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The yard sale follies

Imagine, if you will, a drone circling high over Kingston Springs Saturday morning on May 11, its powerful camera catching all the comings and goings attending the town's annual yard sale – the increased traffic flow, the cluttered on-road parking, the sea of table tops at 34 different sites groaning under the weight of last year's treasures, this year's castoffs.


Or, if that's too much of a stretch, imagine instead an elderly chap in a dusty 2010 Honda Accord putt-putting along at a brisk 12 miles an hour, undertaking the same survey. That would be me.

A sale on Mount Pleasant Road seems especially busy. It boasts three long table of wares, with other items underneath or displayed in clumps across the lawn. Even at mid-morning cars are arrayed on both sides of the road, making for a delicate traffic squeeze. This looks like a good site to revisit to measure its appeal as the day wears on.


Unlike the normal weekend traffic on Mount Pleasant with cars going by at random, today they're often knitted together in strings of six or seven, presumably drawn to sales in the Ranchettes and beyond.


An advertised “garage sale” on narrow Bluebird Circle draws a steady stream of shoppers. On one pass by, I see a young couple emerging, she with her arms heavy with clothing, he leading the way and guiding her through the maze of vehicles that sprawl as much on the road as off.


The Harpeth High cheerleaders are holding a bake sale. But it's not your usual brave display of homemade brownies and chocolate-chip cookies. No, here there are heaps of fancy pastries, from gaily decorated cup cakes to fruit-oozing danishes, all defying you to depart empty handed.


I opt for a medium-size cup of coffee and begin fishing into the roll of quarters I carry in my cargo pants for just such a contingency. “That will be four dollars,” an adult server tells me in a voice that dares me to react with dismay or whimsy. So I fork over the wad of crinkled bills I'd set aside for a heart operation (just kidding!) and wonder if the cheerleaders are raising funds to pay for training by Cirque du Soleil.


The estate sale on North Main has apparently been going on for days. Its sidewalk sign promises “70% off.” Rather than the quaint ancestral baubles the term “estate sale” suggests, this one has dwindled down to odds and ends that seem to attract mostly men – although I did see a woman walk away with a set of glasses. There are pairs of boots, a traffic cone, a beverage case, an ancient bow saw and a box of small leather cases that perhaps once held sun glasses or hunting knives.


Seeing these artifacts brings to mind the refrain from Sammy Kershaw's woeful 1992 ballad, “Yard Sale”: "Oh they're sorting through what's left of you and me / Paying yard sale prices for each golden memory."


I drive up Merrylog to Mount Pleasant to make another inspection circuit and drift over to Simms Heights Road where two sales have been registered. But finding nothing there to waylay me, I turn back and follow a pickup truck whizzing along with a tan sofa in the bed. Assuming him to be a serious shopper, I trail him as he veers right onto Mount Pleasant and makes a sudden stop at the aforementioned yard sale there. He virtually leaps from his truck and runs into the yard. He's got eBay written all over him. Alas, the traffic building up behind me prevents me from seeing if he actually buys anything.


By now it's 12:30. So I head home, four dollars poorer but beaming with civic pride. I've barely come to terms with a margarita when I see that my next door neighbor has posted on Facebook that his roaming around town has netted him an entire collection of 120 mint-condition vinyl albums for just $35. When Kingston Springs stages a yard sale the aura sticks with you.


I think about the bargain hunters I've seen haggling over prices and imagine two hundred years hence archaeologists puzzling over what those flat grooved discs were for.

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