Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Yard Sale

Ruth Smith

After I'd had a bath and something to eat, I felt the compulsion to write about my weekend experience participating in the all-American pasttime...the family yard sale. This one had particular meaning because I took the show on the road to my hometown, Iuka, Mississippi. My Mom downsized a few years ago, but her garage was full. The trip just wouldn’t be complete without my trusty yard sale co-hostess Beth. She volunteered to assist me with this endeavor. She had not missed helping me with past yard sales, and another trip to Iuka was way overdue. After careful reflection, she remembered it was almost eight years ago when Steve and I married.

We arrived the evening before and posted our neon hot pink and black signs at the only intersection in Iuka. I surveyed the weekend competition, knowing that Heritage Day would be going on all weekend. I thought this could be a plus for getting people into town. It only takes five minutes to get across town, so who did I think I was kidding? I noticed one other "Yard Sale" sign and someone advertising a "Quilt Show." I wasn't worried about the plethora of County Fair posters. It was a few weeks away. We posted signs on the two turn streets leading to Mom's house. I had some trepidation about posting one in Mrs. Biggs yard on the corner, since she had just won the Lucy Rowe Club Yard-of-the-Month award. Her yard was pristine, and I felt a little bit criminal about posting a "Yard Sale" sign in the corner without asking. After noticing that her house was really dark, I thought, what the heck. A brilliant idea occurred to me that I should post one on the telephone pole as you turn into Wal-Mart. I had visions of people spotting the neon hot pink and gunning the gas pedal rather than turning right into Wal-Mart. I reasoned it was only another block and they could do their Saturday shopping afterward. Our signs were all hung and the Vidette ad had been placed. Our advertising bases were covered.

We ordered some take-out pizzas and headed to Mom's garage for some pre-sale setup. We started putting items on tables and clothing racks we had brought. We knew that our advertising was paying off because two middle-aged women pulled into the street and rolled down their windows yelling, "Is this where the yard sale is going to be tomorrow?” Followed by, "Can we look at some things now?" We agreed to have them come back in a few hours. Of course, my Mom had already done some pre-sale bargaining, so those people were dropping by early, too. The whole process gave new meaning to the words "pre-sale." It was the night before, and we had already done $87.50 in sales. Beth and I decided to get up early and do the rest in the morning.

We began our setup at 5:30 a.m., thinking people would start arriving by 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Everything was out and our setup was good, but we still didn't have any shoppers. We were quietly a little concerned, since all our yard sale experience told us that lots of sales occur in the first few hours. The first vehicle turned down the street after 7:30 a.m. and the bargaining was on. Everyone was impressed and amazed at Beth's assortment of books-on-tape and movies. I guess a little less over the movies, because this tiny town of 2500 people could support four video stores. Go figure! You always get "warm fuzzies" from vans and trucks that pull down the street. I meant to warn Beth about the high number of Camaros that would be spotted. She commented on it later, and I explained to her it was the state car of Mississippi. We finally set up my sister's queen size box springs and mattress in the front yard and more cars pulled into the street. I saw many classmates’ parents, reminisced about high school days, and made connections about so-and-so's brother-in-law who was married to what's-his-name's ex-wife. You just can't let yourself think too hard sometimes.

A large Cadillac pulled in and we knew instantly we had a different shopper on our hands. She immediately asked about the mattress set, and we agreed on $10 less than the asking price. This was a real coup because we felt like we had to sell it before the sale ended. It was not going back into the garage. After paying for it first, the buyer was ready to scour for additional purchases. She told us she was redecorating an old bedroom, to which we promptly sold her the bedside table, sheets, and a huge assortment of miscellaneous decorative items, as well as clothes. I recognized the woman as the mother of a girl I went to high school with. I told her who I was and she remembered me - or at least she pretended to remember. She still looked the same - well groomed, tanned, and accessorized. Ok - a few too many trips to the tanning bed, or Florida three times this past summer as she told me, but otherwise the same. We kept pointing out more items, and she added them to her pile, stopping briefly for occasional tallies of her yard sale finds. I knew from our discussion that we had a Trading Spaces episode going for her guest bedroom. Beth was more than happy to assist with her personal and bedroom makeover. Cadillac Woman finally stopped shopping, and we began helping her load purchases.

Our morning was really busy. It was especially hectic during the times my youngest son, Joseph, pulled out the sports equipment and toys. He loved taking target practice at the TV trays with tennis balls. I think he thought there was a prize for the person knocking over the most items with one ball. It was a nightmare when he was armed with a can of tennis balls. He threatened to wipe out the entire sale more than once. Cadillac Woman's daughter-in-law stopped to pick up the mattress and added to her wardrobe and that of several of her friends. We were thankful that someone was young enough to use some of the slinkier dresses and baby clothes. We hoped the Cadillac family had a few more members so we could close up shop and go home early!

The local yard sale specialists began arriving for the clean up. We haggled with one woman who announced to us that she was the new General Manager for Pizza Hut. I realized she was the person I had dealt with the previous night when I went pick up our pizza, only to be told, "They should have never told you 30 minutes." I didn't do my total "Linda Blair" routine from the Exorcist, but I did feel my neck twitch a little. She thought Joseph was really cute and told me I should bring him to Kids Night on Tuesday night. They were going to have a clown and Tuesday would be "Camouflage Night." Joseph was quite a marksman and I hated to miss it. I didn't have the heart to tell the woman that I didn't live there any longer, as she sprinted to her car to grab a stack of coupons and promotional material. I had to glance at Beth to see if there was any trace of concern, because she was raised in the Northeast. I explained to her later that this was a community where you could claim the opening of hunting season as one of your paid floating holidays.

We developed the brilliant idea to have a local flea market guru bid on the remaining items. This meant more cash in our pockets and less items to cart away. We had a buyer and began packing. We thought we were through, but people continued to pour in, so we let them dig. The Cadillac Woman returned with her sister-in-law from Louisiana and the dealing was on. We re-hung some of the clothes, as the sister-in-law proceeded to tell us about the transformation in Cadillac Woman's guest bedroom. This was better than Trading Spaces! Cadillac Woman had totally redecorated her guest bedroom in less than three hours and her guest was bragging about how beautiful it had turned out! I had some fleeting thoughts about a new show on HGTV called Yard Sale Spaces where you redecorate-in-under-eight-hours-using-only-yard-sale-finds. We made Cadillac Woman a really great deal on some remaining items, since she was easily half the GDP of our yard sale.

We were now almost three hours past our close time and really low on items. A neighbor of Mom's we had just met brought us cookies for our trip back home. It was a reminder that random-acts-of-kindness are in short supply, so why rush? We pulled a couple of items for another sale and took the rest to the local Salvation Army store, feeling tired but refreshed from the humor and warmth of the small town yard sale.


Ruth Smith began writing in 2003 for her own enjoyment. Ruth worked for seventeen years in the Information Technology field as a Programmer, Product Development Analyst and Director of Technical Services for a software company before deciding to stay home fulltime with her children. She grew up in North Mississippi, observing the many colorful characters of her home town. She often told people stories of her childhood, which most thought were fiction. Ruth is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a B.A. in Business Information Systems. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband and two young sons.

© Ruth Smith

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012