have a summer cottage, the fire department sponsors a flea market on Wednesdays. It's about a 10-minute walk from our cottage so I check things out every week we're there. I usually find some useful item -- a 50-cent fly swatter to kill flies or the bird-sized mosquitoes, for example, or a spatula to replace the one we melted on the grill.

In past years, I've even found treasures for the girls -- fairy-tale books, unusual Beanie Babies and, one year, an old Tinker Toy set. The Tinker Toys proved to be a good investment because year after year, the girls entertained themselves for hours by making cars, trucks, helicopters, Ferris wheels and who knows what else with them. Even my frugal mother-in-law admits it was a good purchase.

On the other hand, I doubt she'd find much of redeeming value at the St. Germain flea market Art and I visit every year. The market is spread out over a large city park and includes all manner of junk masquerading as merchandise.

There's something for almost everyone. For those who like North Woods décor, there are duck decoys, minnow pails, creels, fishing poles, lures, old boats and even shelves made to resemble boats.

For kids, there are CDs, dolls, Nancy Drew and other books, and jewelry including pendants shaped like dolphins, toe and ankle bracelets and magnetic earrings.

For people like me, there are all types of old and new kitchen items -- Depression glass, carnival glass, wheat-pattern dishes, old silverware, canning jars, enamelware and old metal coffee pots.

Art always looks for one thing -- dark maple syrup made by a particular local vendor. He was really disappointed when that vendor didn't show up this year.

I was tempted by a couple of items. One was a "Gunsmoke" lunch box for $75. My brother collects lunch boxes and I almost called him to see if he wanted it. The vendor even offered to lower the price to $60. The other item was an old photo album filled with tintypes from the 1880s. I love old photos, but decided I have enough of my own family that I can't identify.

After a few hours, I began to feel hungry so I bought a barbeque pork sandwich and a cold drink. Art opted for just the drink, saying he carries his pork with him. After I finished my snack, we continued our trek around the park.

But I knew it was time to leave when we walked by a booth operated by a taxidermist. My gaze was met by three raccoon heads mounted on a piece of driftwood.

"Oh, Lord, I've seen it all now," I remarked.

"Not quite," Art answered as he pointed to the rump of a white-tailed deer mounted on a piece of wood.

How appropriate -- a tail to mark the tail-end of our day. I decided it was time for us to "flea" the market.

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