Poor Biff’s Almanac — The Non-Easter Easter

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

Another weekend has come and gone here in Biffville (population: dazed). And not just an ordinary weekend, but an Easter weekend! Perhaps that’s why it went by even faster than usual.

For the first time in several decades, there was no Easter celebration here at Chez Biff. The offspring has up and moved away to pursue her fledgling career in a far-away state. My in-laws apparently did not require our company this particular Easter. And my own relatives are too far away to get to within a weekend. So, for the first time in a long time, there was no Easter egg dyeing. There was no trips to the store to pick up candy corn and other confectionery abominations. There was no sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to leave a few treats laying around, even though certain people have long since stopped believing in certain anthropomorphized mammal in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha who tends to leave chicken ova lying about in well-concealed places. (I had to say that in case there are children within eyesight of this blog post.)

So, we did what anyone would do under similar circumstances: we drove to Canton Texas to enjoy the humongous flea market there. What better way to celebrate Easter? (I can think of about a jillion better ways to celebrate Easter, but this is what ended up happening, so really, I am the victim here.)

(Author’s Note: Long time readers of this blog may remember that a similar thing occurred last year, as detailed here.)

Frankly, I did not care much about the flea market, but the weather was perfect today and it seemed like a nice day to drive in the country. The temperature was around 70. The humidity was low. There was a gentle breeze. And it was just overcast enough to take the glare out of the sun without dimming its light any.

I opted to drive down old Highway 80 instead of Interstate 20 to Canton. I-20 is somewhat faster (75 MPH speed limit and no small town traffic lights to stop one), but there is nothing more boring than an American interstate highway. In the 1970s, we tasked our nation’s top civil engineers with coming up with freeways that were so boring and uninspiring that drivers were all but assured that they would fall asleep at the wheel. These engineers outdid themselves and were subsequently awarded the Presidential Medal of Boredom for their pioneering efforts in the field of boring roadways.

Which is just a long-winded way of saying I prefer driving down old 80 to I-20. There are little towns to look at. There is a railroad track that parallels Old 80, and so one often gets the opportunity to see trains as they speed hither and yon. There are farms. There are cows. There are goats. There are vultures on the road eating native fauna (now deceased).

Don’t get me wrong. Texas countryside is not going to win any awards for beauty. It is as flat as an ironing board. Most of what one sees is pasture land or un-picturesque forest. The little towns one drives through are dying little backwaters with no industry or personality. It can be a little depressing. But there are the wildflowers to look at to make up for it. Today there were already patches of Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, crimson clover, and vast fields of some sort of yellow flower (bitterweed, I think). And all of this is amid a backdrop of greening fields and trees. It was pretty in its own un-picturesque way.

Canton First Monday Trade Days is … well … interesting. It is your typical flea market. It covers (and I’m guessing here) 40 or 50 acres and consists of row after row of vendors along with some indoor vendor areas. I will not attempt to list the sorts of things you can find here, because you can find anything and everything. I am no longer shocked at anything I find there. It is like walking through a disorganized museum of consumer, industrial, and agricultural grot from the past 60 years.

Sadly, I think about 80% of it could be (and should be) recycled. Anything metal should be melted down and reused. Anything paper should be tossed into a paper recycling bin. Whatever’s left over should be hauled to a landfill. I mean, I like rummaging through junk as much as the next person … but a lot of this stuff struggles to rise to the level of “junk”. (2/2/2018 update: Yes, they had the same metal donkeys I mentioned in last Easter’s post.)

But I did find something today that I bought. There were not many vendors there who were selling old books. There very seldom are. Books, for whatever reason, do not survive well in Texas. It is unusual to find a book here that is more than 20 or 30 years old. And even when you do, it is in horrible shape, as if it’d been left out in the rain and the sun for years. The pages and boards are usually warped. The spine is almost always sun-bleached. The paper very often has dry rot or insect damage. Frankly, 99% of them should be thrown in the paper recycling bin.

But today I hit the jackpot. I found a first American edition (1923) of E. F. Benson’s book, “Miss Mapp” … and it was in very good condition! Talk about finding a gem among the rubbish. Benson is one of my favorite authors and I absolutely love his Mapp and Lucia books. I first became aware of them in the mid 1980s when the BBC dramatized them in the beautifully-done series with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales, and Nigel Hawthorne. (The 2014 dramatization does not exist in my mind.)

After watching those in the 1980s, I managed, over time, to collect the books in paperback and read them. I love them so much! They are so beautifully and comically written and perfectly capture small-town dynamics in England in the 1920s. But even though I have been scouring used book stores, antique stores, estate sales,and flea markets for decades, I have never even found a single E. F. Benson book, let alone Mapp and Lucia book. So you can imagine my excitement at finding on today at a flea market that is primarily known for selling rubbish.

Anyway, I had a wonderful, if non-traditional, Easter. I hope you all had a fantastic Easter!

7 comments

  1. Congratulations on the finds!! It’s like rgw obsession I once had over Edwin Blashfield, a 19th and early 20thC muralist whose Cape Cod home I once lived in. I still have a remnant of a charcoal drawing (unsigned) I found. I have a couple of those 100y old books he and wife authored. And flea markets? In the 1978 -1979 I went to a Florida flea market and saw the familiar charcoal design. Way too rich for my blood. THe fellow wanted $400.
    ( EH did murals in capitols, LOC, and design for US paper money issued in the 1890s)

    Liked by 1 person

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