So, as you’ll recall from last time, I’m writing about our recent trip to the little town of Salado, which is a community just about 20 miles from where we’re living. And you will also recall that I had just gotten us to Fletcher’s Books and Antiques...and, further, that I’d just turned and found the owner, Tyler Fletcher, standing in the doorway leading from his house (in the back) to the shop (in the front).
He greeted me. I greeted him. I told him we really loved his shop and that we’d visited it a few times before. “Whenever we’re in Salado,” I said, “we come here. First thing.” He nodded and smiled. It is something, I’m sure, he hears all the time, but it was also the kind of smalltalk you make in such situations.
We chatted for a moment. I have described Fletcher’s Books. How do I now describe Mr. Fletcher? Well, he is a tall man, or at least taller than I am, which admittedly isn’t hard, but you see the point. He’s younger than I am. Maybe in his 50s? He’s fair haired and he seems outgoing.
About the photos below, I would have loved to have taken pictures of Mr. Fletcher’s home, with all the wonders there-in. But, frankly, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I didn’t want to violate his privacy. So, instead, here are some shots from outside his shop, and from outside the Church which is just behind his shop (more about that later).
I have heard a little of his history, and I’ve had parts of it confirmed by the man himself.(Here’s a link, by the way, to an article on ran on him in TexAppeal Magazine http://texappealmag.com/at-home-with-tyler-fletcher/ .) But, briefly, he says he was a military brat, and that he spent his childhood traveling about the country--from base to base, posting to posting, depending on where the government wanted his father to be. In the process, he stayed for a time in Salado, though he didn’t, as he says, grow up there.
He studied art and got degrees at various states-side colleges and then ended up for a time in New York and later London. I gather he worked for a gallery and got to know the art and antiques business rather well.
Meanwhile, back in Texas...his grandmother had had a long and successful business career elsewhere in the state. But, after a time, she’d moved to Salado and opened a shop there. Why would a successful businesswoman choose to move to a little town in Central Texas? It makes more sense than you’d think. For, just about then, Salado had turned into (improbably enough) a gathering place for the world’s elite. It was where they came to shop and explore.
I’ll explain that in more detail later, but, for the moment, suffice to say that it happens to communities now and then. Some town or another will, for some reason, become the focus of the globe’s attention. We’re seeing it again, right now, in Marfa, Texas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marfa,_Texas) which similarly became an attraction after artist Donald Judd moved there and turned much of it into a massive, open air art installation. (Well, honestly, some of it is inside as well, but you see my point.) All of which I know because my son and daughter-in-law, both art school graduates, have traveled there, and are quite familiar with it.
Anyway, Tyler Fletcher’s grandmother moved to Salado and started her shop there. Time passed, she grew old (as, after all, everyone does) and finally she needed help. She appealed to Tyler and he came back from New York. And he’s been there ever since.
That day, Tyler and I chatted a bit more. Then he and I went about our various business. He walked to the front room to talk to another customer. I returned to the history section to hunt for more books.
I heard Martha talking to someone else. I turned around and saw she was in conversation to another woman, a bit older than she was, but vigorous and full of energy. I ought to mention that Tyler doesn’t run the shop alone. He has people come in and help clerk--employees, I suppose, but they seem to be mostly his friends, and usually his neighbors. I’ve met a couple of them...the woman Martha was speaking to was the second...and they seem more like volunteers than anything else. In fact, there is a sense that they are docents at an informal but still remarkable museum, of which they offer tours to the lucky few.
Finally, I’m throwing in one picture which has nothing to do (as per norm) with the story, but which I happen to like. It is of Martha and her friend-qua-sister Judy when we attended a Day of the Dead celebration in New Mexico in 2015.
Today, we were going to have such a stroke of luck. The other woman opened the door into the back rooms and guided Martha into them.
Just then, Tyler came back. I asked if he would mind if I joined my wife and the other woman. “Of course,” he said, cheerfully, “and everything back there is for sale, by the way...”
I followed Martha and the woman into the back of the building...into, what I then realized, was Tyler Fletcher’s home. It was astonishing. No other word for it, I’m afraid. Antique after antique...treasure after treasure...crowded the rooms. Paintings, antique furniture, statuary...and much else. Here was a late nineteenth century mirror, which surely must have graced some great Victorian home, reflecting some scene out of Downton Abbey, or even Dickens. There was an Art Nouveau sphinx, redolent of La Belle Époque, just waiting for some ornate murder and the attentions of Monsieur Poirot. And, still further along, book after book...ancient, leather-bound, Ali Baba’s cave for bibliophiles.
I caught up with Martha and the woman. They were admiring an enormous statue of some saint, a mitre on his head, a crosier...a shepherd’s crook...in one hand. The woman was saying something about how some of the more recent arrivals had come from an estate in New York. The rest was local.
We looked on in ...well, I suppose it is overly dramatic to call it “awe.” But, on the other hand...
We finished our tour and returned to the front room. Tyler had gotten involved with yet other customers, so we completed our purchases with the help of the woman. Martha and I both had gotten multiple books, and we paid for them. Then we gathered ourselves and headed for the door.
Still, I reflected, as I went, this was actually the second time that Tyler Fletcher had surprised us with a wonder. The other...the first...was a church we never saw coming.
But that’s for next time.
More to come.
Copyright©2022 Michael Jay Tucker
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