Deep and dirty South

Saturday, August 4th, 2007 | All Things, Travel

We whipped through northern Tennessee with surprisingly few stops, considering Fentress county had been advertised as the headquarters of the 127 Corridor Sale. After crossing the state border into southern Kentucky, we hit what I think we can all agree in retrospect was the roughest segment of our road trip.

We knew that driving through the rural South would be an eye-opening experience, but I was unprepared for just how eyebrow-raising and, at times, stomach-churning it could be. The overall level of education was discouragingly low: more than once, simple multiplication and addition proved challenging. Spelling, too: I saw more variations of “collectibles” and “antiques” than I possibly could have imagined.

Other observations: Given the dining options available to us thus far, it’s no surprise that Tennessee and Kentucky are two of the ten heaviest states in the nation; more than 25% of TN and KY adults are considered obese. (In the areas along the sale route, I’d put the percentage far higher.) Note the two butter canisters in this set, which clearly also exhibited the most wear and tear.

Highway 127 canisters

We saw cardboard boxes crammed with the most random assortment of objects for sale, including colored contact lenses(!) and birth control pills(!!)

But most appalling of all were some of the southern Kentucky sale items. Not the weirdly kitschy, useless junk (which was consistently abundant throughout), but the downright offensive, racist junk. Everywhere. High flying confederate flags. Lawn jockeys. Sambos and Mammies. Scores of segregation-era memorabilia… most of which — even more disturbingly — appeared to be modern reproductions, suggesting a current and growing market for such items.

Other offerings: “Rebel marijuana” sacks and “Terrorist body bags”. Egads.

Burlap sacks

She’s sexy now! Ain’t she?“:

Highway 127 Sale

….and here, your all-purpose “Fighting Rooster Cage for 2″:

Fighting rooster cage

The ignorance could well be a function of poverty. In Clinton county (which incidentally, is named for the seventh governor of New York State – and three-time mayor of New York City — DeWitt Clinton), the median household income is $21,711 (vs. $37,369 for all of Kentucky — itself ranked among the bottom ten states in the nation, based on income); fully one quarter of families live below the poverty line. Things did not improve much in the picturesque but poor Lake Cumberland region to the north of Clinton: in Russell and Casey counties, the median household incomes are $24,462 and $23,949, respectively.

The items for sale along this stretch reflected the state of the local economy: we knew we hit the nadir when we came upon one particularly grimy lot, with grimy vendors to match, featuring a trailer piled high with used mattresses (at $30-$40 apiece) and shelves of stained pillows. Eww.

Highway 127 Sale

This was the one day I bought not a single thing.

There's 1 comment so far ... Deep and dirty South

August 13, 2007

2 Butters versus one Monkey in a 3 piece. Really one wins out over the other. Clearly.

Go for it ...