On the sale circuit


When my wife and I were making plans for setting up at a one-day, multi-vendor yard sale that took place last Saturday near Houston, it seemed only natural to comply when Jamie indicated he wanted to come along.

The Big Lug has spent more than his share of time in yard sale and flea market environments and you could say he knows his way around the used merchandise block. Heck, the whole pre-owned thing is in his blood; I even got him from a used dog store in southern California (a.k.a. the “pound” in Oceanside).

“Hey, I’m no pound dog.”

“Oh, sorry boy.”

“That was a spa for high-end dogs awaiting new owners that just so happened to have overnight accommodations.”

“Gotcha. I’ll try to remember that.”

Anyway, overly sensitive Corgis notwithstanding, we loaded up the truck with our saleable goods and display tables, headed into town to the location of the sale, and got set up.

Probably because the temperature was a bit on the cool side for a day in early June, things started out kind of slow. But that can happen even on a perfect day; you just never know in the world of yard sales.

Nevertheless, Jamie wasn’t deterred by the overcast conditions, and went to work engaging customers who stopped by our temporary little store. Sometimes he gets a little carried away, but I appreciate his enthusiasm and try not to curb it.

“Don’t overlook that folding wooden deck chair sitting over there. And that round, flower-pattern butter dish sure would look good on your dining room table. It’s made in USA, you know.”

Jamie and his sidekick Doug Davison.

As the sun burned through the cloud cover and a cool wind gave way to a warm breeze, more cars began to come and go from the parking lot and more bodies circulated around the area. By the time we packed back up, we hadn’t made a killing, but we had managed to trade several things for dollars.

Having Jamie there didn’t hurt. Whether he’s trying to close a deal, or just hanging out doing his horizontal dog impression, just having him around is usually beneficial in helping people feel at ease as they approach our price-tag-bearing stuff. His mere presence seems to sort of break the ice and make people smile, which in turn helps them feel good about their surroundings, and ultimately more likely to carry away a set of matching wooden salad bowls, a rusty snaffle bit, or a VHS copy of “Citizen Kane.”

To be sure, Jamie is aware of his role and doesn’t take it lightly. But he also keeps things in perspective and remains humble.

“I like ‘em to feel welcome. I think it’s cool that me being me can make that happen.”

“You do have that knack, big man. I think it’s a combination of your odd shape and that silly smile on your snout.”

“I like it when I roll over and they rub the underside of my odd shape.”

While he’s content being the mascot of our set-up and a doggone good sales-canine, Jamie figures a trip to an outdoor sale wouldn’t be complete without taking the opportunity to sniff out some of the best bargains being offered by other vendors. Of course, dogs are well known to have an ultra-keen sense of smell, so he can discern a whole lot about the history of a cast-iron skillet, an 8-track tape copy of a Perry Como album, or a porcelain Daffy Duck figurine simply by sampling the ancient odors permanently engrained in them.

When we took a walk around the other vendors’ set ups, it didn’t take long for the Big Lug to identify his favorite items.

“This old puzzle smells like it was once put together in a kitchen where lots of butter was used for cooking. And that pair of shoes over there must have been worn by someone who worked in a greasy fast-food joint. Mmmm…butter and grease. That’s the good stuff – along with scrambled eggs, chicken strips, cooked squash, oatmeal cookies, apple sauce…”

“OK, OK, you like all forms of food. Got it.”

As is always part of the deal, there were many things we didn’t sell that day, like the pig pillow, the wooden desktop bookstand or the 10-pound, 2,663-page Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (copyright 1993, with a bio of Noah Webster on the final page).

But that’s OK, the right person for each item might show up the next time we set up. Sometimes it just takes someone who’s thinking outside the box, and realizes a unique object like a giant book of words could potentially serve multiple purposes, like child booster seat or truck scale counter-weight.

And sometimes, you just have to be patient to achieve a proper return on an investment like the big Webster’s. Jamie completely understands that.

“That thing’s worth five times more than what it was marked at, anyway. Of course, I realize the market for an item like that is probably greater in the big cities. But still, you can’t come here and expect to walk way with something like that for a buck-fifty.”

“I agree, boy.”

Another thing Jamie knows is that you don’t set up at an outdoor sale thinking you’ll come away sold out. You do it simply hoping to take home less than you brought.

“Yeah, and there’s always next time.”

So true, Jamie. So true.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie with a couple of his items at a yard sale last weekend in Houston. “I could probably let the ice cream dish go for a buck, but I’m firm at three dollars on the miniature thermos.”