From 500 B.C to 1500 A.D., caravans carrying goods and information between Europe and China traveled a 4,000-mile network of paths that came to be known as the Silk Road. Over 2,000 years, the trade along this route was as responsible as anything for how Europe and Asia developed.
On Memorial Day weekends, Southeast Missouri has its own decidedly down-home version of the Silk Road: Highway 25 from Jackson to Kennett, Mo. The annual 100-Mile Yard Sale along the two-lane highway draws uncounted visitors from surrounding states and beyond who traverse its length seeking treasures and swapping stories.
The sale sometimes resembles a traffic jam when drivers slow down and rubberneck while deciding whether they should stop.
The goods to be had along the route range greatly, from flea market fare to appliances and lawnmowers. Information moves along the route too -- much of it rumor.
That this would be the sale's last year because of traffic problems was one false rumor. The sale is way too popular for that to happen. Its impact on motels and restaurants is difficult to gauge, but the high traffic volume indicates it's significant.
In addition, the sale has become a valuable fund raiser for many civic organizations.
Another rumor was that pop singer Sheryl Crow was shopping along the route this past Memorial Day weekend. Crow's family lives in Kennett, and she was in town to dedicate the city swimming pool her donations help build.
Organized by the Dexter Chamber of Commerce, which this year mailed out 5,000 brochures to other chambers and to other states, the sale almost takes care of itself. Few things in modern society work so well. The tradition of a trade route goes back a long way.