This has been the first morning I’ve seen daylight in Orland for a long time. So, after having a good smoke with my Christmas Peterson (thank you, honey), I loaded everyone up in the van and headed to the Saturday swap meet in town.

On the way, we stopped by a local orchard and bought a bag of fresh navel oranges and a few jars of homemade jam. The proprietor has three acres of citrus, which he ripens on the tree and sells direct to the consumer in a little roadside store. The store is open for about 6 months out of the year, and also sells locally grown kiwi, mandarins, grapefruit, almonds, pecans, and walnuts. The third-generation owner has a regular job with the sherriff’s department, but he will be retiring next year to work the family business full-time.

We pulled up to the swap meet and parked in front of a large sign that read “Jesus Saves. God Smiles” in English and Spanish. Traditional Mexican music was playing loudly throughout the large parking lot. The first thing we came to was a man selling chickens and doves. The handsome ringnecked doves sell for $7.00 each. He told us that many people like to let them fly around free inside their homes, and told of growing up in just such a home.

Throughout the booths were many people selling beautiful Catholic sacramentals – cheap! And there were tools! New tools, used tools, power tools, hand tools, garden tools, shop tools, all selling for a fraction of what you would pay in a retail store. I bought a pair of heavy work gloves for $1.50. There were also lots of clothes for sale. Children’s clothes sold for bargain-basement prices. Best of all were the produce booths. Farm-fresh produce of every kind, big and small, tasty and colorful. LeXuan was impressed and says she’ll be going back. There were many other things offered that would be useful in a rural homestead.

The vendors were predominantly Mexican or Latin American, with a fair smattering of non-Hispanics. I’m pretty certain that the economic activity taking place was all “under the table”. So far as I know the Saturday swap meet does not advertise. Children work with their parents behind the booths selling their wares. There is a wonderful feeling of freedom in the air: humble people, young and old, mostly good but some bad, just doing what should be a very natural human activity. The swap meet seems to be a re-creation of the “town square” or plaza that has now disappeared in North America. Aside from the trading, it also looks like an important social event for the vendors, the customers, and their families. It’s certainly a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

Some pundits – even so-called conservative pundits – would complain that our town’s swap meet is “third world” or insufficiently middle-classs. They miss the point. It will be a dark day in America when the swap meet, like the town square of our fathers, is squashed in the name of the demon Progress.