Discovering the stash

Most people are happy enough to keep their money in the bank but some folks, be it because they have lived through a time of bank failures, or shortages such as the war; or just because they have a general mistrust of institutions, and prefer to keep their money in their sock:  Or hidden in a cupboard, or buried in the back yard, etc.  People can be very imaginative when it comes to squirreling away money.

We live in Norfolk county, where if you ask around, you will hear lots of stories of lost and found money. This is perhaps due to the large contingent of Belgian, Dutch, and other European farmers who immigrated here to develop the tobacco industry. A lot of these people had experienced unstable financial times. Or maybe it’s the same everywhere.

Friends who bought a local farm decided to wash and put back the existing curtains, only to find that when they opened the washing machine to add softener, the drum was full of curtains and floating money.  The old couple had sewn hundreds of dollars into the hem of the curtains.  They had died without telling anyone.  Thus it was just dumb luck which averted their fortune being thrown into the dumpster.  I know a family that spent weeks digging up the back yard when they realized that dear old dad, before the Alzheimer’s had set in, had been burying money in canning jars back there over the years.   It makes you wonder how much money is swept away and forgotten.  The problem with secrets is that they are quite often buried with their creators.

It was on a late fall trip to the pickers barns in Quebec in the early nineties that I had my brush with dumb luck.  I was solo on a quick two day, there and back run to pick up more stock for the then active Harbourfront Antique market in Toronto.  During this period I would often leave our house at 4 a.m. make the ten hour drive to Victoriaville; then see three or four pickers that afternoon and evening before crashing.  In the morning I would make a few more stops before heading home about noon, which meant I would arrive home  about 2 or 3 a.m. if all went well.

On this particular trip I ran into some particularly nice western furniture at the barn of Alan Chauvette.  It turns out that the rumors were true.  One of the local pickers had family in Manitoba, and in spite of not speaking much English, he had returned home with a huge load of western pieces.  Many interesting  Ukrainian and Dukhobor pieces as well as furniture from early French  settler’s homes.  I bought five or six excellent cupboards, and chests,  feeling happy to have arrived at the right moment to have a crack at it.  I also spent a lot of money. More than I had budgeted.  Jeanine has always kept the books, (thank goodness as I am a disaster), and my method was to simply spend all the money I had, and write a couple of cheques if necessary.  I didn’t keep a running balance, but had an intuitive sense of when to stop.  Well, I threw that sense right out the window this time, for the opportunity to buy some good Western pieces. I knew I was pushing it.  We kept a tight operating budget in those days, so if we didn’t want to dip into savings  a big buying trip meant I really had to have a good Sunday at the market.   I wasn’t sure how, but I knew it would work out.

Phil with Marcel Gosselin

I was feeling pretty satiated when I arrived at picker Marcel Gosselin’s barn about 10 a.m. as a last stop before returning home.  I was still picking up a half dozen stoneware wash sets from him every trip, because they were still popular at the market and he was still finding lots of them. He was also my source for Aime Desmeulle’s folk art, which was selling well at the time.  As I finished filling in the last remaining little spaces in the load with smalls, I was about to write the cheque when Marcel piped in “Are you sure that’s all Phil? I’ll sell you that small cottage chest for $175.  You know you’ll get about $400 for it.”  It was a tidy, little 4 drawer pine cottage chest from Nova Scotia which were very popular at the time.  I looked at my full truck and thought about the cheque book.  “Thanks for the offer Marcel, but look, I don’t have room for it.”  The load was already well above my racks. “ Look there Phil, on the right side of your tailgate.  I can put it on its side and tie it on right up there.”  Sure enough, I could see he was right. “O.K. Marcel, throw it on and give me the total.”

I got home very late, and went straight to bed.    Next morning, going into the kitchen for coffee, there sat Jeanine looking at the cheque book, and looking worried.   “I understand this was a great opportunity, but it’s going to have to be one heck of a good market on Sunday, or we’re going to have to dip into the savings to cover ourselves.”

By the time we got all the wonderful pieces upstairs we were feeling good about it, even if it meant cutting it close.   We still have a wonderful four colour Ukrainian  sideboard from that load that I fell in love with while scraping it down.  We had a good dinner,  and I decided to go upstairs to look over the stuff one more time before hitting the sack.  I was excited by the pieces, but also feeling concerned about so completely blowing the budget. I continued to open the cupboards to inspect the interiors, and  when I finally came to the little pine chest I had bought from Marcel, I opened the top drawer to see how well it travelled in and out. What’s this?   I was amazed to see a small plastic wallet lying there in the middle of the drawer.  How did that get there?  It wasn’t there when I looked at it in Quebec.  Then I remembered that we had put the drawer on it’s side to fit it into the load, and sure enough, when I felt up inside under the top, someone had built a little open shelf up there.  The wallet was full of crisp, old issue Canadian cash.  $1,300 in all.   I couldn’t believe the luck.  I could easily imagine that had I continued to carry it upright I would have sold it  full of cash as it were, and maybe even then it would go into a home upright,  and never be discovered.

Jeanine was having one last coffee before going to bed.  Yes, she can do that. She looked puzzled when I handed her the little wallet.  “ I know you are concerned that I spent so much, and I thought this may help”.  It took her awhile to believe my story, and our good fortune.

When I saw Marcel a week later, he was surprised when I shoved a folded hundred in his shirt pocket.  “What’s this for?”

“Never mind.  Just take it and don’t ask any questions.”

Advertisements

“That’s funny. Someone’s burning wood on this hot summer day.”

In the late eighties Bill Dobson decided to hold a one day antique show in a small town just south of Montreal.  I’ve been on Google map, and for the life of me can’t figure out what town it was.  It may have been Napierville but I wouldn’t lay money on it.  In any case, it struck us as a good prospect and fit our agenda so we signed up.  First time shows are a toss of the dice, but Bill kept the rent reasonable so even if it was a wash you were not out much.  We also liked the fact that after the show we could make the two hour drive to Victoriaville to check out if anything great had arrived recently at the picker’s barns there.  Cassandra was out of school so she came along and so we also made it a bit of a working vacation. Which is about the only kind of vacation we were taking in those days.

It was already a glorious day when we pulled in to the quaint small town fair grounds at 7 a.m. on that Saturday morning.  There was about forty dealers arranged in two back to back aisles along the race track between the community hall and the bandstand.  We spotted many of the usual suspects, especially among the Eastern Ontario and Quebec dealers who did Bill’s other shows, but there were also a lot of dealers we had never seen before.  We did some good picking after setting up in those first couple of hours before the show opened.

When we pulled into our spot I noticed that a Quebec dealer I had never met was set up behind us and he had some wonderful things.  We made our acquaintance and did a little business.  Ah, that wonderful feeling of optimism that sets in just before starting an outdoor show on a beautiful day when bad weather is not a worry. I noticed that there was a very old lady sitting in the shade behind his truck already starting to cane chairs, while chain smoking.  She was the dealer’s mother and was well into her eighties.  He said she loved caning chairs and it was a good part of his business.  I enjoyed meeting her in spite of the fact that she barely spoke and continued to smoke one hand-rolled cigarette after another. I noticed she threw her butts on the ground and there was already a little circle of them around her, but didn’t think much of it.

The day preceded to be fun and profitable.  Many Montrealer’s made the drive and we also recognized lots of eastern Ontario collectors.  At  5 o’clock shows end we were happy with our day both from a buying and selling perspective.   It didn’t take long for us to pack up, and the last thing I loaded was a stack of packing blankets that had been sitting by the back door of the truck, and were no longer needed as the pieces they were protecting had been sold and were gone. I picked up the whole bunch and stuffed them in a space in the left, back corner just at the base of a wonderful old one piece cupboard in original red paint that in spite of it’s attributes had failed to attract a buyer.  We hopped in, turned east and started the two hour drive to the Motel Marie-Dan in St. Eulalie where we had a reservation.  This motel was clean and friendly and inexpensive and situated near the pickers barns so it was were many dealers stayed.  It has a nice little pool too which  Cassandra liked.  We arrived without incident, got our key which was to an upstairs room, and unloaded our luggage.  We switched on the air conditioning because it was and continued to be a stifling hot day; had ourselves a cool beverage, and proceeded to relax and count the loot we had taken in.  At the end of a good day of selling this is the best part.  Cassandra who was about 8 at the time watched a few  late afternoon cartoons and just as I was starting to nod off in my chair, looked over and said “ how about a swim ,Dad?” To be honest a quick nap in a cool room after such a long day of unloading, selling, and loading again was more appealing, but Cassandra had been such a trouper, helping out with packing and keeping herself occupied over the long hours in the hot sun, that I was not about to deny her this simple pleasure.  Plus, I knew that a little dip would do wonders to restore my energy.  So I put on my bathing suit and ten minutes later we were happily floating, and jumping and otherwise enjoying the little pool which had grown almost warm in the summer sun.  It was quite idyllic.  The sun starting to lower behind the forest which ran behind the motel bringing that beautiful evening light  which softens the contrast and pushes the red end of the colour spectrum that film makers call the “golden hour”.  I remember floating peacefully while hanging off the edge of the pool by my ankles, which is a favourite trick of mine. I loved watching Cassandra jump in over and over and otherwise enjoying herself.  We were the only ones there. As I lay there thinking how fortunate, content and grateful I felt, I was at one with the world.  And it was about then that I faintly detected the beautiful smell of burning wood.  I remember thinking, “That’s funny. Someone is burning wood on this hot summer day.” Almost as quickly I thought “ well it must be someone burning up old surplus wood to get rid of it.” And that’s when I looked over towards the parking lot and noticed smoke billowing from the back door of my truck.

You’ve never seen someone exit a pool, and cross a parking lot as fast as I did that day.  I ran to the back door of the truck which was hot, but of course it was locked and I quickly realized the keys were upstairs.  I raced upstairs, pounded frantically on the door until Jeanine who was coming out of the shower answered with a ‘hold your horses,  I’m coming, where’s the fire.”  “In the truck” I fairly shouted, “the truck’s on fire.  Quick get me the keys.” It seemed like an hour but it was probably just a few minutes before I was again at the back door of the truck. As soon as I unlocked and opened it, of course the rush of air hit the flames and the blankets were truly ablaze.  I grabbed them out and dumped them on the parking lot, and could see that the fire had also connected to the bottom of that big red cupboard which was laying on it’s side in front of the blankets.  I looked around wildly assessing my next move.  My first instinct at seeing open flame was to run, but I recovered my senses and noticed a long hose hooked up to a faucet by the garden so I raced over and was relieved to find that water came out when I cranked it and also that the hose was long enough to reach my truck.  It only took a couple of minutes to put the small fire out on the bottom of the cupboard,  and extinguish the large pile of burning blankets by now safely away from the other vehicles parked in the lot.  Cassandra was there beside me all along but there was little for her to do but watch and shout encouragement.  When it had cooled, we dug through the blankets and sure enough there was the smoldering butt of a hand rolled cigarette.

Thanks to Cassandra’s insistence on a swim, I had discovered the fire in time,  that surely would have otherwise escalated within that truck filed with 100 year old pine to the point  where I imagined the headline would read “Truck explodes on motel parking lot causing massive damage”.  The bottom board of the cupboard had to be replaced due to the smoky smell that would always inhabit it, but otherwise we just lost a pile of old blankets.  A close call.

When we hit the Motherload in La Malbaie

lamalbaieIn the late nineties when we were making regular picking trips to Quebec,  we would sometimes combine work with pleasure, and take an extra day or two to go exploring after making the rounds of the regular picking barns.  It was on one such trip in mid-summer when we had finished combing the barns around Victoriaville, that we headed up route 183 on the North Shore past Quebec city, to the Charlevoix region, and the town of La Malbaie.   Champlain named this place La Malbaie, or “the Bad Bay” when his ship got stuck in the harbour,  but it was known locally as Murray’s bay for years until 1967 brought a new awareness and emphasis on preserving our history.  Whatever you choose to call it, it is a beautiful and magical region of large rolling hills leading down to the mighty St. Lawrence river.  The wilderness is dotted with tiny, quaint villages made famous in paintings by Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, Marc Aurele Fortin and A.Y. Jackson, to name a few.  It has retained much of its early, rustic charm because the region was not easily accessible until the early sixties when the Quebec Government built the big highway, route 183.  However it has been a summer playground for the rich, both Canadian and American since the early 1900’s because its untouched natural beauty was accessible by boat along the St. Lawrence.  For this reason, you still find many impressive estates, and the magnificent Manoir Richelieu, established in 1899, with the current building being built in the style of a French Chateau in 1929.  It’s a wonderful region to explore, and only a two hour drive from Quebec city.

Manoir Richelieu

Manoir Richelieu

 

So on this occasion after a full day of enjoying the region we settled on a small strip motel along the river in town, which looked clean and inexpensive.  We had a great meal at the small, attached restaurant and settled in for a good night’s sleep. In the morning, we had breakfast and set about packing up to leave.  I was putting the cases in the truck when a pleasant looking middle aged man approached me.  “So I can see from your truck that you an antique picker.  Would you be interested in looking at some things I have for sale?”  I was a little taken aback as I was thinking about getting on the road, but answered “Well that’s what I’m here for so sure, what are we talking about.”  He explained that the antiques were not at the motel, but in a barn on the family farm, about a half hour drive away.  As it happened they had just sold the farm which had been in the family for years, and before the deal closed in a month’s time they had to clear a barn where they had stored the contents of their grandfather’s museum when it closed in the mid-sixties.  Their grandfather had  run a private museum in an old fishing boat which had been dragged up on shore along the river.  The kind of place you pay a quarter to go through. When they needed the land to build the new highway, he had to close, and at the time just moved everything, lock, stock and barrel to the barn on the family farm.  It had remained there untouched.   He explained that his grandfather was an eccentric who collected and displayed everything he could get his hands on, so that not everything in the barn could be considered a valuable antique.  There is a bit of everything there, furniture, farm implements, old signs,  bottles, eyeglasses,  furnishings, you name it.  Although the time frame seemed ominous, I was curious so we agreed to go and have a look.  What harm could it do.

by A.Y. Jackson

by A.Y. Jackson

We followed him up and down the twisting country road, until finally reaching a charming, old Habitant farm house and barn looking out over a picture perfect valley.  We drove straight up to the barn.  It was not a large barn, but when we opened the door we could see that it was packed from wall to wall with every sort of thing.  So packed that there was no possibility of entering without hours of shifting large cupboards and the like.  And dark.  As our eyes adjusted we could see about a dozen large armoires absolutely overflowing with objects.  The whole space was chock a block with everything you could imagine.  We spotted several old bicycles, one being a tandem. Lots of books and paintings. Right away I spotted several nice old signs, both commercial on tin, and hand painted on wood. There were quite a few cash registers, dressers, tables, and six glass store display cases. There were benches  and beds, and dozens of cardboard boxes filled with God knows what.   . I could see that four or five of the armoires were really nice, and it seemed he was making an honest appraisal when he suggested that about 80% of it was good but not extraordinary, but that there was some very good things in there as well. As he spoke I scanned the room and made a mental note of  everything I could see. malbaie4

“So here’s the deal.  I want $20,000 for it all with the condition being that the barn must be cleared of everything by the sale date.  When you have everything you want, I know a couple of scrap dealers who will come and scoop up anything that is left, especially metal. There has to be about forty cash registers in there, and a lot of them are newer and nothing special, not to mention heavy so I doubt you will want to take them.”  I stood there in the sunshine, looking out over that beautiful valley and thought “this is a tough one. It would seem the value is there, but it is a hell of a lot of work, and this place is a long, long way from home.”   Jeanine looked over at me and shrugged.  “ O.K.”I said, “it’s a lot to take in. We are interested, but we need a little time to think about it.  Give me your number and I will call you back within 48 hours with an answer.”  He agreed and gave us 48 hours.

We then left after saying our goodbyes, turned west and headed towards home.  We didn’t talk about it until we had travelled for a couple of hours and stopped for a bit of lunch at a roadside food truck. When in Quebec I always have to get my poutine and “vapeur” fix.  A “vapeur” being a steamed hotdog in one of those funny Quebec buns. As we sat there at a picnic table looking out over the St. Lawrence towards Ile d’Orleans  we finally got around to discussing the elephant in the room. I started, “So, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and we have to recognize that it is a rare opportunity to buy so much from one source.  Also, from what I could see there is easily $20,000 value, but how much more I’m not sure, and it is definitely a lot of work and expense getting it all back home. Not  to mention we only have a month to accomplish it.”.  Jeanine agreed and added “well let’s make a list of everything we could see, and assign what we would think to be a low retail value, and go from there.” We did this and determined that of what we could see, there was about $35,000  worth. Of course we also recognized that what we could see was just scratching the surface of what there was in total.  We drove a few hundred more miles and then Jeanine said “I think we should offer him $15,000, and if we get it fine. If he says no then let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.”  I agreed. It was obvious he was under pressure to find someone fast and if we were going to take it on, we had to be sure it was worth all the trouble.  Jeanine phoned him right away on the cell, her French being so much better than mine, and I was surprised to hear her offer what sounded to me like $10,000. Then there was a pause, and she gave me a big smile and thumbs up .  A moment later she was concluding the conversation by saying, “O.K. it’s a deal and we will be in touch when we got home to arrange the details.”  I looked at her and laughed.  “Am I correct that you made a snap decision there to offer him $10,000, and he agreed?” “Yes, well I was going to say $15,000 but then I started thinking it’s typical in Quebec to ask twice what you really want because everyone negotiates so fiercely, and $10,000 just came out of my mouth.  He jumped at it.”  Good work Jeanine.  Now we just have to go home and figure out what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Next week – Bringing it back from La Malbaie.malbaie7

 

Buying my “wreck” from Kojak

A loaded truck ready to go.

A loaded truck ready to go.

Kojak’s barn was located on the outskirts of Victoriaville.  You may be acquainted with Kojak from my previous blog “discovering the picker’s barns around Victoriaville”.  Jean (Kojak) Deshaies was thus nicknamed because he was bald and had a rough voice.  He also had a disarmingly direct way of expressing himself which reminded me of the t.v. detective.  Across the road from Kojak was an Esso station with a good little roadside restaurant.  All the pickers used to gather there about 7 am to have breakfast and exchange tips and gossip.  It was a good place to be to find out what had come in, and what was going on.

One particular summer morning Jeanine and I arrived to find an unusually high level of

excitement amongst the natives.  It was 7 am and the boys were drinking brandy, giving high fives, and generally celebrating.  What’s up?  Kojak who seemed to be the center of attention answered, “have a brandy on me.  We’re celebrating the delivery of my new truck.  There she is out front.  Isn’t she a beauty.”  Sure enough a massive, brand new, chrome covered, custom painted one ton, four door Chevy sat glistening in the sun.   “It’s a little early for us for Brandy, but congratulations Jean, that’s a real beauty.”   We took our place at our usual table and ordered breakfast.

This was at a time when I was becoming known as a “regular”, and the boys liked me in spite of my beat up old pickup with the simple bolted together oak board rack.  Actually, I could tell that they laughed a bit behind my back as theirs was an “express my macho through my big truck culture.”  That and the big roll of cash which they would pull out of their pants is what made them impressive to their clients and each other.  They could not imagine why someone would come from so far which such a small potential for hauling things back.  The first time I tried to tie down a load, they stopped me and taught me how to do it properly.  Making a loop at one end of the rope and then pulling the other end through and pulling hard to cinch with a reef knot and the load was in place.  I was getting pretty good at piling the stuff up a little past the height of the cab and onto the lowered tailgate to maximize my load.

So we were enjoying the laughter and light heartedness of the moment, along with some bacon and eggs, when Kojak slid onto the bench next to us.   “Hey Phil, you should buy mon wreck.”  Pause. “Buy your wreck” ???  It was first thing in the morning and I was struggling to find meaning in Jean’s “Franglaise”.  Perhaps the shot of brandy would have helped.  “Yea, mon wreck.  Mon wreck from my old truck.  It didn’t fit the new truck because my last truck had the small back space like yours so I had a new one made. But it would work great for you, and then you would have a real rig for hauling a decent load.”  The fog lifted.  “Well what are you asking for it?”  At this Jean looked me directly in the face and held up five fingers.  Let’s see; another puzzler.  I knew that it could have originally cost $5,000 because it was beautifully made with a deck over the cab which had a metal mesh walking surface that came right out to the front bumper, and handy sailboat type rope tie downs all along the sides.  But it seemed too high, so I ventured, “how much Jean?”  “Five hundred.”  “Give me five hundred and we can go to the welder’s place right after breakfast and he will put it on for you. That’s included in the price”.  I looked at Jeanine.  She gave me a wink, and so I said “Sure. Sounds good”.  Thanks Jean.  We’ll go for it.”  Jean’s big smile displayed his satisfaction with this.  His old rack was sold and he knew I could buy a lot more from him with this new equipment.  It was a good investment on his part.

We finished our breakfasts and followed Jean about five clicks out of town to the home and shop of his welder buddy.  Jean had called ahead so by the time we arrived he had it suspended up above the bay ready for us to drive in.  Twenty minutes later our old oak rack was on the burn pile, and our new front to back rack was bolted into place along the sides and on to the front bumper.  The old truck dropped about two inches under the new weight, but it drove fine, and we were off on the hunt with oodles of more space for purchases.  The rack survived two new trucks and served me well for the rest of my time hauling big loads out of Quebec.  I was happy that we had been there for breakfast the day Kojak’s new truck had arrived.

My new metal rack bought from Kojak.

My new metal rack bought from Kojak.

Remembering Marcel Gosselin, our first picking in Quebec

By the winter of 1982, we had been going to the Harbourfront Antique market every Sunday for about a year, and were making a pretty good income on sales of things we had bought at local auctions and garage sales. Then one day, I read in the excellent and entertaining “bible” of Antique dealing “The Furniture Doctor” by George Grotz (get yourself a copy. That’s how we got started) that the village of Defoy, Quebec was mecca for the antique picker.  To quote  “there’s a wonderful secret wholesale place up in the province of Quebec. At least the dealers who know about it try to keep it a secret.  It’s the tiny town of Defoy. Only a gravel road from the main highway, but about a half a mile down there is the wonderful “antiques dump” of Rene Boudin and his freres. And here under enormous sheds you will find literally acres of antique furniture, chests, and tables piled three to five pieces high”.  The book had been out quite awhile so there was no telling if this situation still existed, so I asked the old guys at the market if they knew of such a place and I got several reports of it’s glory days, followed by “of course that was years ago and  nobody goes anymore.  That being said they also all encouraged me to give it a go, and gave me “leads”as to who may still be active.  We gathered up our courage, our baby,  and what cash we had, and set off.

Wow, did that first twelve hour drive felt like an eternity.  We even stayed overnight near Belleville because we had left so late in the day, but it was a tired crew who pulled in late afternoon to a tiny motel in Victoriaville, Quebec.  Very clean, but odd little room.  I remember all the furniture had thick plastic thumb-tacked over the surfaces. In any case, our first move was to look up the name Marcel Gosselin in the phone book because he was one of our most promising leads.  To our delight he was listed, and he answered and told us where and how to come the next morning.  It wasn’t hard to find because it was only a couple of clicks out of town, and he had his name painted boldly on the barn. Marcel greeted us warmly ( I noticed he was wearing two pairs of pants one on top of the other), and proceeded to lead us to his main barn.  There, behind the red and white cross doors was the biggest pile of dinning chairs I had ever seen.  About thirty feet across it reached to the top of the barn.  (I’ve got a picture somewhere, I’ll post it if it turn’s up). Through the hatchwork of legs I could see tantalizing glimpses of a cupboard and some chests. Then he took us upstairs where in a loft he had sorted hundreds of chairs in sets of four, six, or more. Some were painted and some varnished. It was $45 each for simple painted chairs, $65 each for nicer pressbacks and/or varnished. We got a couple of sets knowing we would get about $150-$250 each for these when refinished., Next I asked him about that cupboard I had seen in the giant pile downstairs.  He told me all about it including the age, condition and reasonable price of $250 and told me he would extricate it and have it ready for my next trip if I wanted it. I said I did, and then he didn’t even want a deposit. “That’s not the way we do it down here.  Your word is good enough, until it isn’t”  This in the half French, half English all the dealers speak down there which I like to call “Franglais”.  I liked him immediately and knew he was a man I would enjoy doing business with. Next he took us to the garage attached to his 100 year old frame house.  The downstairs was filled with every kind of “smalls” including small boxes, glassware, pottery, antique clothing, folk art, etc, etc; and the tiny, about to collapse, upstairs loft was filled with hundreds of pottery washsets. There were some beauties, and this was a hot item at the time in Toronto.  Prices ranged from $45-$75 per set.  We bought  about 8 sets of the nicest knowing we would get between $145 to $375 back home.  This was getting truly exciting.  We noticed for the first time various folk art pieces.  These were rare in Ontario.  We didn’t know if anybody would wanted them, but we knew we really liked them, so we bought several, feeling we would just keep them if they proved unpopular.

Jeanine finds a Aime Desmeule horse in the pile.

Jeanine really impressed Marcel because as he pointed out “she can speak either entirely in French, or entirely in English” , so he invited us in to the house to meet his mother.  She was a lovely old lady who immediately offered us tea.  As we sat and talked anything that we offered comment on, such as the beautiful antique carving of a work horse displayed prominently on the mantle, would either become available and Marcel would give you a price, or unavailable which was sadly the case with the carving.

We spent a terrific four hours or so with Marcel that first day and pulled away from his place, ecstatic with half our money spent, and  half the truck full of interesting, excellent quality, and reasonably priced stuff, not to mention the overwhelming sense of warmth, excitement and wonderment of that first glimpse into a Quebec picker’s life.  We were hooked, and we knew it was the first of many, many more trips to see Marcel.