Wednesday, August 05, 2009

First Monday Miss

The Colonel and his bride, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, checked another box on our "To See and Do" list last weekend--and, despite an "Awww, look Eyud" and a pouty face, there was no puppy purchased.

Up near the state line with Tennessee in north Mississippi, the little town of Ripley (pop. just shy of 6000) continues to carry on a tradition that began over a century ago. In 1893, the American economy crashed into a depression that was to last for the better part of a decade. The bursting of a railroad investment bubble (one in a long line of investment bubbles to burst--including the recent dot com and housing bubbles) and a credit crunch caused by runs on overextended banks contributed to what is now known as "The Panic of '93." Unemployment averaged 15% for the next six years. A large proportion of the recently enlarged "middle class" lost their life savings in bank failures and, unable to pay their mortgages, walked away from homes that had been purchased well beyond their needs and means. As the depression rapidly deepened, and prices for export crops like corn and cotton fell dramatically, farming communities were hit particularly hard. To help each other combat the crippling effects of the depression, the farming community of Ripley, Mississippi began to hold monthly "swap meets" on the courthouse square. Originally called "Trade Day," the meet was scheduled for the first Monday of each month and soon became known as "First Monday." Farmers brought their produce to exchange with others and also toted along livestock and firearms to trade as well. As the crowds attending First Monday grew over the years the location of the event was shifted further and further out of the town center to locations that could accommodate larger crowds. Today, First Monday is held on the weekend before the first Monday of each month at a fifty acre site south of town.

The Colonel, remembering that last Friday was the 33rd anniversary of our wedding, took the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda out to dinner and a movie--"Squirrel!!--and asked her where she would like to go the next day for Day Trip. She said, "I wanna go see 'First Monday,'" and so bright and early Saturday morning, we snuck out of the house before the hope of twenty-first century civilization (and their parents) woke up and headed for Ripley.

First Monday is pretty much your basic flea market with the added attraction of livestock and dogs for sale. And, you haven't lived until you munch on a corn dog and a funnel cake while watching vendors stuff sold chickens in sacks. As we sauntered along the lane dedicated to dogs for sale, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda sighted a yellow lab puppy on the tailgate of a pickup, yanked her hand out of mine and ran like a ten-year old over to pet the third most destructive force on the planet (behind a platoon of Marines and two grandsons). The man with the dog whipped out a set of "papers" and offered that this "registered, full-bred labbadoor" (sic) could be hers for only $25.

"Awww, Eyud, its so cute! He's got papers and is only $25! The boys would love him."

The Colonel was born at night--not last night. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm not crazy. I didn't just re-enlist of the way to lunch. I didn't just...okay, you get the idea. I wasn't going to buy a papered puppy for just $25. Everybody knows that if you don't pay at least $500--you ain't gettin' a good dawg.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda put on her best pouty face, but the Colonel was not swayed. I stood my ground, grasped her hand, and leaned away from the tailgate-soiling pup until Miss Brenda's hand let go of the dog's neck. With her momentum going in my direction, I looked around for something much more appropriate for our attention--"Look, Sweety, that guy's got fishing poles and pocket knives for sale--two for a dollar."

It was a narrow miss. We'll get the boys a dog for a house-warming gift when they move into their own place.
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