Another dubious outing into the Heartland, presented for the edification of Europeans (and English people).
Over the Border to Ohio, and What Dmitri Bought There
'Do you want to go to Ohio on Friday?' my brother in law asked casually.
'What,' I wondered, 'is in Ohio?' I had good reason for skepticism. My late father used to say with mock solemnity that 'Ohio was a good state to come from,' and then wait for the statement to sink in. Yes, I come from a long line of snarky people. But we agreed we'd like to go and see the big market outside Rogers, Ohio, just over the state line from Pennsylvania.
It was an eye-opener, and offered us an opportunity to improve upon the picturesque sunburns we'd acquired at the pool on Wednesday.
We knew we were in Ohio right away: the landscape is pretty distinctive – i.e., flat. Not quite as flat as Mississippi, but getting there. This strikes most Pennsylvanians as boring, so we immediately feel superior. They don't have our winding roads, dangerous curves, 'falling rock' signs, vertiginous views, enhanced opportunities for deer ambush of unsuspecting motorists…see? They obviously don't know what they're missing out on in this open farm country.
The Rogers Community Auction advertised 'seventy acres of free parking', and it delivered. The seventy acres of parking were indeed free, and almost totally covered in grass. There was a section marked 'horses and buggies', because this is Mennonite territory. We parked and walked around, starting in the Poultry Barn, which had chickens, turkeys, ducks, and a few goats and rabbits that were probably puzzled by the sign. The animals were to be auctioned later. We hoped they found good homes. There were also gorgeous stands of fruits and vegetables – all locally grown and cheaply priced. We got aubergines and carrots, relatives snatched up fresh green beans and onions.
There were lots of food stands, boasting cheesesteaks, sausages, burgers, doughnuts, and many other things I had no business eating. But the cold drinks were very welcome – because, my friends, we picked a really hot day to go to Ohio. Although it was overcast and coolish in western Pennsylvania, the sun was beating down relentlessly on the Buckeye State, and the humidity was over the sweat limit by quite a bit. The big sellers at the market were Mason jars full of fresh lemonade with lemons in, and a big straw poking out of the lid. Refills at half price, and you could keep the Mason jar. Yes, this is farm country. Home canning is us.
The sun was fierce, but fortunately, lots of the goods were in long, open-ended sheds, darker and marginally cooler. I took refuge, located a friendly lady with a bookstall, and set to work combing through her goods. Seeing my walking stick (shopping does my back in), she lent me a chair, and even went out to her car to fetch the sheet music she hadn't put up yet. You can see some of my finds in the picture: books and sheet music for $1 each, such a deal. I also purchased some out-of-print classics to give for Christmas gifts, a copy of Archy and Mehitabel for myself, and a book in Finnish, just because it was amazing to find a book in Finnish in Ohio, right across from the 'all things puppy-dog' booth, and also because I love a dictionary challenge…
The lady knocked $2 off the job lot on the grounds that 'I love running into someone who shares my taste in books and music.' All in all, a good experience.
The Rogers Community Auction (motto: 'Bringing Buyers and Sellers Together') began in 1955 when a local auctioneer bought eight acres of land and started auctioning off produce, eggs, chickens, rabbits, and 'miscellaneous items' every Friday. Obviously, an auctioneer without goods to shout about gets itchy vocal chords... Now the place has 250 acres and up to 50,000 visitors on any given Friday. I believe it, the noise was deafening. The crowd was friendly and polite, and the display of goods…eclectic. Witness this table: the handmade…well, let's call them 'crafts'…against the amazing backdrop of imaginative flags made quite a picture…
And so I snapped one.
Across the aisle, people offered off-brand sneakers, with a sign, '1 – $18, 2 – $30.' I wondered if the shoes were being sold singly or in pairs, but thought it best not to inquire. Snarkiness is not always appreciated.
Next to the shoes were antiques of all sorts: old toys, a 'library' desk, dishes, and a couple of vintage typewriters at bargain prices.
Here's a close-up of the 'crafts'. I really couldn't tear my eyes away. I can't help it, I react this way in art museums, too. There was this time in the Victoria and Albert when a German friend made me stare so long at each individual ivory miniature from that mediaeval collection that I almost passed out. My friend produced some glucose tablets and generously encouraged me to sit down for a whole five minutes. 'Great art does that to you,' she said.
I have to agree.
Wherever you go in the US these days, there are these signs for sale: inspirational variety. They usually stress things like the blessings of home and family. I'm not sure if these affirmations, though decorative, are strictly necessary. Does anyone ever say, 'Gee, I'm glad I saw that sign today. Otherwise, I wouldn't have remembered to kiss my wife'? It's probably best to avoid overthinking in a Flea Market. That way madness lies.
I didn't take a picture of the other signs. The ones that are snarkier. Though I did point one of them out to my brother in law, who chuckled. It read:
It is illegal to bait deer in this state. Therefore, this pile of corn is for the use of rabbits, squirrels, and other woodland critters, but not deer. Any deer found eating this corn will be shot.
This sort of rural humour almost made it worthwhile to roam through tables, boxes, and bins full of tat and the sort of Stuff that the Germans will know how to classify when I mutter, 'Sommerschlussverkauf'.
We bought lots of things: fruits and vegetables, books and music, jewellery (grandniece), stuff that goes in the church Christmas boxes, toys, and…this umbrella hat.
I walked out of the house without a hat on, believe it or not. My excuse is that there was a light rain in our town, and I did remember the camera, but I neglected to pick up the jaunty straw fedora I'd planned on donning for the occasion.
What's that? No, I didn't buy, or wear, the umbrella hat. I bought a Lawrence-of-Arabia-type hat with a cloth neck protector. Which I sported, but is not pictured here. It will come in handy in the garden or at that exposed swimming pool.
What? Oh, I get you. Elektra wanted the umbrella hat. She's lost the one she wore in Ireland in 1978. She refused to model it, though, so I stuck it on the yarn spool. She also didn't wear it at the flea market, because she was too dignified, I believe.
Wherever the Gheorghenis go, folks, they are classy. Especially out among the horse buggies.