Market Day

The open market was held at Threeways every Saturday and Wednesday, no matter what the weather was like, and the stalls were open from dawn till dusk with farmers steadily bringing in more and more of their produce throughout the day.
No money ever changed hands, currency was not used; Preston’s valley had a barter system in place, based on the intrinsic values of the goods being offered for sale. Mario and Via had a great deal of trouble at first, for each barterer used his or her own interpretation of an unwritten formula that had become ingrained over generations, with every possible nuance of it having been learned by heart.
The Market was always very busy, baskets of plump fruits and veggies quickly changed hands, as well as seeds, plant cuttings and roots, tubers, trees and shrubs, each one lovingly grown and indigenous to the valley. It was a serious breach of etiquette and trust between folk to sell anything that hadn’t been grown locally. Genetic engineering, that could only destroy the integrity of wild plant stock, may have been a buzzword and pet project of the world beyond, but in the valley it was considered a dreadful affront to Earth and Mother Nature, and was firmly banned. Genetic alteration wasn’t at all necessary; proper care and attention to growing principles was what was needed, not unholy fiddling with the god-given nature of plants and animals. Profoundly uninterested in doing business at any cost, the farming folk concentrated on solving their own community food needs, and stayed away from the idea of working only to make a profit. They really didn’t understand why people elsewhere didn’t grow what they wanted to eat, and trade away the excess for something else. Surely that would be easy to do and would make the best sense in the long term!
On Tuesdays, in the stockyards on the far side of the rail tracks, another market for the trading of animals took place. There, as before, live animals, or butchered portions of beef, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, trout, salmon, the list was as long as an arm, were bartered away, and the exchanges were conducted with the strangest assortment of hand gestures, winkings and occasional yelling and waving of caps. It was an amazing sight, for those unused to earthy pursuits, as the Constanzas were in the beginning, to watch experts dealing with the equally well-informed. The farmers always knew the value what they had to sell and what they wanted to buy in the finest degree, and in a process as sensitive as this one, no one dared pass off tainted or inferior goods, to do that was as much as their life was worth!
Market days also served as a long-awaited opportunity for prolonged bouts of meaningful and in-depth gossip. These were the times to catch up with distant friends and family, and the Emp Cafè, never empty from sunup to sundown, and ofttimes well into the deep of the night, did a roaring trade, as group after group crowded around the wooden tables, and with laughter and friendly banter, became privy to the latest news.
The Constanzas, when they bought Hazelbank from Mrs. R upaways, had been, not so long ago, the centrepiece of those lively discussions and speculations, and Mario, now easy with this in-depth nosiness, thought it would take a bit of doing to pass off something dubious to these alert people, for by the time the day was over and everything cleared away for the next go round, everyone had had a chat with everyone else, and there were no rips or tears in the information fabric of the valley community.

taken from B’Hemoth, Prequel to The Gatherers Trilogy.


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