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


8 Responses to “Thirty entertaining minutes at the swap meet & flea market”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Thanks for the trip to the swap meet!!! That is awesome!!! I loved Howard—-he is my kind of guy, definitely!!! I had my picture taken with a very similar guy at the State Fair a couple years ago next to his tractor that he had restored. Eyes full of stories and a face that was kind. You definitely captured some great shots before the storm—I think we somehow missed it here!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I was disappointed that we were only at the swap meet for such a short time. My husband was zooming ahead of me and I told him, “You are going too fast. You are missing everything.” Then he pointed to the darkening sky. I picked up the pace. Rain fell here, sometimes in torrential downpours, well into the afternoon. I feel bad for the people at the swap meet/flea market because today was pretty much a wash-out. Perhaps Sunday will be better.

  2. Hotly Spiced Says:

    What a shame the downpour got in the way of a very interesting meander through an incredible variety of trash and treasure. I love that wind-up toy. But I probably don’t need a doll duct-taped to my bumper bar xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m certain I could have discovered many more treasures given the time. Those dolls are just plain odd…

  3. I love flea markets – I missed one this weekend, which was a bummer. It’ss only open the 3 main holiday weekends in the summer…but on the 4th I’ll bring my camera for sure!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Great. I’d love to see what you discover at the flea market. I made several purchases, including two centennial drinking glasses (1954) from New Ulm and something for one of my sisters. Can’t mention it here because she reads this blog.

  4. Audrey – We had even less time at the Flea Market that morning so we must have been there at the same time. But…somehow we missed you. When we tried to walk around everything was covered & the rain didn’t want to let up. It’s too bad because we usually enjoy the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Swap Meet. Oh well – hope we have better luck next year.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, we must have practically crossed paths–us leaving, you arriving. I needed way more time to poke around.

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