Canton, Texas - The Home Of First Monday
My hometown is Kaufman, Texas; and it's about 35 miles South East of Dallas, and if you take C.F. Hawn Freeway, or Highway 175-the two are the same thing, then that will take you directly to the place. If you from town took county road 243 another 35 miles East, then you'd wind up in Canton, Texas. I used to wind up there pretty often when I was a child. I'd wind up there every single "First Monday" weekend.
We'd arrive in whichever beat down old General Motors product he'd recently decided to keep going. Argus Troy Coker, A.T. Coker, that is, and otherwise known as "PawPaw," and I'd step out carrying whichever stringed instruments he'd bought for next to nothing, repaired on the cheap, and brought to sell. Guitars, mandolins, banjos, dulcimers, fiddles; you name it, A.T. either had one, or would find you one.
Trips to Canton, Texas; and what you'll find at the right time of the month.
It would be nice if I had some digital images of my late grandfather to upload here, but at present I do not. Also, images of him with some of the mentioned stringed instruments in hand would be most wonderful considering the content of this hub. I don't have a scanner at present.
Walking. Forever we're walking. This place is so huge I can't tell you how big it is. You can't walk it all, and be looking for bargains in a day. This is impossible.
My grandfather seemed to know half the people there, and he spoke to even more. Very courteous he was, and having worked very hard his entire life, his handshake that was always used as a greeting and to seal a deal, could crush your hand. I shake very few hands that can compare.
"Hey there, old man, how much you want for that guitar?"
Came a typical call from either the right or the left. There are rows upon rows of booths on either side, some of them are little buildings to keep you out of the sun, others are just tables and boxes of things everywhere. Sometimes a price is marked. Sometimes an item is not marked with a price-but it's for sale. If haggling is rude in this place, then someone should put up a sign. Grandfather is forever seeking the best price, and forever trying to get someone to knock five or ten dollars more off of their price.
"Oh, I might trade it for this busted up one over here, and this smaller one for my grandson here. Say, what brand is that? Picador? Never heard of it, but it seems pretty nice."
It is in this manner that I come to own my first acoustic guitar. Soon my fingertips on my left hand are very sore from attempts to play, but I'm hooked, and there's no putting it down. Truly, I do not recall if my first guitar, a "Picador," came from a deal at First Monday, but it's not important. It came from my grandfather, and he only traded instruments at Texas flea markets. We could find one to go to every Saturday, and sometimes did. Flea Markets are still common in North Central and North East Texas
"First Monday," I'm told, is the largest flea market or swap meat in the country. It is the weekend before the first Monday of every month, Saturday is generally the busiest day, and people literally come from all over the country to sell their goodies there. It's like a huge gathering of cable t.v.'s "Pickers." Some spots are reserved for regulars and other spots I think you can rent on spot. Sometimes you might not find a spot to set up a table or tables or whatever-it gets very busy there in the more pleasant months. Actually, check all of that, I've been told before that First Monday, at Canton, Texas - is the largest swap meat or flea market in the entire world. I wouldn't doubt that that is true.
Texas pride, the spirit of Texas, and the legend of the Lone Star State are all in evidence at First Monday, and though many are from out of state, they'll often try to fib to you, and pretend that they too are Texas natives. Everyone wants to be a Texas native, we have attitude that you other folk just don't often have.
Livestock, you can't think "Texas" without thinking of animals. First Monday has what we call "dog town," and this is the livestock area. You won't find cattle for sale at First Monday, at least I don't recall ever seeing cattle at a flea market before-they are just too big. You will see, dogs, chickens, goats, baby pigs, maybe, rabbits, and other such animals for sale in "dog town." As for the Shaw Family, well, we have chickens.
I'm not going to upload pictures of chickensfor you. You know what a chicken looks like. I might someday upload pictures of our chickens though. Years ago A.T. decided that we needed some chickens, and he bought us a couple bantam hens and a rooster-these are small chickens. Dad got "infected," and we've had chickens ever sense then. bantam chickens of all colors we have, and they've all got feathers covering their feet, which is typical of bantams.
After a long day of buying, selling or swapping stringed instruments, and maybe some machine shop tools, Mr. Coker and I would make the 35 mile trek in an old Chevrolet back to Kaufman, where Grandmother and he lived. The Shaw family always lived, and still lives - though in a different location - a bit out of town.
"Mary Evelyne," he'd call, "Break out the Blue Bell and some Dr. Peppers. Me and Todd want a float." Texas has many of the finest things that life in North America has to offer. First Monday trades day, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Dr. Pepper, and my family.