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Come rain, come shine, even come heart attack, Howie Fernald is in his space at Todd Farm’s famous flea market in Rowley. Every Sunday – from two weeks before Easter to the Sunday before Thanksgiving – this devoted 25-year veteran is on the grounds looking for treasures.

“I died five years ago,” says Fernald, recalling his near-fatal heart attack. “They rebuilt me. And as soon as they released me, I was right back here.”

Too weak that Sunday in 2001 to peddle his wares, Fernald parked his car in the space that typically housed a white trailer filled to the brim with golf paraphernalia. This drive-up therapy was just what the doctor orderedÂ…literally! As it turns out, one of Fernald’s lifelong friends is fellow longtime vendor Dr. Terry Bennett, a nationally known family physician.

“Terry’s a wonderful country-style doctor,” Fernald says, flicking ashes off his substantial cigar. “I respect him so much I wouldn’t let him see me with this thing. I feel like a kid sneaking a cigarette.”

(Speaking of physicians, local television star Dr. Timothy Johnson is another frequent flyer at the flea market. And the northshore’s own Bruins legend Terry O’reilly is also someone you’re apt to bump into.)

By 3 P.m., Fernald is holding court on a two-by-four homemade bench under the tree near the popcorn cart operated by proprietor Starr Todd’s daughter.

“This is the circus I never ran away to as a kid,” says the third-generation owner of Fernald’s marine, which is three miles down Route 1A on the Parker River in Newbury. Nearby a sway-backed aging hippie in a striped gondola shirt packs his late-model sedan’s trunk and bares a spongy belly spilling over low-rider dungarees. Quickly approaching to our left, a lean, white-bearded, longhaired fellow sports a cowboy hat and serious look. Ogling the vintage popcorn cart, a toddler in knee-high plastic rain boots balances boxes – surely a mini-merchant in the making.

Sunday. For many of us it’s not what we sell, “It’s entertainment for a lot of us,” Fernaldsays. “We see the same people every but what we buy.”

Yet some vendors, such as retirees or the disabled, do depend on making $100 or so each week.

“It might be their groceries for the week,” Fernald suggests. “Plus, this fills a day in their week. They are out instead of staying in for seven days.”

Compared with prior years, this season’s opening day (April 2) was light, probably due to the hard rains that began late Saturday evening. Yet die-hards set up camp by 3 AM on daylight savings’ Sunday morning. By 6 AM, half the parking lot was filled with buyers and lookers.

“The rain kept the paper people away,” Fernald observes, noting the absence of the post card and poster peddlers, “And the wind blew over a jewelry case. Tablecloths are like kites on a day like this. They catch the wind. Not everyone can weigh their table down with golf clubs like me.”

Fernald’s table is dense with golf-related kitsch: Buckets of balls and matchbooks, how-to books, ceramic piggy banks and un-P.C. ashtrays, and tons of tees. Fernald boasts the country’s largest collection of 12″ Burke N.U.B.s (“No Unplayable Ball”) and his collection of adjustable golf clubs ranks about fifth in the nation. Some of these vintage collectibles range between $3,000 and $5,000 apiece. As a converted right-handed golfer, Fernald has a respectable assortment of left-handed golf clubs as well.

While many of his items are not for sale, if you’re lucky – or you show enough interest – Fernald will retrieve a club or two from his trailer and regale you with its rich history. You could score a Dunn Selected juvenile club from 1895, which will lighten your wallet by about $100. But it’s clear Fernald’s not in it for the green.

“This is the closest I’ve been to being irresponsible,” he says.

Fernald smiles as he watches Starr Todd, his friend and the market’s proprietor, collecting rubbish in the parking lot with his two young granddaughters in tow.

“He used to walk around carrying a big box while he picked up the garbage,” Fernald recalls. “Then years ago I gave him an old golf bag to put over his shoulder to collect the stuffÂ…He’s still using that old thing. I love it!”