Trucks of every make, size, and color were parked in the ditches. They were neatly backed in and many of them had utility trailers or flat decks in tow. I began to wonder if I was going to be completely out of place. I snuggled my SUV’s nose into the tree line of the community league property. I was at the intersection of two country roads; the kinds that don’t have lines painted on. My vehicle looked ridiculous, all bright shiny red; dwarfed by the trucks. The shuttles were four seater, side-by-side utility vehicles with cargo beds. There was a line up of big men who got out of the big trucks, waiting to take the shuttle so I began to walk.
I decided to get my daily steps in instead of squishing into a seat with a large stranger. My destination was an auction sale where the life-long collection of possessions of a farm family was going to be disposed of. The sun was hot and by the time I reached the yard site I was wishing I had brought my hat and a bottle of water. I tried to nonchalantly blend into the crowd and figure out how this auction business worked.
The blending part didn't go too well. Imagine one citified, short blonde woman, looking slightly lost amidst a sea of burly farmers. I found a spot to stand where I could see the auctioneer calling the sale from the window of a camper-office contraption on the back of a truck. The auctioneer was encouraging the crowd to get their bid numbers. He talked so fast I could hardly understand him. He was nearly as good as John Korrey. I loved the rhythmic sound. If you had your bid number you were supposed to take it out of your pocket and show it to the auctioneer. Kind of a practice run I guess. Well, obviously I needed a bid number.
I lined up at another trailer, showed my i.d., signed something and came away with bid number 248. I had officially become dangerous. I could bid and I could smell barbecue odours emitting from Porky's food truck. The auctioneer was in the full swing of his chant throwing in a joke, chastising the crowd, and enticing them to part with their money. There was a spot in the shade where I could watch the spectacle. When the fly started buzzing around my head I turned away from the auctioneer to shoo the fly away. It wouldn't be good if I bought a big bucket of tools by accident.
As I watched, I thought if a lady in her senior years was interested in finding a man, she should just start going to farm auctions. I was outnumbered about twenty to one. Then the auctioneer slid another joke in and I laughed out loud. Apparently auction crowds don't laugh out loud unless they are city ladies having an adventure. I was learning that the event had a code of conduct but I couldn't help myself. It was fun and it was funny. When the auctioneer was riding the crowd for being cheap or telling them they really needed that amazing bucket of tools because they don't make tools like that anymore...I had to laugh. It was a spectacle almost like a great play and we were all part of the scene.
Except for Greg, he wasn't part of the scene. He was at church while I was pretending to know something about auctions and rototillers. I wandered up and down the row of machinery taking in the two rototillers that were for sale. Whatever the fellow ahead of me did, I mimicked. Tipping my head to one side then the other. Studying the controls. Church was over so I texted Greg to come help me. I lured him with the incentive of a smokie on a bun from Porky's for lunch. It only took one text and he caved.
He got there in time to look at the rototillers. There were two. One was big and old and a bit worn. The other had possibilities. My bid card was almost vibrating in my pocket because it hadn't been flashed about yet. It was time; the auctioneer was by the rototillers chanting away. I raised my card decisively and my husband said, "No. That's the wrong one." Remember, I was already failing to blend into the crowd. Here I was in the front row bidding on the wrong rototiller. I broke out in a sweat and it wasn't a hot flash. What if no one else in the crowd bid and I ended up taking that old, big, worn out rototiller home with me? It was like hanging in space. Nothing was in my control at that moment. The chant carried on, no one responded. It was probably about four seconds of silence then two other folks started bidding. Whew, I wasn't going to be taking the wrong rototiller home.
It was sold, to someone else. The auctioneer turned to his left and began to sell the other rototiller. A gentle giant of a farmer walked by, touched my forearm, leaned in and said quietly in my ear, "You didn't want that one, it wasn't good." But now we were onto the good one. Greg was instructing me to bid. We did a couple of times, but the price kept going higher and higher. Then I got the hold instruction from Greg. The auctioneer was trying to work me for another bid but I did the side-to-side headshake with a wrinkle of the nose indicating no more bids from me. That's what I had seen the other bidders do all day. I must have pulled it off because the auctioneer moved on.
My bid card went back into my pocket and I wandered around to see what other treasures I might bid on later. Greg went home and I stayed. I was done trying to bid on high-ticket items so the amount of damage I might do was limited. There were two little red wagons. One was an old Radio Flyer wagon. It was late afternoon. The auctioneer approached the wagons. I was being very careful to try to bid on the right thing but sometimes it was just hard to understand. Then by the time I would figure it out, someone had already bought the item and I hadn't had a chance. My competitive nature and my bid card were in cahoots. I wanted the Radio Flyer wagon. But the auctioneer switched it up. He was asking for bids on the wagons and who ever won had first pick. Up went my bid card, again and again. Within a matter of minutes I won. Then he asked me if I wanted both wagons for the same price. I have no idea where my brains were at that point but they were not in my head. I said yes. There I was the owner of two red wagons for which I paid the higher price for both. How dumb is that?
The bid price for the Radio Flyer was fair but to have paid the same price for the no name wagon was stupid. And what was I going to do with two red wagons? The auctioneer turned the no-name wagon and I realized it had one tire completely blown out. Not only was it a no name wagon it was not in good shape. I grabbed the handles of both wagons and walked to the office trailer to settle my account. It was time to get off the premise before I made an even larger financial mistake. But I had to do it with aplomb. I'm pretty sure there were people around me wondering how dumb one lady could be, so I pulled those wagons as if they were the prize of the day. One lady said, "You bought two?" I responded, "Yes, I have two grandsons." As if I had planned on the stupidity from the beginning. It was all ordained you know, it was Sunday.
A strong young man helped put the wagons in the cargo bed of the sport utility and a nice girl drove me back to my city SUV. Somewhere along the way I had a flash of reasonable thought and wondered if the two wagons would fit in the back of my vehicle. They did but it took some wrestling and thank goodness the girl who drove the shuttle was stronger than I because I couldn't have done it alone.
Safe at home, I pulled the bid card out of my pocket and decided to keep it as a reminder to never bid on the wrong item. Life pulls us through each day and we all have an auctioneer in our head chanting, trying to seduce us into choices. Some choices are good, some are bad, and some are good in moderation. Whatever the day throws in front of you, check the notes on the back of your bid card. Do not bid on the wrong item.