Another day on the square

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Like many second Thursdays in Mays past, I was recently sitting underneath a tent on Canton’s Historic Square, primed to participate in flea market capitalism. I was hungry, too, because the Raisin Bran hit my bowl pretty early that morning — as in before daylight.

5:15 a.m. — We strap into vehicles piled high with handiwork and hopes for success. It’s a special day, because I’m to be joined by seven females in our family. A daughter-in-law and two of the granddarlings are riding with me, taking in Rapunzel on the DVD player.

6:30 a.m. — A Canton law officer directs us into an unloading lane. He is unsmiling and, I’m sure, not paid nearly enough. Shoppers are already at it.

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6:30 a.m. — Coordinators sit at tables underneath the gazebo, passing out vendor packets and pointing to stacks of t-shirts for sale, some from last year’s 50th anniversary. The dew is thick on the hay that workers spread across the grassy areas last night.

6:45 a.m. – We set up west of the courthouse in space 235, a spot we reserved in March. Tents are popping up like mushrooms, but there’s a problem with ours, something that Daughter No. 1 says should have been discovered during a trial run at home. A quick call to the wife of Son No. 1 (who’s on her way) results in a duct-tape solution.

7:30 a.m. — Foot traffic is thickening. Sidewalks are getting clogged with people hauling their spoils — birdhouses, collegiate art, monogrammed pillows.

8 a.m. — I’m unloading the last bit when the PA system broadcasts the national anthem, bringing everything to a halt. Patriotism even stills a long line waiting at the Mickle’s Pickles counter. I remember the year they completely sold out (6,000 jars) by noon.

8:15 a.m. — The girls branch out in search of a wrought iron water hose hanger (I suspect they really want food.) I’m left to handle a customer who pulls out a wad of money, dents my change stash good, and wheels away with her collapsible cart.

9:10 a.m. — We take in the immediate scene from lawn chairs which we move in sync with the shifting shade. Frame vendor to the right. Wooden swings to the left. Hand-crafted knives (which get a lot of attention) across the way. A neighbor vendor makes a purchase from us. Does that mean I should buy something from her?

10 a.m. — I wonder if I-55 is backed up from the Canton exit to the Nissan plant, like on other flea market days. One year a customer confessed she had chosen to sleep nearby in her car. “Much easier than making the drive at 2 a.m.,” she told me in an unmistakable New Orleans accent.

11:35 a.m. — After careful observation, I am convinced that males here generally fall into one of three categories: boyfriends, who come willingly; husbands, who come once; and babies, who come strapped in strollers.

12:15 p.m. — A friend stops by and pulls up a chair. We talk of old days and new seasons. She goes away with one of my daughter-in-law’s wreaths — the nicest one, in my opinion.

1:40 p.m. — The afternoon lull has a taste — it is boiled peanuts sold by the bag and homemade ice cream sold around the corner, and it is shared equally among aunts and nieces. I pass on both.

2 p.m. — The granddarlings are so tired they lay their heads on my lap. Someone says for the 20th time that it’s hot. So hot. (Sigh.)  My youngest daughter asks about shopping down at another section.

2:45 p.m. — A repeat customer from years past handles our wares and ends up buying three items. I am sorry to say I do not remember her, or how to add. Pass me the calculator, please.

3 p.m. — Did I mention that it’s hot?

3:15 p.m. — Chartered buses are pulling out. The ATMs need refilling. We begin the hard work of breaking down and paying taxes.

4:20 p.m. —  I remind the girls what overdosed shopaholics wear: t-shirts that say “Canton Made Me Do It.” We hit the road again, hauling something new — memories of another day on the square.


Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at