Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thirty entertaining minutes at the swap meet & flea market May 26, 2012

THIRTY MINUTES. That’s all the time my husband and I had to shop at the 13th annual Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market this morning before the rain rolled in.

Despite the hurried pace under threatening gray skies, I managed to snap enough photos to present you with a still-life infomercial designed for your amusement, education and entertainment.

An old wind-up toy that caught my eye.

Let’s start in the TOY DEPARTMENT where vintage toys abound.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe toy.

Moving on to the CHILDREN’S CLOTHING DEPARTMENT, meet model Mady modeling a fashionable frog hat purchased from a vendor.

Isn’t this 5-year-old simply too cute? Now what’s that fairy tale about kissing frogs and princes and…, oh, never mind, Mady doesn’t need to hear that story yet.

But I bet Howard from Farmington, over in MEN’S APPAREL could tell plenty of stories. He looks like a character. I can see it in his eyes, in the wrinkled folds of his face, in that beer cap he says garners plenty of attention. He’s a retired highway department employee, farmer, bus driver and cattle truck driver. And he once worked at a creamery.

That’s a good lead-in to the DAIRY DEPARTMENT, where I found these vintage milk bottles. Examine the one on the right. The City Dairy in St. Paul sold milk that was “Safe for Baby.” What a novel idea. Then slide your eyes over to the left. What is Velve “D” MILK and Mello “D” Milk for HEALTH?

OK, as long as I’m asking questions, have you ever heard of Heatwole, Minnesota (red button on lower right)? Even I haven’t, and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Minnesota communities. It’s apparently one of those ghost towns, located several miles south of Hutchinson. That’s your geography lesson for the day.

Tables and tables and tables of hardware and tools and more.

If you’re in need of tools and such, the swap meet and flea market features a massive HARDWARE SECTION. Men will most definitely savor shopping here. Enough said.

Need a shovel?

If you can’t find it on a table, Howard might have it in the back of his pick-up.

Need a 1915 combine? Yes, this would be one.

For the man who has everything, this 1915 International Harvester combine can be purchased for $800. I know. I know. It’s perhaps a bit difficult to envision this as anything but a heap of scrap metal. But if the right guy comes along…

Three duct tape dressed dolls on a pick-up. Strangest thing you ever saw.

And, finally, as we scurried through the rain toward the car, this pick-up truck pulled into the grass parking lot. Now, what do you make of those duct tape dressed dolls lashed onto that truck?

FYI: The swap meet and flea market continues from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines grounds three miles south of Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. A tractor pull is set for 9 a.m. Admission is free. A pretty good deal, I’d say, for all that entertainment.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling