Spending Saturdays at yard sales way of life for some

Milz Bickley, left, of Pep, Joshuah Schultz, 15, center, and his brother Jeremiah, 17, both of Portales, carry a bucket of golf clubs Friday into the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Kevin Wilson

By most accounts, Saturday’s High Plains Yard Sale will be the biggest yard sale in eastern New Mexicans’ memories if it lives up to expectations — and by other accounts, it will even if it falls short of expectations.

That doesn’t mean a garage sale is just some one-time event, though. For bargain hunters in Portales and Clovis, every Saturday morning is another challenge, whether their ambition is to fill a collection, improve their quality of living, or just find the “deal of a lifetime.”

That’s how Portales native Don Thomas puts it. He admits he’s not the biggest shopper when it comes to garage sales, but that his home on West 14th Street is “decorated in early American garage sale.” It’s not exactly Martha Stewart Living, but it creates a living room full of items, each with its own story.

“My brother-in-law got me oars at a garage sale for $2,” Thomas said. “They’re my curtain rods now. It looks pretty cool.”

Some take those passions a little further.

Sharita Haragan of Portales uses garage sales to help build an enormous collection of Disney items. Haragan estimates she has nearly 2,000 Disney items, most with a Christmas theme, that fill up the rooms at her house and a house where her son Cody Machen lives.

Haragan said she found a giant Pinocchio figurine for $15 that is now going for upwards of $100 on eBay, a popular online auction site. She’s still looking for a similar Goofy figurine that is going for $300.

While she jokes her family may someday have a retirement plan based on selling her Disney collection, she doesn’t collect the items as investments.

“I kind of think of it as recycling,” Haragan said. “You’re not trashing it. Some things, like my Disney stuff, they no longer make it. How else am I going to find it?”

If it can be found, there’s a good chance that Sandra Fair has found it. Fair, who works for a Clovis gas company but lives in Portales, said she usually gets up Saturday at 6 a.m. and maps out her garage sale path to hit every sale in one easy route.

By noon, Fair likely has a bunch of stuff she needs — and a lot of stuff she doesn’t.

“I have a Thomasville desk,” Fair said. “I also bought a set of cast iron pans for $7 — they’re (normally) about $30 apiece.”

As for things she doesn’t need? Look no further than her door, which has a pair of kid-sized rubber mud boots. Fair has no children, but bought them because she thought they were cute.

Fair won’t need to map out Saturday’s High Plains Yard Sale, created in part by the United Way of Eastern New Mexico as a fund-raiser to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. It will all take place at the Curry County Fairgrounds.

Erinn Burch, executive director of the charitable organization, said estimates somewhere between $5,000 and $20,000 will be raised through the one-time event.

“Right now, they’re out there unloading two rental vans, a trailer and flat-bed of stuff,” Burch said Thursday. “That’s just this afternoon.”

Burch said that high-profile items would be handled through a silent auction that would end at 2 p.m., and winners would need to be present at 2 p.m. Some less expensive items, Burch said, could be sold on the basis of how much a shopper could fit in a grocery bag.

“We want to get rid of the stuff,” Burch said. “We don’t want to have it left. The items like clothing, stuffed animals, we’re trying to make that very easy to purchase.”

Karla Brakebill of Portales said she shops at yard sales mostly looking for antiques.

“Right now, I’m redoing my spare room, which I’m calling the antique room,” Brakebill said. “I have found a bunch of old jewelry … old purses, old hats and old gloves.”

That’s not all Brakebill has bought at garage sales. Brakebill said a previous house she lived in ended up full of second-hand items. When contacted for this story, Brakebill was doing yardwork with an edger she bought at a garage sale for $5.

When Brakebill finds something she doesn’t need, she’ll usually pass it along to a friend, or to her mother who owns a second-hand shop in Texas.

“If I don’t need it,” Brakebill reasoned, “I can pass the deal.”

Fair said she’ll have a sale just about every year, and her family will bring their items as well. She’ll make a few dollars, and sometimes make a point.

“I decided I didn’t like my boyfriend’s coffee maker,” Fair said with a laugh. “If he wanted it, he had to buy it back for five cents. He did.”

Pam Welch, who mostly attends yard sales to find items for her grandchildren. A bookkeeper for her husband’s trucking company in Portales, Welch said she would much rather attend a yard sale than host one.

“My husband keeps telling me we need to,” said “We live out in the country, so I think, “What if nobody comes?’”

If she ever does, she’ll probably be able to count on the same group that she sees every Saturday, just looking for the next piece of collecting lore.

“I see a lot of old friends out,” Thomas said. “There’s a bunch of people that you see. I always enjoy finding a steal.”

• High Plains Yard Sale, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Curry County Fairgrounds. Proceeds go to hurricane victims