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Darrell Norman: Big Yard Sale Was Time For Tales And Junk | Gadsdentimes.com

I tended to stop at the same places every year. I was more likely to stop for these kind of things because I knew the rustier vendors would have some good stories to tell, fact or fiction. An old farmer beamed as he recalled following that very disc harrow pulled by a pair of mules. Another selling lava rocks always swore he caught them in a landing net while flying a small plane over the Mount St. Helens volcano when it erupted in 1980. During the scorchers, everyone was looking for ice water, a fan inside a tent, a place to eat, a rest station. Port-a-Potties became more numerous over the years, but there was still only one sit-down cafe on my route. Its specialty was pinto beans and cornbread. I usually drove the route alone, but at times I had a copilot, a seasoned shopper who looked for old dishes and primitive art while I was scribbling a tall tale. One year it was 100 degrees and she almost passed out during one of our stops. She spent the rest of the day in the cool car while I made targeted forays in the line of duty hazardous duty, you might call it. One year, the companion and I took off work and became shoppers between Crossville, Tenn., and Mentone, where I lived. When we left, the VW was empty and our wallets were full. At the end of the day, which included a side trip for emergency repair, our wallets were empty and the bus was overflowing. Now retired in town and done with such foolishment, I think the house still contains stuff from that trip, wrought iron lamps for example. After I file this missive and the temperature nudges up toward 100, I may cruise a bit of Lookout Mountain just for the memories only looking from the truck, mind you, unless I spot something rusty. Darrell Norman is a columnist for The Gadsden Times. He can be reached at darrell.norman7@gmail.com. DARRELL NORMAN: Big yard sale was time for tales and junk By Darrell Norman GadsdenTimes.com August 8, 2014 5:32 PM

It's the second weekend of August and 90 degrees, so Lookout Mountain Parkway can expect an outbreak of drive-by shopping.

The World's Longest Yard Sale brings so many cars to compete for so few parking places that shoppers tend to stay in their cars, slow to a creep or simply stop in dense traffic to scan for attractive junk strewn along the road.

They will find a place to pull off and get out only after something interesting catches their eye. With mile after mile of roadside treasures for shoppers to choose from, vendors know they have to put out something with curb appeal.

The week of the sale usually brings rain and blistering heat, a combination that makes vendors, shoppers and an occasional reporter think of the word parboiled.

For the dozen or so years I was that reporter, braving all hazards to bring home a bounty of photographs and stories. I always bagged some good ones, even if they grew predictable and repetitive after it all lost its novelty.

In those days, the sale route stretched 450 miles from Noccalula Falls in Gadsden to Covington, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Now I think it extends through Ohio to Addison, Mich., a distance of 690 miles.

Since I was reporting for The Gadsden Times, I covered the 100 miles from Gadsden to Chattanooga, usually just up to the Georgia line. I drove that route several times during sale week, from early set-up Monday or Tuesday to the big day Saturday.

Through the years, I drove a Ford pickup, a Nissan Maxima, and a 1968 VW bus, my beloved Valentina. Her only air conditioning was open windows, which let in warm air and let out the blues I always had on my cassette player.

No matter what I drove, I was recognized as soon as I arrived with my notebook and camera, both for my white hair and beard and for my reporting pattern.

I always passed up what Daddy called rag sales and stopped for books, records, radios, bicycles and rusty machinery.

I tended to stop at the same places every year. I was more likely to stop for these kind of things because I knew the rustier vendors would have some good stories to tell, fact or fiction.

An old farmer beamed as he recalled following that very disc harrow pulled by a pair of mules. Another selling lava rocks always swore he caught them in a landing net while flying a small plane over the Mount St.
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