By Bill Diem
In France, towns often have a day when everyone is invited to empty their attic and sell the stuff. It’s like a multi-multi family garage sale, but junk dealers and antique dealers are invited to set up too, as well as the odd food stand.
If you go to garage sales, you can imagine what much of the stands are like. Lots of young families looking for Bitsy Bug cute newborn baby girl outfits. Lots of plastic toys. Lots of books. Lots of CDs and DVDs and even LPs and cassettes.
The Frenchness is also clearly visible. Collections of champagne caps, wine glasses, and wine themed napkins. Collectable stuff like souvenir ashtrays and little ceramic figures. Useful stuff like lamps, tablecloths and kitchen equipment.
There are some stands with a manly smell: ancient rusty tools, fishing equipment, used tires.
We went to a very big one in Jullouville on the west coast of Normandy that covered a few city blocks, and everything was usual except for one guy who would have been at home in a remote cabin in the Upper Peninsula.
David didn’t have a stand. He sat on the curb next to a little table that displayed some zucchini he had grown and a little box he had made, and some lures he had made. In front of him were half a dozen baskets he had woven with thin branches. Leaning against them were drawings he had made, in frames he had made and screwed together. At the other end were a dozen plants in little pots, ready to be transplanted to your garden.
I asked him about the lures, because I am trying to learn to cast into the ocean and catch something.
“They are for the rivers,” he said.
“Do you have one for brown trout?” I asked.
He did, a small plug with a small treble hook. How much? $2.50.
I wanted it, not to use but to remember this moment by. I am a fly fisherman.
But I want to help him have a good sales day. I like him.
“How much is a little basket?”
“I could fit a couple mushrooms in it.”
“You need a bigger one for mushrooms in the fall.”
It was $9 and a bargain at that. I could not make such a basket.
I asked him his name.
Later I was having a drink at a cafe with my wife, telling her about the man and his drawings. One was of a fish jumping; it looked like a pike, which they have here. Another looked like my daughter’s first dog, a Brittany Spaniel. My wife waited while I walked back to the sale and found David. I bought the dog picture and another bigger lure. He signed his drawing with a swirly signature as the French like to do, a swirl that can’t really be read.
There is a wonderful French movie called “Les Enfants du Marais,” or “Children of the Marsh,” about a WWI veteran who after the war lives near some old recluses in the marsh, and together they do little things to make money, like catching frogs and selling lilies of the valley on May 1. David reminds me of that veteran and some people I know in the Tahquamenon area. Creative, happy with their lives, generous, and ready to do everything their own way.