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"The World's Longest Illegal Yard Sale" by Troy H. Cheek on Jul 31, 2006
Next Thursday, this being the first Thursday in the month of August, the Hwy 127 Corridor Sale begins. It runs through Sunday. It is also known as the World's Longest Yard Sale. Or, as I like to call it, the World's Longest Train Wreck.
I call it a train wreck for two reasons. One, the cars and trucks trying to wend their ways through the Corridor Sale will adopt a "follow the leader" attitude, taking roundabout routes and even leaving the road to avoid obstacles just because the car in front of them did, even if the reason for the detour was removed a half hour before. Almost like train cars on a track.
Two, just like a train wreck, you can't make yourself look away.
The Hwy 127 Corridor Sale runs from Covington, KY down Tennessee State Highway 127 to Chattanooga, TN, then continues down variously numbered roads to Gadsden, AL. 450 miles, give or take, or roughly 725 kilometers for you metric types. Then again, someone who lives his life in metric probably doesn't shop at yard sales anyway, so never mind.
The Corridor Sale got its start from the habit of the natives of this area storing old furniture and appliances in the front yard rather than hauling them to the nearest landfill. This not only saved transportation charges, but also acted as an early warning system of any trespassers not familiar with the practice. If you think the way your bedroom furniture sneaks around and ambushes your little toe on your way to bathroom at 3AM is bad, just wait until you try to stealthily sneak into your girlfriend's house by the light of a new moon just after her father buys a new dining room set.
Storing these items this way also gives the impression that the property has been abandoned, which is useful for dodging bill collectors and tax assessors. I got out of repaying my student loans for years, until they sent a Georgia native to serve me papers and he noticed the old paint bucket by the side of the road was being used as a mailbox.
Not that I think I should have had to repay those loans anyway. I mean, I was all but promised that my college education would land me a job making enough money to repay all those loans in the first year out of school. The fact that my education turned out to be pretty much worthless in the job market seems to indicate false advertising and should render all agreements null and void. I shouldn't have to pay back the school until I get a job with their education and earn that money for them. Much like I didn't pay the surgeon who operated on my arm until my hand worked well enough to sign checks again.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes! Old furniture, appliances, and other unwanted items stored in the front yard down by the road.
There's a funny thing about storing unwanted items in the front yard down by the road: people will stop and offer you money for them.
I remember the time my youngest brother, T3 (Mom gave us all the same initials so we'd be easier to remember), blew up his car by running the nitrous too long while going up the driveway. By the time I'd gotten back from the house with a towing chain, he'd already sold it to some idiot who'd seen it sitting there and assumed it was for sale.
People began to notice that no matter what kind of junk they threw out on their front lawn, somebody would eventually come by and try to buy it from them. People actually took to intentionally placing items out there to attract attention, eventually leading to the set of practices which is now commonly referred to as a yard sale.
Yard sales work on the Bigger Idiot Theory. This theory states that no matter how stupid you were to buy something, or how foolish you were in its use, or how little intrinsic value actually remains, someone who is an even bigger idiot than you will eventually come along and offer you money for it. For online examples, check out eBay.com or the Google Employee Stock Purchase Plan.
Most people work independently, so yard sales were a rather hit or miss kind of thing. Sometimes, families or neighborhoods would get together and dump all their junk on the same yard or series of yards on the same day, thus cashing in on the Inertia of Stupidity Theory. This theory states that after performing some action you're sure is a bad idea just once, it becomes easier to convince yourself it's acceptable to perform similar actions in the future. In department stores, this is how a woman ends up buying shoes and a purse that match the dress she didn't need and couldn't afford to buy in the first place. At yard sales, this is how a man who would never consider the possibility that his wife would think a giant moose head would look great over the fireplace in the new living room not only buys the moose, but also buys the matching hat, two muledeer head bookends, and the jackalope tub toy.
Now, local legend would have you believe that, through the common desire of all the families with extra junk living along Tennessee Highway 127, these yard sales eventually all got moved to the same area on the same weekend every year and created (drum roll!) the Hwy 127 Corridor Sale! (Fanfare!) Every person you see selling during the Corridor Sale is a hardworking local citizen working hard to make ends meet by selling some of their excess junk to fine upstanding gullible tourists like you.
Beautiful legend. Like all good legends, it doesn't let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
The Corridor Sale was actually the brain child of then Fentress County Executive Mike Walker. Mike realized that if he could get a lot of tourist traffic down the backroads of his area, he could take advantage of both the Bigger Idiot and the Inertia of Studity theories and steer additional business to the restaurants, gift shops, hotels, brothels, bars, and other fine upstanding establishments which were otherwise losing money because they were stupid enough to open up businesses on poorly-travelled back roads in the first place.
I am a vocal opponent of the Corridor Sale. I wouldn't mind it so much if it consisted primarily of, as the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce would like you to believe, local area residents selling their wares to clueless tourists with most of the profits going to said local area residents. Instead, anyone who's actually been there can tell you that the majority of participants are so-called professional yard salers and out-of-state vendors.
Professional yard salers have a big trailer full of junk that they take from yard sale to swap meet to flea market, buying and selling (and stealing) as they go. "Nice yard sale/swap meet/flea market!" they'll say as they pull up. "Do you mind if we set up over here and sell a few things? I'm sure it won't cut into your business." And they don't cut into it. They bury it. Pretty soon, they've used your good name and location to make a killing, then they pack up and disappear, leaving you the mess, fees, damages, and wondering just how they managed to "accidentally" pack half your stuff in their trailer when you weren't looking.
Out-of-state vendors were people who purchase large quantities of merchandise that they later unload at yard sales. The great thing about being from out of state is that they can claim they have a valid business license in their home state and, due to the process of reprocity, claim they don't need on in this state. Which means that they end up selling huge volumes of commercial merchandise without a valid business license and without collecting and paying the appropriate state sales tax.
We'll just skip over the local businesses which "accidentally" block traffic and redirect tourists through their own parking lots. "Things are backed up like this for miles. Why don't you come in and have burger?"
So, what do we end up with? As I said before, a 450 mile train wreck.
Speaking of wrecks, with booths on both sides of the road and tourists walking down the middle, every year there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in vehicle, property, and road damage. I'd like to say that nobody's ever died or been seriously injured in the Corridor Sale, nobody's ever had a home damaged, nobody's ever had their only means of transportation stolen, and nobody's ever had a whole Summer's worth of landscaping trampled in a single weekend. I'd really like to say that, and I'm sure the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce would actually say that, but I won't.
A few years back, the governor of Tennessee claimed that he would call out the National Guard if necessary to make sure that every vendor had a valid license, every "local" yard saler was actually a resident, and that every business transaction was recorded for sales tax purposes. He declared the Corridor Sale illegal and effectively shut down in the state of Tennessee. And if we didn't believe him, we could just watch that Summer and see what happened.
I'm still watching. And waiting.
My girlfriend Kitten lives in roughly the middle of the World's Longest Yard Sale (where it first began according to local legend) and invited me to come up and spend that weekend with her.
"Can I bring a gun?" I asked.
"Why will you need a gun? We'll be yard saling and flea hopping!"
"You'll be yard saling and flea hopping. I'll be cleaning out the shallow end of the gene pool."
I swear I could hear her rolling her eyes through the phone.
Copyright 2006 by Troy H. Cheek. Reprint with prior written permission only. Comments and questions to
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|This page last updated on Aug 03, 2006 by Troy H. Cheek|