The Panhandle Spirit rolls into Claude

There are hundreds of stories across the Panhandle area about the people and places most of us will never meet or visit...and often times, they're the most interesting stories that never get told.

So, we're kicking off a new weekly series; We are re-visiting the Panhandle Spirit and starting it off right down the road in Claude.

Big rigs, cars and tractors go rolling through Claude, and if you didn't look quickly, you might miss the Flea Market Antique shop. Out front, a mannequin guest who's been sitting on the front porch now for almost 40 years...

"If he's on the front porch, I'm in there."

Chester Hales dad opened up the store in 1970 and he's been the chief bottle washer here since the late 80's. It's a mixture of a trading post general store, watch repair, swap meet, furniture restoration and antiques. He buys and sells just about anything.

"Just a matter of finding it. When you sell something you gotta go find it cause you can't re-order it," said Chester.

And you can find almost anything at anytime, a trait not lost on new customer Jett Mizer who likes to come in and look around.

"For the heck of it. buy stuff, sit back and relax, there's some chairs you might sit in...and there's always something to look at. -buy jewelry for your wife.. He he he," snickered Jett.

An old trading buddy, Gary comes walking in and Chester looks over at the camera.

"I always insult my customers until they buy something..."

"Insulted?" asks Gary. "Well, I've been insulted."

Someone's always dropping in to talk knives, guns or fishing. Chester's done a bit of tournament fishing and even has a pet perch in the store, near some of his mounted catches..but finding time for outside activities isn't always easy.

"Every year you get older, you think you should get more time to do stuff you want."

Self taught in watch repair, there are timepieces all over the place, and like this little store, a moment frozen in time like most of the clocks.

"Time has stopped," I declared, looking around at some of the vintage items and the store feels like the old mercantile.

"Yeah, in a way it has, but everything keeps moving."

Bear his dog, is his constant companion and he has a son who may one day take over the business...and his grandson is the one customer who always gets the best deals in the house.

"He'll come in with a roll of knives and tell me he's trading and that's that."

At 63 years young, Chester says he has no desire to leave the shop.

"What would you do if you retired?" I asked.

"This I guess, but I might not be here every day."

He says he expects he'll always be sitting at the counter with bear and his mannequin out front...

"I'll be here until the day I die...just some see me."

And we're looking for new stories all the time to bring to you, the viewer.