Garage Sailing Through the Valley

This column is a tribute to Paula's (Trixie's) mom, Billie, who passed away suddenly July 3 in South Fork.

She was one of the best Christian women I have ever known and it was a blessing to let her mentor me through some very bad times. She was also a yard sale expert who loved to laugh with me and at me, so it’s fitting for today’s column.

Since I worked a lot of weekends and nights during much of my adult life, I never had the time to enjoy some of the past times like ballgames and family weekend gatherings like normal working folks do. One really important activity I missed was weekly garage sales.

Once I met Trixie I was suddenly introduced to an entire RV park of relatives and noticed that every Friday a mass exodus took place from the park. This is only to be rivaled by the one with Moses and the children of Israel as early in the morning, they race out of camp to local garage sales then work their way east like pilgrims on their way to Mecca – aka the Alamosa Wal-Mart.

Each of these RVers are intent on being the first to a sale thereby guaranteeing they get more “stuff” than their neighbors and bragging rights for the day. For the uninformed, “stuff” includes things that they already have three of but it’s such a good deal they just cannot resist. Plus, if they don't buy it, their friend will and they will never hear the end of the bragging. One good friend even got his third Billy club the other day. I’m still not sure why a person needs three Billy clubs.

The most experienced of the garage sale sailor knows every spot where posters are put up by people having a sale and so pencil in hand, stop and peruse the handwritten signs for directions. Paula's dad and mom had been so often that over three decades they had memorized every street in the Valley, including the shortcuts.

Just because you are shopping with people in the same car does not mean they will have mercy on you. The truck barely comes to a halt and old people who normally cannot climb in and out of a car leap forth from sky high pickups and run to the tables loaded with unknown goodies. He who hesitates is lost for sure in this situation.

A few fights have been known to break out as someone argues over a broken gravy bowl or pressure cooker they already have several of. It’s just such a good buy and you never know when you might need that seventh electric skillet.

Men shop somewhat slower but dig through an accumulation of tools and fishing supplies like they are looking for Blackbeard's treasure. Old broken fishing lures, nets, rods and reels go home them with thoughts of fixing them someday. These are soon relegated to what is commonly known as “the junk drawer” which has about three of everything but nothing that can be found at the time you need it.

RVs by their nature have limited space. Even with the generous amounts of underbelly storage in a new RV, eventually summer garage sales take their toll and these folks must figure out how to get their newly acquired “stuff” home to be placed in their Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas sheds along with the accumulation from other garage sales past.

People now begin a methodical stroking of their friends and neighbors with dinners, outings and gentle conversations and if all that fails to soften up their friends, they ply them with glasses of homemade blackberry wine. This process is what is known as “prepping.” They all know that a return trip home will be forthcoming and they will then have to ask their friends to haul something back for them.

One morning I guarantee some poor fellow -- probably me -- will wake to find he has promised to take home a new four bottom plow for his neighbor who doesn't even own a farm. But a deal is a deal and not to be passed up. After all, Grandpa Elmer had one just like it and it was a good one?

It was all worth it though, to see Paula’s Momma dimple-up at the sight of a Salad Master skillet or Tupperware container for a few cents. Of course she had plenty of money to buy retail but where is the fun in that?

So folks who are planning garage sales this week, I regret to inform you that your best customer won’t be arriving. But, you are also in good company. I’m told that many of the Wal-Marts across the country are hiring dusters as their most loyal customer won’t be there to clean the shelves for them. We should also expect flags at halfmast across many discount stores.

Billie Stout was the best and will be missed terribly. So all of us that remain here on this earth have to rise to the occasion and hit those yard sales with new vigor beating our neighbor to that next deal. She’d like that.