HEFLIN — “I guess I started the mess,” said Dodson Mathies,79, when asked about the origins of the Highway 46 Yard Sale, which begins Sept. 28 and ends two days later.
This is the 21st year for the 25-mile-long yard sale, which starts in Heflin and snakes its way down a twisting Alabama 46 to the Georgia line.
Mathies said that 21 years ago residents along Alabama 46 asked him to organize a yard sale in Ranburne.
“I just went up and down the road and told them all from Heflin all the way to the state line,” Mathies said.
After the first yard sale, enthusiasm grew, according to Mathies, and the residents wanted to keep it going.
“It got out of hand. We were just going to have it one year,” Mathies said.
Mathies credits the longevity and interest of the yard sale to the lack of other similar events.
“There ain’t none around here like it,” said Mathies.
Vendors come from all over to attend the three-day sale, according to Mathies.
“Some come from Georgia; Big John, he comes from Tuskegee. We’ve got some that come from Birmingham,” Mathies said.
Curiously, Mathies has never navigated the 25 miles of second-hand treasures himself, because, he said, he’s too busy handling all the hustle and bustle at his residence, which is jammed with vendors and bargain seekers.
“I ain’t got no time — everybody’s hollering,” Mathies said.
Mathies is optimistic about the future of the yard sale.
“I don’t see no stopping point,” said Mathies.
Beverly Ervin — a lifelong resident of Cleburne County and the director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce — said the yard sale is a great opportunity to foster the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Cleburne County.
“There’s so many treasures. People have all types of goodies, like eating and there’s antiques — I love antiques — things that have been refurbished and then you have some very creative people that make things, something out of nothing,” Ervin said.
The yard sale offers slices of Americana sold with a smile and a handshake. In past years everything from a used coffin to a cattle horn cutter has been offered for sale. Vintage items include glassware, pottery, old radios and TVs, furniture, cast iron, home decor, fishing lures and sewing machines.
All kinds of edibles are available as well; last year residents sold homemade fried pies, barbecue sandwiches and lemonade from folding tables in the shade along the route.
Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks said the yard sale brings a lot of traffic into Heflin, which is a economic driver.
“It exposes Heflin to folks that might not visit here often. As far as bringing in revenue — of course, it’s yard sale items so there’s no tax or anything like that — people that shop here locally may go down to some of our restaurants or get gas,” Rooks said.
“If you’re looking for something and you can’t find it at the yard sale you probably don’t need it anyways,” Rooks said with a smile.