Sparks is located in extreme northeast Kansas on K-7 Highway. Its residential population is about 9. But twice a year, on the first weekends of May and September, the town experiences a population surge of about 75,000 over at least 4 days. There are approximately 500 vendor booths of antiques, collectibles, a few new items at ridiculously low prices and, of course, food. Someone has to feed the masses of hungry treasure hunters!
We found a parking place alongside the highway fairly close to the action—a lucky break because, throughout the day, we’ll make several trips back to the pickup to empty our bags of loot. Could be an omen of a great day ahead! A quick stop at a row of little plastic potty houses, aka Porta-a-Johns (the only bathroom option available); then, clutching our respective shopping lists and bags, we merged into the masses trolling for treasures.
My list included a few pieces of glass for garden totems; rusty, junky stuff reasonably priced and worthy of being repurposed into June’s Junque; and any item that “spoke” to me.
Bill’s list: sunglasses, t-shirts, gloves, belts, tools. Wait a minute! Bill shops for these items as antiques and collectibles? Well, no, or at least not the first four items. He buys items that the antiques and collectibles purists say don’t belong at Sparks: brand new, quality merchandise that is dirt cheap. His criteria for tools are that they work and, again, are dirt cheap. Five pairs of brand new leather work gloves for a buck a pair? Don’t try to tell Bill these items don’t belong at Sparks!
Bill also keeps an eye out for yard art junk he thinks I’ll like. He spotted two pieces of graniteware.
Bill also found a child’s Radio Flyer wheelbarrow. I had made purchases from this vendor in the past, so he cut us a good deal.
My find of the day was that special item that “spoke” to me: a weathervane with a figure of a cow on top.
Nine years ago, Bill bought six “bargain basement” first-calf heifers with calves. He only wanted five of the pairs. The sixth heifer showed some Brahma characteristics, plus she had horns. He didn't like her calf either, calling it a “knot head.” The seller twisted Bill’s arm by lowering the price so he bought the “bargain sub-basement” pair! Bill named the cow “Chubby” and the calf “Knot Head.”
Once Chubby was a member of our herd, Bill could breed her to bulls he borrowed, rented or owned and, hopefully, get much better calves out of her than “Knot Head.” The gamble paid off—she raises good calves.
Chubby came to us with a flighty attitude and was often found by herself in the pasture. Through the years, she has mellowed. Last year, we finally coaxed her to eat range cubes out of our hands.