Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dog and Gun


      If you were to go to a travel agent and sign up for a Hillbilly trip to northern Missouri, one of the activities on your agenda would have to include "The Dog and Gun".  'Round in these parts, it is an important ritual that takes place every other weekend in the summertime. Its official title is the "Rutledge Flea Market".  Its website boasts that there are over 1000 vendor spots available.  You will find "antiques, collectibles, crafts, relics, tools, horse tack, yard furniture, clothes, new merchandise, used items, farm supplies and much more". Much, much more.
      It had its beginnings in 1948 and was a dog and gun exchange and hillbilly auction.  Local men would meet to trade items, particularly guns and dogs.  You have to understand the importance of these items in a rural area.  Your gun is your constant companion and your dog is your best friend.  Of course, if you were to find one better, you would trade it.
     I have been to the Dog and Gun only once in my lifetime.  The ladies of our church volunteered to run the concession stand for a day. We arrived early in the morning.  As we approached, it looked like an old camper convention, with ages old rusty trailers lined up in formation.  We walked in to find an old shack where we would be working.  We were very busy the entire day, so I wasn't able to peruse the flea market.  The view from the snack shop window told me I didn't miss much.  I saw tables of flea market items.  There were long stands with tools and hunting items.  I also was a bit puzzled by the tables filled with stacks and stacks of used Tupperware.  Of course, there were those selling "antiques"-- like old rusty tools, chipped pottery and toys from the 70's.  There are also "crafts" which basically means anything made by hand, but typically means tables full of plastic canvas items, yard decor made out of old barn wood, and hand painted signs.  You can even buy chickens and goats, along with garden plants and vegetables. 
     Of course, there are guns........and dogs.  It is rumored that they don't really sell dogs, the owners sell the collars and the dog comes with them.  I guess that is a way to get around the laws.  I have often wondered about the selling of firearms.  Do they do background checks?  Or maybe, they sell the gun cases and you get a "free" gun with it!
   I did notice a certain dress code that is prevalent at this flea market.  The grounds are filled with people that would be considered "back-woods" type.  Think Grizzly Adams.  I actually saw a man with greasy jeans, an even greasier, tobacco stained beard, sporting an old, sweat stained cowboy hat.  His hat band was made from a snake skin and there was a huge turkey feather pluming out of the band. And, yes, there was a rifle under his arm and he had a hound dog on a leash. 
     There is also an unusual set of people that frequent this market.  There is a local group of Amish that settled in the area and they seem to enjoy shopping the tables of items.  Senior citizens from the area also make their appearance to check out the items for sale and to find that one-of-a-kind sign for their lawn. 
     You will see entire families piled onto a four wheeler or golf cart. They will drive to and from the tables viewing the items for sale. Many people camp there for the summer, so there is the smell of campfire smoke, mingled with wet dog, gunpowder and sweat.
     So, if you're needing to trade your Rover for a Ruger, you'd better check out the Rutledge Flea Market, known around these parts as the "Dog-n-Gun" (pronounced as all one word)-- but you'll get that in a small town.

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