Tennessee Mountain Stories

World's Longest Yard Sale

Since 1987, the first weekend in August has seen an amazing influx of visitor from around the world to our little plateau as they both vendors and shoppers come to the Highway 127 Corridor sale.  Today, the sale reaches from Addison, Michigan to Gadsden, Alabama making it six hundred ninety miles of rummage.

Who doesn’t love a good deal?  And I’m betting more than a few of you readers appreciate yesterday’s treasures as much as I do.  Today, I‘m thinking not just about the stuff to be found along this sale but also about the route itself.

Have you ever driven down a country road and wondered what it might have been like to make that drive, walk or horseback ride way back when?  If you haven’t, I challenge you to ask that question sometime, even if it’s a road you’ve traveled many times. 

Roads are built and re-built, changing their paths slightly.  Certainly as we’ve become more adept at slicing through the geographic features, we’ve straightened both hills and curves.  Yet there are many features that remain unchanged.  Even after major route changes, you can often still see a hint of the old path.  Can you close your eyes and imagine you’re seeing it for the very first time.  Imagine you’re the first non-native to enter the area.  Picture what it must have looked like to the long hunters, the trappers or the earliest pioneers.  

In his novel Jubal Sackett, author Louis L’Amour wrote about a seventeenth century explorer who walked across our Cumberland Plateau seeking a new home for his family.  He found the ideal place in the Sequatchie Valley.  As I read the story many years ago, I quickly realized where he was at and that may have been the first time I thought about just what our home would have looked like to those early explorers.  It’s hard to imagine the mountain without power lines, pavement or houses but it’s intriguing to try.

If you are visiting the corridor sale nextweekend, try to see beyond the tents and tables and to the countryside.  If you are driving very far at all, imagine riding in a creaking wagon with little or no suspension or even walking behind the wagon to spare the horse pulling your weight along with the weight of all your worldly possessions. 

Photos courtesy of Fentress County Chamber of Commerce

Photos courtesy of Fentress County Chamber of Commerce

If you travel beyond the neighborhoods you normally frequent, look into the faces of the people.  I find the differences awfully interesting.  Even from Albany, Kentucky to Pikeville, Tennessee the people who settled here were different in many ways.  Listen to the accents; just last week we talked about Appalachian English, can you hear the change in dialect after one hundred miles? 

It’s often hard for me to remember the relative difference in distances.  Over the four days of this year's sale, many of you will travel two or three hundred miles.  Some will travel the entire length of the sale.  Given the traffic in some areas, your speed may match that of a pedestrian or horse drawn wagon.  However, we normally can drive a hundred miles in just a couple of hours.  In the early nineteenth century, many people lived out their entire lives never travelling that far. 

As I considered the communities you would pass through just in Fentress County, I thought maybe this would be a good time to take an historic look at some of our regional towns.  Let’s plan to do that over the next few weeks and we can start in the Fentress’ county seat, Jamestown.

Finally, just a bit of scheduling news.  I’ve been telling you about this book I’m hoping to publish by summer’s end.  Well, I’m very close and need to concentrate on it for a few weeks.  So I will only be publishing on the blog every 10-14 days through the middle of September.  Please consider leaving your email address in the “subscription” box on the right hand side of the page, that way, whenever I publish a new story, it will come right to your inbox and it’s perfectly free to you.   Thank  you for your patience with me during these very busy weeks.