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People of the World’s Longest Yard Sale

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The organizers of the 127 Sale estimate that some 5,000 vendors set up shop each year along its 690-mile route, which runs from Alabama to Michigan (or vice versa, depending on how you point your car). Driving the world's longest yard sale this summer, that felt like an optimistic count. Still, even if it's a fifth the size, that's a whole lot of front yards, church parking lots, cow fields, and fairgrounds filled with used baby clothes, mid-century modern glassware, cracked Tupperware, leather horse collars, and (presumably specious) Civil War memorabilia. And for every seller, there are dozens of buyers, a massive, multidirectional pilgrimage swarming up and down the 127 corridor.During those four days in August, all of us held common citizenship in a very long, very narrow, very strange temporary world — one by turns beautiful and melancholy, but always cash-based.

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

"We drove up from Georgia. I'm just going to stack these suitcases for a coffee table, or an end table. I already have a few at home. I wasn't really looking for them, the idea just sort of struck me."

Crossville, Tennessee

"My wife says, 'You don't worry about people stealing it?' I say, 'Nah, if they're going to steal it, they're going to steal it anyway, don't worry about it.' I don't have inventory, so I don't know if somebody steals anything or not. But the only thing I ever missed was one year, we had a trailer load sitting right down there, me and another guy did. And somebody stole a wok — you know what a wok is? Because I didn't sell it, and it was his, and it was gone at the end." —Donny Hughes

Crossville, Tennessee

"I went to an Amish sale about a month ago. Amish people were holding the sale, and this guy, regular guy like me, was having Amish kids help him load some stuff and he said, 'Why do all you Amish people wear suspenders?' This one little boy looked at him and said, 'To hold our britches up.'"

Fairmount, Tennessee

"My husband's been up here every year selling rope, and he wanted me to come with him, so I said, 'Okay, I'm gonna try my dolls.'"

Are you having fun?

"Well, I haven't done anything much. I've had fun being up here. I have a comforter, if you need a comforter. It's a bargain."

Selling very much?

"Not too much right now, but I think it'll pick up."

Harrodsburg, Kentucky

"I had a store all these years, but I don't have now. It was an antique shop, in a flea market, for twenty-some years. Well, I was in my heaven. My wife finally got interested after she got the kids born, you know, and raised. She had two, but it'd take time to learn anything else. And all I did was try to make a living. And we done all right, I guess." —Frank Westerfield

Hamilton, Ohio

"I like to rummage around in yard sales — I look for old stuff. I'm old! I work with the friends of a local library and I get a lot of books that way. I like to read anyway, but I picked up a number of ones like this — for whatever reason, the older books don't sell. When I'm gone, I don't know what's going to happen to them." —Don Turner, with wife Lynne

Hamilton, Kentucky

"About 95 percent of what I got here was left in the house when I moved in about a year ago. The funny part about it is the people who lived in the house before me were out here yesterday, and they know me, and they waved at me, and they were just pointing out their stuff. I felt kind of awkward, but I was like, 'You know, it's still my stuff, and you left it.' They bought a china piece — I guess the china had belonged to their grandmother. But I gave it to them really cheap." —Rick Sedan

Celina, Ohio

"Well, I don't know if there's much worth talking about, doing this all day."

Helen Rosner is the features editor of Eater.

Click here to read more about the world's longest yard sale.

Editor: Julia Rubin


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