FORT WORTH -- When Tom McCain isn't selling horny-toad figurines, jewelry and other artwork for 12 hours a day at the Stock Show, he usually retreats to his "Little House on Wheels" -- a white 1999 Toyota Tacoma pickup with a Six-Pac camper that he bought years ago to pare his motel bills while on the road at various shows.
"Everything's in it," said McCain, 67, of Albuquerque. "Shower, refrigerator, kitchen, A/C."
Throw in the cheap footlong Subway sandwiches he sniffs out daily, which he cuts into quarters to last through a day, and McCain has his system down after 39 years.
"I'm not getting rich, but I'm having a great time," said McCain, who is known for regaling potential customers with horny-toad tales and history.
Scout the exhibit halls at the Stock Show, and you're bound to find others like McCain, who spend months on the road, attending livestock shows, state fairs and festivals.
John Glowinkowski, 62, who owns Frontier Fruit & Nut Co., a Mansfield candy company also exhibiting at the Stock Show, says he came in off the road years ago after spending six months doing 25 shows from Texas to New York.
Now he does 20 shows a year but generally sends people to run them. And it's been years since he made his own fudge; he now contracts with a vendor.
"Priorities change," Glowinkowski said. Or more specifically: marriage and two children.
McCain once did 10 shows a year. Now he does six or seven -- the Stock Show, San Antonio Rodeo, Fort Worth's Mayfest, the Texas and New Mexico state fairs, and fairs in San Diego and Orange County -- that have him on the road more than four months a year.
McCain figures it takes him one-third to half of a show's run to cover his costs, which he estimates at $8,000 to $10,000.
Before he bought the used camper in 1994 for $2,000, he figures he spent $8,000 to $10,000 a year on motels.
"It paid for itself in three months," he said.
On the road, he pulls a trailer that holds his showcases, other props and containers full of "12 to 15,000 horn toads" -- ranging in retail price from $3 to $1,000 -- to the big shows. Setup alone may take a day and a half, he said.
McCain teams up with friends in the cities he visits who spell him in his booth. Some nights, he and other vendors go out to dinner. On Wednesday night, several went to Pappas Burger.
Some shows, he camps out in the parking lot. Others, like Fort Worth's, he goes to a friend's home and sleeps in the camper.
If he's going anywhere within sniffing distance of the ocean, McCain brings his "seagoing fishing kayak."
"I've got my fishing gear, my metal detector," he said. "It's kind of a working vacation."
His Tacoma, now with about 260,000 miles, goes nowhere fast.
"Fifty-five, 60 max," he said. "If I get tired, I just pull over to the side of the road, find a rest stop or a Walmart, take a nap."