A QUICK NOTE: To end the year, here’s one of my favorite articles of 2012, republished as it was originally written. Much to my despair, the lead was mangled when it appeared in print. (Editors can be great, but, like us writers, they don’t always get it right.) The story is back in its original form, and I’ve added the audio.
LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — On a downhill run toward Lawrenceburg, Route 1 staggered in the dark. Red numbers blinked, 5:38 a.m., and Stevie Nicks set the tone of the day.
Wake up in the morning
See your sunrise, loves go down
I drove this route three times already this year, when the sun had more strength. But the year grew old, and light took longer to push its way across the sky.
That’s the way of the Tri-State Antique Market, held the first Sunday of the month, May through October. For those who arrived for the 6 o’clock early admission, each show brought a different scattering of light, the sun showing up on its own schedule.
I intended to shop all six shows this year. For the first three months I persevered, pushing aside the covers at 4 a.m. to make the coffee-assisted, two-hour drive to southern Indiana. Then, in the middle of a Midwest drought, a rainy forecast clouded my thinking. The alarm went off, I put feet on the floor, but a quick check of the radar on my iPhone left me sighing heavily and hopping back in bed.
That’s how it was for a lot of people.
“The season was really tough for us because of the weather in July, August and September,” promoter Bruce Metzger said at the end of it all. “We had wet days all three of those shows. September, of course, was the hurricane. The really terrible weather did not hit until later in the day, but it scared so many people away. August was a 90 to 95 percent chance of strong thunderstorms. That hit all around us, and briefly hit the fairgrounds in the morning. Dealers are not willing to come out, and especially to set up outdoors, when you have that sort of forecast. It didn’t used to be like that.”
It’s not just the dealers, of course. Many a person who gladly handed over three dollars for admission under fair skies had an uncanny knack of going to Plan B on days when the forecast didn’t make them feel warm and fuzzy.
Blame people like me, the guy who stood in his PJs in the dark, staring at a small, glowing screen to determine the direction of his day. In a way, it’s the curse of technology.
This wasn’t the good old days of Lawrenceburg or most any other outdoor show you want to name. We might have grown gadget-savvy, but we’ve become a bunch of wimps along the way. People in the antiques business seemed tougher in years past.
“Dealers came out regardless of the forecast,” Metzger recalled. “If it rained, they set up and covered up with tarps.”
What’s the difference? Maybe we just know too much now.
“If you go back even 10 years ago, there was not the sort of forecast and immediate information with the Internet and all of that. It’s almost information overload. Everybody has the information at their fingertips,” said Metzger.
During a walk across the fairgrounds in the pre-dawn hours of the Oct. 7 show, Metzger spotted a small group of people clustered around an outstretched smartphone, their faces illuminated by the picture of weather yet to come, like some Dickensian ghost whispering warnings of a terrible fate.
The rain came that October morning, but it was more Catholic than Baptist — intermittent sprinkles rather than full-immersion downpours. But the sun also stopped by, the day dried, and shoppers flocked to the Tri-State Antique Market, looking to redeem something from the last show of the season.
As I flowed in and out of booths with that crowd, I did so with an earworm — the steady beat of a cowbell perfectly balanced by guitar chords suspended throughout Gold Dust Woman, until the chorus repeated in my head, as if to reiterate the lyrics I had carried for hours.
Well, did she make you cry, make you break down,
Shatter your illusions of love
And is it over now, do you know how
Pick up the pieces and go home
Showgoers were driven to do just that — grab ahold of those things that brought smiles to their faces, tucking them safely away in a trunk or back seat. There was the woman toting a banquet lamp, the man with an older mount of a 10-point buck, the lady with a tangled box of costume jewelry. And more sold items: a room-size woven rug, a hand-tinted Michigan photograph by W.H. Gardiner, a graniteware bucket in Chrysolite.
Shoppers likely looked around one last time before leaving the fairgrounds, knowing the Tri-State Antique Market for 2012 ended here, on this day. Whether it was clearing skies or the no-tomorrow nature of the final show that brought out those crowds, Lawrenceburg ended well.
“October turned out to be our redemption,” Metzger said. “It kind of saved us from a bad taste we had for a couple of months.”
Rain or shine, it was a good season. Each of the four shows I attended, I walked away with something intriguing, often things with a personal connection — from an 1839 Indiana coverlet to a work of pulp fiction, Death to the Editor, a title that, as a journalist, was too alluring to pass by.
In the end, I packed my finds and headed north, trudging uphill out of Lawrenceburg, where the state highway yawned and looked across the valley. Just after noon on the day of the last show, I joined the Gold Dust Woman, having picked up the pieces, going home.
Lyrics: Gold Dust Woman by Stevie Nicks, © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC