Ashtrays, Funnel Cakes, & A Banjo Playing Man

I got up a little earlier than usual on Saturday morning. Got my chores done, got a shower, and started the drive through the country to Elloree. The town hosted their Annual Trash to Treasures. I had heard about it on our local radio station, and I decided that I would cover the event for the newspaper. The weather was supposed to be beautiful and although a little brisk it was a great day for treasure hunting aka yard selling…as we call it in the South. It was a townwide yardsale. Nothing draws a more eclectic group of people … I would soon learn. Pretty genius idea if you stop and think about it. Small towns off the beaten path have to do something to draw folks to their town. This is their “fesitival” if you will. There was a funnel cake stand there to prove it. In the South, a funnel cake stand makes any event a carnival type affair for the small masses.

The sidewalks of the small downtown were lined with vendors and their handmade mostly repurposed treasures. These items were the grand finale, The neon posterboards with arrows pointing down the backstreets drew you to actual yards before crossing the railroad tracks to enter downtown. It reminded me of a funeral procession. Cars lined up following single file turning in unison and finally parking off the side of the small streets. Everyone would exit their car and once again the single file line, this time bodies, would head toward the tables piled with goodies. As one group would approach, the group of shoppers who had arrived earlier were exiting the yard …get this…in a single file line. If syncronized yard selling was an Olympic sport these folks would win gold.  Now you have to understand that a lot of people take this “treasure hunting aka yard selling” very seriously. But, southern manners outweigh even our strongest urge to jump in front of someone. Yard sale ettiquite was in full effect.

The small town natives were thrilled to have the customers. Trash and treasures were being loaded in cars by the armful. I found it hard to shop because I was technically working. I had to observe, take pictures, and talk to people both buying and selling. I have learned that listening almost to the point of eavesdropping gets the best quotes. People become nervous when they are approached and asked if they would like to quote something for the paper. But, if you introduce yourself and say, “I couldn’t help overhear you saying ….yadda yadda yadda”, they agree and usually provide a small snippit to follow up their idea. This concept has proven true at every event. Fundraising galas to yard sales…people are people.

I have always been a risk taker so wild and crazy me turns left when my “group” is turning right and I fully expect to hear horns blowing telling me to stay in line. That didn’t happen and after two more turns I was downtown. The feeling was a little more free spirited on town square … remember there is a funnel cake stand … let the fun begin. Crafters had tables set up with everything I could and could not ever have imagined. Propane tanks repurposed into flower pots, fly wheels and wrenches had been welded together to make as southern a sculpture as one had ever seen, and knitted scarves …now that is what I call variety. I bet you are thinking that a middle-aged man did the welding and a blue haired lady was knitting. Nope! Just the opposite. The welder was a 76 year old grandmother of 6 and a gentleman had discovered his love for knitting after retiring. I love irony! I am not sure about the propane tank artist he or she was missing from the tent…probably at the funnel cake stand. I stood and spoke with a lady who had decided that the ruffled edge propane tank would make a great ash tray for her patio. She went on to add that if she ever quit smoking she would plant something in it. “I don’t see that happening, she laughed. After 46 years of smoking, it will be full of sand and butts for my children to clean out when I die”. That quote didn’t make the newspaper.

And of course there was entertainment, Mr. Ron the honorary banjo player of Elloree, was entertaining a small group with his folk music. He finished and walked right up to me. We spoke in general for a few minutes about his music, his travels, and people he had met along the way. “You have found your passion just like I have found mine, You do what makes you happy and everything else will work out. It won’t always be easy. But, don’t give up on what you love.” He spoke these words never once losing eye contact with me. I felt as if he was the reason that I had come to this small southern town. The yard sales and crafts were just a bonus.

My treasure hunting ended with a great story, a 1940’s studebaker car radio, and words of wisdom from a banjo playing man.


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