PIKEVILLE, Tenn. - A minivan roars up the two-lane Highway 127 bypass with used tires bungeed to its roof. At one of hundreds of impromptu roadside bazaars between Chattanooga and Pikeville alone, there is a gold scale, which works, of course, that is going for $150 flat.
Next to it, a proud Pekingese poses, captured in time by oil on canvas. Why someone had his dog's portrait painted is irrelevant. It's framed and looking for a new home at $25.
This is an August tradition. It's four days of foraging, wheeling, dealing and fighting for a parking spot along U.S. 127, home of the World's Longest Yard Sale, a 609-mile rummage sale from Michigan to Alabama, littered with junk and treasures.
"Anybody down here have a used radio for sale?" one vendor yelled over the buzz of traffic and chatter along the highway Saturday.
"Not anymore," Richard Walker replied. "We sold it yesterday."
Walker is president of Paws and Claws Animal Shelter in Pikeville. He showed off two pop-up tents of merchandise Saturday, all of it donated to the shelter and then sold for straight profit. The shelter is trying to raise enough money to build a permanent location.
Every year, the shelter sets up and tries to make a little extra money for the strays of Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties.
"We don't depend on [the 127 sale], but everything we get is a freebie to us," Walker said. So far, sales are all right and up from last year, said Wayne Van Ness, vice president of the shelter. Sales are up and vendors are down, he said.
Kayla Swafford said her sales are up this year, too. She and her family sat at the heart of Pikeville amid historic homes Saturday afternoon and waited for the evening wave of shoppers to hit.
"This year's been better than the two years prior," Swafford said. "Yesterday was slow ... but not as slow as today."
The Swaffords put out their yearly accumulation every year. Kayla Swafford said she doesn't know exactly what is bringing more folks out this year, especially in the face of higher gas prices.
"The economy is getting better?" she said. She pointed to rising house prices as proof.
The Swaffords said Thursday has been their busiest day so far, with more than 100 shoppers stopping in. Travis Davis, friend of the Swaffords, said he made more than $100 in sales that day.
On Saturday, most customers were buying bric-a-brac pieces, Kayla said.
"It's sad to say that we find stuff every year to sell," her husband, Wilson, said.
At a second-hand item oasis between Pikeville and Dunlap, two Chattanooga-area couples said there is a definite reason they shop the sales.
"We buy true American [stuff] that we know was truly made in America," said Roger Johnson, a Soddy-Daisy resident. Many of the vendors are artists, Johnson's wife, Kim, added. Last year, Johnson spotted a furniture tent from his motorcycle, and this year he came back specifically to see the swings and tables he missed out on a year ago.
"It's actual stuff that people make," said Johnson's friend, Randy McBryer, of East Ridge. He wishes something like the 127 sale happened once a month. It's better than shopping at chain stores, the couples agreed.
McBryer and his wife, also named Kim, went home Saturday with a handmade table built by a vendor. They paid $45 for it and bragged about the deal. As they did, another family, carrying one of the crafter's tables bragged on their deal: two for $70. A Saturday-night special, they said.
During the sale, not much is abnormal. Next to the table crafter, Chihuahua puppies dozed in a box fan's breeze. Up the road, Nazi soldier sidearms occupied counter space next to a Civil War bayonet and a mounted 10-point whitetail head, all for sale.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.