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Posted 4/14/10 (Wed)


Well all right now and what’re you gonna give? I’ve got twenty-five, twenty-five, twenty-five, twenty-five, thirty! And on and on and on. The auctioneer chant.
I guess maybe it is addicting. But spring and fall bring on farm sales. And when the sun is shining and harvest is wrapped up and you would like to visit with your neighbors, a farm auction is a place to do it.
You read the papers and you quickly see why the number of farms is lessening, while the remaining farms grow in size. Estate auctions. Retirement auctions. Complete dispersals. But, if you are shopping for a deal, the reason for the auction wanes as you know you are the shrewdest guy at the auction.
The first several hours of a farm auction is selling small items off trailers. Wrenches, bolts, old fan belts, chain saws that won’t start, a calf puller, log chains, tire chains, a milk house heater, cream separator, hubcaps off a 66 Chevy, distributor cap, funnels, box of canning jars, grease gun without a tip, and acetylene welder.
You will see old seasoned buyers bring a chair and sit right up next to the trailer. With a low number. Sixteen. Maybe fifty. Nothing over fifty. Veterans don’t miss the trailer stuff. And they root through the buckets of bolts and electrical fittings. Dusting off parts’ numbers and looking for that one and only antique that no one else will see. Before the sale, a shrewd buyer may even take a nice hoof nipper, worth twenty-three dollars and stick it in a pail of junk to try and get a bargain. Not me. I come with beer in the pickup to tide me over till the good stuff sells.
The key to being a good buyer is never look closely at the item you need. Walk by nonchalantly just sneaking a peek out of the corner of your eye. Just look to see if anybody with a tape measure is checking the item out. The guys with tape measures are tough. If the auctioneer tries to sell a fifteen and a half foot mower-conditioner as a sixteen-foot machine, the tape measure guy will draw that tape off his belt faster than Wyatt Earp and point out the mistake. He will also have the serial numbers of the tractors written on a scratch paper that only his wife can decipher.
After your first walk-by, go sit in the shade of something you are not interested in. This will make it look less suspicious when you go sit in the shade of the item you are perusing. Even lie down and pretend you are napping. Then, as the sun moves, slide over to the item you want and continue your nap. But really, you are checking underneath for rust, loose drive train, and oil leaks. And not one soul will know it.
As it nears your item, pay close attention to other onlookers. Check for a guy with his number protruding from his cap bill. Dangerous. This guy is a buyer and wants everyone to know it. If he bids once, you are in trouble. He is not going to want to stop. Watch for a guy in coveralls, no number, and his checkbook sticking out of his bib overall pockets. Wealthy, confident, and a worthy opponent. But usually not buying the cheap stuff you are interested in. He is there to buy the four-wheel drive tractor or the combine if it brings fifty percent of book. He didn’t get rich by being stupid.
Well, this weekend I went to a big sale. I mean a big sale. It was only twenty miles from home. Just a two-day trip. Hardly worth the trouble. If they had put all the stuff in a straight line, the sale could have been from my yard to the sale yard. Twenty miles. Three generations of not trading a vehicle off. They still had the wooden wagon wheels from the generation that broke the first ground in the county.
I didn’t need anything except conversation. Shirley hadn’t spoken to me since the incident, but that’s another story. But at the sale, I ran into old friends overflowing with wisdom. It was like going to a farm seminar. I learned about sawflies, winter wheat varieties, and safflower. Kochia weed dust and gleaner combines. The conversation covered hemi engines and highway construction. Bridge repair and nuclear bombs. Enlightening.
After five hours I saw Lynn and gave him a wave. I bought a gravity box and trailer with wave. Later, I hollered at Bill, and bought a pickup sprayer with a locked up engine. A nod of my head to Terry and I bought a pig scalding tank. A great day!
Shirley wasn’t sure we needed a hog scalding tank, but this morning she is off to Bismarck. I’m going to the sale to buy a fat hog!