From yard sales to flea markets

I’d Rather be Wright

by David Wright

I don’t know many people that can pass up a yard sale or a flea market. There is always a deal out there. May 7 and 8, the Village had profound collections all over the place, and it included a wild assortment from dump-bound debris to treasures. I found the best sales tactic was to make much of it free and just move on with my life—time to clean up and purge the one-time important items. I didn’t get rid of my slightly bent racing bike due to its 45 years and no provenance due to my less-than-heroic history of racing. Looks cool and would nicely decorate a bar with all those Campanella parts—but no.

Still, it felt good, and all grinning participants had fun and met with friends to jabber and find out what life was like post-COVID.

For reasons still not clear, I along with three others didn’t quite have enough action with the local yard sailing/yard saling. We were forced to attend a “real” flea market in Baraboo where the Wisconsin Steam and Gas folks hold the spring blowout market for individuals who need things made of iron, not modern steel but old iron, sometimes referred to as rusty junk. There was a profusion of magnetos, worn-out farm implements, leftovers from the Dust Bowl, colorful painted metal signs festooned with thinly clad and exaggerated ladies from the Forties, complete tractors worn out from plowing some rock-strewn sand lot in Adams County, and a wild assortment of single-cylinder gas and diesel engines used for grinding Depression-era corn with the hopes of making it through another winter or, I suppose, making corn meal mash for a backwoods still.

We were easily entertained by the flea-market auction, where gawking individuals (and I will add most were persons of the male persuasion) bid on assorted relics from the last iron age. But we never really took part, using seldom-exercised judgment as our guide knowing we all arrived there in Priuses (Priuri?). These autos, in their modern charm, were not particularly suitable for hauling much of anything. A nice three horse Fuller-Johnson weighing in at 640 pounds was simply out of the question even if it was suspected of having run at least once in the last 50 years. All four of us marveled at the good price (except Martin, who thought we were all nuts right from the get-go); still we smiled and dreamed of another home-bound project.

This flea market is always the mother of all sales for old stuff made of iron (Martin again noted that much of the collections were like brother Jeff and I—old and in the way), but we prevailed and drifted through the rows and rows of things we found to be of so little value they would not even have been melted down during the most horrible of foreign wars.

Early on, we had been attracted to a hodgepodge of metal piled on a flatbed truck. We had examined it and fondled the International M, 1.5 horse single-cylinder construct of rust that had obviously spent the better part of the last century buried in mud. It had an inspirational draw, a calling if you will, asking us to bring it back to life even though it may have been better suited as an anchor for a steamship. We chatted up the owner from Iowa but initially made no indication we were actually willing to put out folding money for such a piece of Great Plains rubble. I suspect he could see the inner lusting.

We wandered off but on our swing back to our cars, dropped by the flatbed from Iowa. It seemed I had brought along two old water pumps from my collection and had intended on just leaving them with someone for their entertainment. It was then I realized I might be able to trade those two extremely valuable items for a discount on the International M.

After some discourse, mostly intellectual, the owner said he could let the M go for the two pumps and $50. Martin mumbled something to the effect of, “For the love of God, man.” The rest of us, in a muted sense, felt redeemed, if not satisfied, to have instantly justified the time spent looking at incredible deals being offered up in this backyard of America—and it was only 350 pounds!

What a day yard sailing. No wonder everybody loves these outings. Sale on, or is it sail on?

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