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Stacked hats in my parents’ shop, Fletchers’ Country Corner

The shop sits on Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas, just across the street from the old railroad depot.

To explain the genesis of my parents’ life-long hobby and business I have to begin with some background.

Growing up in my parents’ home was quite an exhilarating and interesting experience. Our family lived in a little white frame house on a few acres of land. The woods in back had a fence that ran around the perimeter of the property and there was a white picket fence in front. Daddy kept a garden and in the early years we had chickens. I remember finding eggs in nests. Wild asparagus grew out in the woods. I never learned to like it until I discovered the white asparagus (spargel) in Germany.

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My paternal grandfather was quite a fisherman. In fact, my grandmother once told me that she took up fishing to save her marriage. (smart woman) It was fun to go fishing with them, especially to go out in their boat. My parents were very over-protective so wouldn’t let that happen very often and it was only in their presence. My Dad, being my Dad, put a little artistry in his display of the fishing lures, hanging them on a tree branch. Some of the lures belonged to my grandfather.

My parents started collecting early on. First, they discovered the glory of garage sales, then they started to go to estate sales. By the time I was in college I remember coming home one day to find a beautiful old antique floor lamp in the living room. That would have been a wonderful addition to the living room but no, that would not have been the true style of our quirky family. On top of the lamp was stacked about ten lamp shades. I looked at my Dad and said, “What do you call this?” He answered, “Repetition.”

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I remember watching my mother-in-law take slices of leftover roast beef and put it in the old fashioned meat grinder. After she ground it, she put the meat in a bowl. Then, she added some pickles and mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper and it made a glorious sandwich. I also have an old fashioned meat grinder and wouldn’t trade it in for a blender for anything.

My Dad closed the gate in the front yard and opened the gate to the back pasture so Scout, our Pinto horse could have the run of the yard at night. Talk about a great security service. I remember waking up in the morning during the summer to find Scout looking in my window. We didn’t have air conditioning back then and if he sneezed, the spray landed all over my face. Scout was my wake up call in the summer.

The front porch had a swing (one of my favorite places) and the kitchen was dominated by a beautiful antique dining table. Sitting in one corner of the room by the old player piano was an antique cherry wood chair. The top of the back of the chair featured a carved angel face with wings. I loved that old chair. At night I tended to get scared and would let my imagination run away to dark woods leading to creepy old houses with spider-webbed filled rooms. I would get up and go into the kitchen and sit a while in that angel chair and feel better.

My maternal grandfather had a drycleaners downtown on Garrison Avenue in one of the oldest buildings in Fort Smith. It had a tall ceiling and a mural depicting three seasons on the half clear story. Upstairs my grandfather stored old family heirlooms and furniture. He didn’t like anything old, preferring instead, contemporary furniture. My mother loved antiques so selected pieces of the furniture ended up in our home.

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Brooklyn Dodgers Fan Bank

My Dad and brothers are baseball fans and have always been. I don’t think there is one bit of baseball trivia that they don’t know. In fact, once I heard my brother talking about baseball in his sleep. They are still the family authorities on all things baseball. My Dad once drove all the way to Iowa just to pick up a certain baseball trading card. Beats all I ever saw. The family once drove all night just to take in a Saint Louis Cardinals game.

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My Uncle Max brought this Geisha doll back from the war and gave it to my grandmother. She is peering around the corner to keep an eye on the customers. I hope she never sells because I would like to bring her home someday. She sat on the corner of my grandparents’ mantle for as long as I can remember so I’m sure she’s comfortable with corners.

When I became a teenager I became more sensitive about the appearance of our home. The oddities that found their way into our house took up random spaces, seeming to have lives of their own. I was always partial to the heavy antiques even though they claimed most of the space.

Eventually, the shop was born.

Each item has a story; some whisper little hints while others scream outloud. The recital of our lives bears repeating on some quiet evenings. There’s no mathematical magic involved, just the glimpse of a deep memory that is inspired by the image or the touch of an everyday object.